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Boston Ballet - Balanchine Martins Balanchine Program

'Rubies,' 'Distant Light,' 'Divertimento No. 15'

Crystal light and dark

by S.E. Arnold

October 23, 2004 -- Wang Theatre, Boston

In the Balanchine-Martins-Balanchine program that opened the 2004- 2005 Season of the Boston Ballet, the bright pieces of Balanchine lit the dark frown of Martins’ new work with smiles.

Elegant in craft and well-bred in manner, "Divertimento No. 15," set to the eponymous work of Mozart, imagines a world of 18th century decorum. Whether in the meeting of dance to music or dancer to dancer, "Divertimento" exemplifies unlabored agreement and civility; each of the three male and five female principals, for example, bore out in turn their refined abilities as soloist and partner. In fact, it was via this turn- by- turn courtesy that the doubtless confidence and unaffected deftness of new company member Lia Cirio caught and held one’s eye. Additionally, the corps of eight ladies either neatly wove complementary patterns in ensembles with the principals or variously textured the stage with pleasing combinations of their own. Yet, for all of its binding structure a tasteful wit manifest in the chaste use of non-balletic gestures, particularly in its Shirley Temple- like finale, sweetened the latent acidity of "Divertimento’s" formality.

Tart, meaning sharp, sweet, and sluttish or playfully open to all, rather than chaste, better describes "Rubies." Additionally, Stravinsky’s citations of themes from "Pulcinella" in Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra highlight Capriccio’s clownish face and in turn points to the burlesque nature of "Rubies." Enlightened by the "Pulcinella" reference, one finds, for example, in Stravinsky’s seemingly capricious use of loud and soft dynamics, grotesque articulations or note emphasis (i.e. the ringing, percussive use of the piano), the ‘gnomish’ sound of the woodwinds, and the waggish rush and crash of strings and brass a sugar free treat rather than (or maybe as well as) a biting terror. And the often listed and hence familiar references within the choreography to extra-balletic dance forms, athletic training practices, and the postures of fashion models combine with Capriccio to make "Rubies" one fine yet all-embracing tart.

While both the matinee and evening casts of dancing sun catchers fashioned the light of "Rubies" into exciting shapes, one was easily enamored with Romi Beppu and Jared Redick in the matinee pas and Melanie Atkins as the evening’s Siren. The allure of the dark new world created by Peter Martins, however, was thin. Assuming the name of its music, a violin concerto titled "Distant Light" composed by Peteris Vasks, Martins set his piece on one female and three male dancers. The scenario describes a menage a quatre prompted by the female character’s bad dream; however, unlike the menage a trois trapped in Sartre’s bad dream – his vision of hell - the distant light of the ballet like the biblical pillar of fire leads to an exit - at least for the males. In fact, the female character’s identity with the violin solo along with the more serene string writing kept her on stage for most of concerto’s 33 minutes. Additionally, her association with the solo violin provided her with bravura cadenzas, which showed in a thankfully recognizable ballet vocabulary how the world was with her.

Moreover, in a ballet cast on three danseurs and one ballerina it was no surprise that a game of pass the ballerina developed, and that during the course of the ballet her often lifted form shaped complex geometries of great rhythmic command. In the end, however, it was the turning force of her slender columnar form rather than any ordaining poses that banished the male demons from her dream. As she gently turned the males at first clustered around her slowly stepped back and away as if driven by the centrifugal force of her turn. Given the resolution suggested by this rather amicable departure of the males (in addition to spinning them away, she actually bids each one farewell) and the vague Greek-ness of the diagonal that cuts across the shirts of the male’s costumes, one thought of "Distant Light" as a retelling of either "Errand into the Maze" or given the more dominate beach ware look of all the costumes: Drop Dead Fred. Nevertheless, one thinks that it took and takes the balletic finesse and magical theatricality such as that of Lorna Feijoo, who danced the Saturday evening performance, to give "Distant Light" any light at all. Indeed, the choreography by Martins left the music of Vasks untouched and the programmatic claims of the title obscure.

Edited by Jeff.

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