Boston Ballet's "Classic Balanchine" has all the basics
By JEFFREY GANTZ | May 9, 2007
BALLO DELLA REGINA: Rie Ichikawa, Melanie Atkins, Lia Cirio, and Heather Myers.
“Classic Balanchine” as opposed to . . . “Jazz Balanchine”? “Porno Balanchine”? What was the alternative? Of course, if it’s a choice between “Classic Balanchine” and “Classic [fill in the blank],” I’ll take George every time. The titles of ballet repertory programs never matter; what counted last weekend is the three works Boston Ballet presented last weekend were well and in some cases superbly performed.
This “Classic Balanchine,” moreover, had crossing arcs. Like the company’s 2003 “All Balanchine” (my favorite title for any ballet program), it worked backward through his career, from Ballo della Regina (1978) to La Valse (1950) to The Four Temperaments (1946). In its dance style, however, it moved forward, from opera ballet interlude — very classic — to a decadent ballroom out of “The Masque of the Red Death,” and then to stripped-down sexual politics. You could call it “Mythic Balanchine.” Ballo gives us a frolic between a queen and her consort that could be the big finale for Titania and Oberon (or Titania and Bottom!) that’s missing from Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. La Valse sees Death claim the Girl in White from her mortal suitor, a story as old as storytelling and palpable in everything from the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice to Romeo and Juliet (where Romeo, all dark imagery in Shakespeare’s play, lures Juliet away from Paris). The Four Temperaments goes back farther than the humors of Greek and Roman writers and physicians, all the way to Adam and Eve. Yet all three works have carnival moments, too. “Circus Balanchine”?
Balanchine made the 17-minute Ballo della Regina (which was on that 2003 “All Balanchine” program, along with Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, and Prodigal Son) as a bravura piece for Merrill Ashley, tall and true, in Arlene Croce’s words a “streaking cataract.” There’s nothing like Ashley doing those impossible turns while hopping on pointe in her polka variation, or floating aloft with one leg extended like an America’s Cup yacht hurtling downwind, or, after the Spanish national anthem turns into a circus galop, piqué-stepping off stage faster than a speeding bullet — as you can see on the Choreography by Balanchine DVD that’s now out from Nonesuch. She’s supported by a male partner (an unheroic Robert Weiss on the DVD) and a retinue of four demi-soloists in lavender and 12 corps ladies in Naiad blue, in music Giuseppe Verdi wrote for the requisite (in Paris) third-act ballet in Don Carlos. The choreography is all moonbeams and milkweed; right at the start the corps ladies do cheerleader pompon rolls with their hands. Croce on first acquaintance thought the ballet “doesn’t add up to much,” but it soon emerged for her as “one of Balanchine’s freshest visions.”
State of the art, The real deal, Setting the Wang on fire, More
- State of the art
Maybe it’s the economy, but Boston Ballet’s third-annual season-opening gala was a sober evening, without the orchestral overture that graced the first two affairs.
- The real deal
Nineteenth-century ballets are not all alike. But Boston Ballet's Sleeping Beauty is the real McCoy.
- Setting the Wang on fire
Burning down the house” is a metaphor, but at the Wang Theatre last weekend, the Boston Fire Department was on hand to ensure that it remained one.
- Theme and variations
George Balanchine was famous for “non-story” ballets, but when you put three of his works — the usual number to fill up an evening — together, you always get some kind of narrative.
- Twinkle, twinkle
For some 15 years now, Boston Ballet has danced like a major international ballet company, and Mikko Nissinen wants to be sure everybody’s aware of that.
- Slideshow: Ballets Russes at the Wang
Boston Ballet performs "Diaghilev's Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration" at the Wang Theater
Boston Ballet’s artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, wants us to think of his company as utterly contemporary, but it’s a tricky balance to pull off.
- Adam and Eve
A day at New York City Ballet that starts with a matinee of Coppélia and ends with a Balanchine evening might seem to offer merely the contrast between classic and modern, old and new.
- Crowning glory
In 1967, George Balanchine created Jewels for New York City Ballet, and in short order this evening-length triptych — Emeralds , Rubies , and Diamonds — became the crown jewel of 20th-century dance.
- Sparring with the Ultimate
There’s never been a more brilliant exemplar of the ballet art than George Balanchine.
- Both ears and the tail for this Carmen
"World Passions," the collection of four works that Boston Ballet opened at the Opera House last night, was more pleasant than passionate until Kathleen Breen Combes sashayed out as the title character in Jorma Elo's Carmen .
, Entertainment, Giuseppe Verdi, Carlos Molina, More
, Entertainment, Giuseppe Verdi, Carlos Molina, Erica Cornejo, Arlene Croce, Reyneris Reyes, Henry James, Agnes de Mille, Paul Hindemith, Paris Opera Ballet, Less