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Boston Ballet

'Ten Part Suite', 'Sarabande', 'In the middle, somewhat elevated' and 'Falling Angels'

by Azlan Ezaddin

March 20, 2005 evening-- Wang Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Ballet set a highly progressive program for itself with three 20th century works and one brand new ballet by three of the most legendary choreographers of the modern era, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe and Lucinda Childs. Forysthe and Childs are American but, along with Kylián, have benefited artistically from the funding infrastructure in Europe where they are now based.

Although not the newest work on the program, the all-male “Sarabande” by the Czech-born Kylián who was until recently the Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater may have appeared to be the most exotic to followers of classical ballet and perhaps even to fans of mainstream modern dance. Without a formal score, the dancers have to rely on their own sounds to guide them. Emitting noises at times primal and sometimes infantile, they twist and turn, shove and glide, jump and stomp, and pull their T-shirts over their heads and play with them. Lamps and microphones hidden in period corseted dresses hanging directly above the dancers provide both somber lighting and electronically distorted amplification that add to the surrealism of the work.

Not all the work is performed to sound, of course. There are some entrancingly silent moments, including one in particular with one man, danced Sunday evening by Yury Yanowsky, performing calisthenics in his underwear while the others swing from side curtains. Those seated in the front rows could see muscles on parts of Yanowsky that some didn’t think could exist.

With this being their last performance and several already under their belt – or underwear in this case – the company looked to have almost gotten it right but there were still the minor discrepancies, including a dancer having to quickly correct his position within a spotlight at the climactic conclusion.

Kylián’s other work on the program, “Falling Angels,” can be seen as the female counterpart of “Sarabande.” It is not uncommon for NDT, where Kylián is still a resident choreographer, to perform the two together. Both are single-gender and both require physical prowess. But while the latter is a jarring work that leans towards performance art, the rhythmic “Falling Angels” is more a community ritual, set to the cadence of Steve Reich’s percussion.

There are phrases in this work that are inspired by two near-meditative Japanese art forms: the deliberate, controlled articulation of butoh and the frenetic, exaggerated body movement of taiko, with the emphasis on the latter. The eight women begin by emerging from the shadows and marching slowly towards the audience. They stop within non-equidistant square light patterns that throw an unearthly penumbra on their faces and torsos. Then with the drumming picking up, the women, collectively and taking turns individually, throw themselves into frenzied delirium.

The physical prowess of Sacha Wakelin, Melissa Hough and Rie Ichikawa saw them confidently through to the end of the work. Larrisa Ponomarenko meanwhile was a surprising performer; for a very classical dancer who seems to be an automatic lead for most story ballets, she proved herself more than capable in adapting to the fusion Asian modern dance language.

Romi Beppu was another dancer adept at the modern dance language. She was elegant as the opening lady in Forsythe’s “In the middle, somewhat elevated,” whose title reportedly came from the response the choreographer gave when asked where he wanted placed the work’s signature pendant that is suspended over the stage. Beppu was more than competently partnered by Yanowsky.

Set to loud, steely electronica by Thom Willems, the choreography calls for sharp angles and quick snapping of neck and limbs. Some of the dancers, in particular Melanie Atkins, seemed to have consistently pulled the feat off through to the end of the ballet.

In Lucinda Childs' elegant “Ten Part Suite,” to music by Arcangelo Corelli, Adriana Suarez gave the lead female role an athletic and sportsmen-like interpretation, as opposed to Heather Myer’s elegance and Lorna Feijoo’s courtliness in previous performances. While her partner, Reyneris Reyes, matched her in attack, their performance brought a different level of awareness to this work commissioned by Boston Ballet: the simplicity of its choreography, even if meant to deemphasize flair, seems to highlight the exciting differences between dancers.

Not surprisingly for a postmodern choreographer like Childs, the lead couple weren’t on stage together very much, with much of the ballet spent on the momentum-driven geometrical transformations produced by the ensemble of the remaining six couples. Though the work does conclude with a strong, passionate pas de deux by the two soloists; even after several viewings, it didn’t fail to surprise this observer when the curtain came down in lieu of a grand ensemble finale.

This evening’s performance closed the “Falling Angels” run, with the company having to shift towards a purely classical idiom for the next program, “The Sleeping Beauty,” a heritage production acquired from the Royal Ballet that is no longer performed. With this upcoming ballet along with the successful conclusion of a program featuring thoroughly contemporary works, Boston Ballet will surely make its mark as a company that is rooted in tradition but pushes the envelope.

 

Edited by Staff.

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