United Kingdom Boston Ballet 50th Anniversary Season: Dancers of the Boston Ballet, Coliseum, London, 05.07.2013 (MMB)
The Second Detail
Choreography: William Forsythe
Music: Thom Willems
Costumes: Yumiko Takeshima and Issey Miyake
Lighting/Stage Design: William Forsythe
Staging: Jill Johnson
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Music: György Ligeti
Costumes: Holly Hynes
Ligthing: Mark Stanley
Staging: Jason Fowler
Pianist: Freda Locker
Choreography: Jiří Kylián
Music: Lukas Foss, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Alessandro Marcello, Antonio Vivaldi and Giuseppe Torelli
Set Design: Jiří Kylián
Costumes: Joke Visser
Lighting/Tech adaptation: Kees Tjebbes
The great Martha Graham (1894-1991) once said that: “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” It is a charming way of describing ballet and, to me, it fits the Boston Ballet’s performance of their Programme 2 beautifully.
The evening started with The Second Detail a ballet by William Forsythe, which he created in 1991 for the National Ballet of Canada. The piece is set to a score by Thom Willems, which at times does not sound exactly like music but more like what I would define as an artistic, rhythmical display of sound, markedly staccato and that serves the choreography extremely well. Although this is a typical Forsythe piece (many have referred to him as “consciously assaulting the line and gracious rhetoric of classic ballet”), it is in essence classical due to the perfect harmony of the movements and the exceptional grace and elegance of the ensemble development. With The Second Detail, Forsythe created an electrifying virtuosic display for an exceptional group of dancers and the performance of the Boston Ballet truly honoured it. To me, it was a celebration of beauty and youth, as one could distinctly perceive that the dancers were enjoying themselves. The piece demands extreme physicality, fluid and intricate movements that follow each other with logic and precision. The whole cast, formed of six principals, three soloists, two second soloists and one member of the corps de ballet, were exceptional and all gave outstanding performances in a united fashion (as required by such an ensemble piece). It was impossible to differentiate between the principals and the others although I must say that Brazil’s Paulo Arrais stood out due to his extraordinary grace and lightness, as did second soloist Bo Busby whose tall, statuesque figure gives him a charismatic stage presence, which does not remain unnoticed.
The second piece of the night was Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, which he originally choreographed for the New York City Ballet in 2001. I have seen the Royal Ballet perform it and then just as now, I thought that it is a refined piece of dance, firmly rooted in classical ballet but with a modern, elegant edge, though not the most imaginative of pieces. There is a certain feeling of déjà vu and it lacks the energy and originality of his DGV: Danse à grande vitesse from 2006. Polyphonia is set to Musica ricercata by György Ligeti, an exquisite, almost enigmatic piece, lovingly performed on the piano by Freda Locker, Boston Ballet’s principal pianist. The ballet begins with eight dancers (four couples) on stage and ends in the same manner, developing in-between into a series of duets and trios where the movements of the dancers are clearly defined, with great purity of line, wit and elegance. Wheeldon captures the various moods of the music and manages to express a variety of emotions, almost as an extension of the score. The Boston Ballet was superb. The four couples (three principals, four soloists and one second soloist) were in top form and deliver Wheeldon’s choreography with the refinement it requires and with magnificent technical prowess. Lasha Khozashvili in particular is splendid, displaying a purity of line and attitude that can only be described as perfectly classic. He manipulates the graceful and sassy Lia Cirio easily and together, they formed the best balanced, most sophisticated couple of the ballet.
The final piece of the night was Bella Figura by the extraordinary Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián. It was created in 1995 for the fabulous Nederlands Dans Theater and is set to music of the Baroque, namely by Pergolesi, Marcello, Vivaldi and Torelli, complemented with a piece by Lukas Foss, composed in 1975. Some experts say that Bella Figura marks Kylián’s change of style and direction though it still bears some of the liquidity of movement and the perfect integration of the dancers in the music that is patent in his earlier works. Whether this is true is debatable but what is immediately obvious is that although created nearly eighteen years ago, it still feels fresh and rather innovative. The title of the piece comes from the Italian “fare una bella figura” that means something like cutting a beautiful figure, which is precisely what each dancer must do once they come on stage and the Boston Ballet did just that.
It was the first time that I have seen Bella Figura by a company that was not the Nederlands Dans Theater and I must say that I was extremely impressed. The movements of the dancers are fluent and they negotiate the elaborate duets, trios and ensemble effects splendidly. Kylián’s choreography is complex, intricate, creating a dream like world that although beautifully harmonious is disrupted by sudden, brusque, almost random movements that announce conflict and emotion. Personally, I think that Kylián is trying to put across the idea of dance unifying different musical pieces as well as the concept that dance is neither male nor female, it is simply art. This is expressed in a simple but simultaneously imaginative way when all dancers (men and women) appear topless in the same bright red, silky skirt-like trousers (in the Baroque style with extended false hips).
Bella Figura is beautiful and virtuosic. The Boston Ballet’s performance of it was exquisite and perfectly executed. A real treat that deserved the enthusiastic applause and ended an outstanding evening of contemporary ballet.
According to the programme notes, the Boston Ballet had not visited London for thirty years! After yesterday’s performance one must wonder why but that is perhaps not so important. Relevant is that they came and conquered the audience with their enthusiasm, youthful energy and technical brilliance. I hope that it will not take the company another thirty years to return!