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Ballet Across America: Boston Ballet
'Brake the Eyes'

Room for Beauty in Madness
Boston Ballet packs a manic punch at Kennedy Center

by Ali Duffy

June 10-15, 2008 - Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

For its June 10-15 “Ballet Across America” series, the Kennedy Center hosted nine renowned American companies in a showcase of master works that span eight decades.  Resident Boston Ballet Choreographer Jorma Elo’s “Brake the Eyes,” circa 2007, sparks intrigue as a plunge into a world of controlled prowess and emotional mania.

Set to an intermittent Mozart score mixed with Russian text and laughter, the piece features ten dancers in white and brown, the ladies’ tutus reminiscent of a Degas creation.  A female soloist, Larissa Ponomarenko, remains isolated and adrift throughout, contorting the shapes of her arms and placement of her twitching head.  Her arm twists superhumanly, her hand coiling to mime talking to her.   Reptilian and at times oddly defeated, she sets in motion a series of fear-inducing parts to the manic depressive whole.  Exquisite attention to detailed shapes and breathtakingly eerie responses to a foreign text make her role unforgettable.

Interspersed within episodes of looming disaster are spritely jaunts consisting of mainly quartets that shift in and out of lines and rush through the space with ease.  Sepia and yellow-toned lighting helps to create an innocent, good-old-days quality for the larger group moments.

A duality of fear and joy is established with repeated yin and yang sections, intensifying as the work progresses.  Segments of opposing dynamic happen with more frequency and inflate in force, men sweeping the space with gusto and ladies dancing with a more expansive quality.  The soloist is ultimately approached by nine dancers who appear behind her, seeming to convince her to surrender and join their ranks.

The collaboration of movement, sound, and lighting design invoke images of nightmare dreamscape incidents and sleep walking in “Brake the Eyes;” visions of insanity and lost hope are viable thematic concepts as well.  Mystery shrouds the work even as it draws to a close.  What is certain about Elo’s work is that it stirs the depths of the imagination and asks more questions than it answers.

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