As Anticipated – New International Program continues Boston Ballet’s 59th Season

It is the opening night of As Anticipated at Boston’s Opera House and we are part of the eclectic audience eagerly anticipating Boston Ballet’s new program.  The (3-works) William Forsythe’ evening features Boston Ballet guest choreographer’s Approximate Sonata (1996) and Artifact Suite (2004) -with a world premiere of its newly added “prequel” – Défilé. 

Addie Tapp and Tyson Ali Clark in William Forsythe’s Approximate Sonata; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Black curtain slowly goes up and down… several times.  We are intrigued: is it a technical glitch or part of the performance?   As the evening begins, the “slow” (20 second) “journey” of the curtain (up to the ceiling or down to the stage) signifies  the end of each musical scene in the first piece of the evening – Approximate Sonata.I want to keep people curious..”, – Forsythe  said (in the interview to Boston’s WBUR), so they “stay focused until we make transitions”.  (Later in the program, in the Artifact Suite, the curtain crushes to the floor in less than a second).

With 58 years in dance world, first as a dancer and then as a choreographer and artistic director of several international companies, Forsythe is one of the most influential choreographers working today.  His work is experimental yet deeply rooted in classical traditions.

Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

This highly anticipated program encapsulates the cutting-edge artistry that Boston audiences have experienced with William Forsythe ballets, and introduces new audiences to his revelatory style… said Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen.

My 23-year old son Dennis who has seen quite a few Boston Ballet’s story ballets with me over the years is such new audience.  “Being able to focus on artistry and performance skill, being able to interpret freely without the constrains of a story or expected plot allows for deeper connection with the movement on stage” he wrote to me (in a text message). “The abstraction is definitely not for everyone, but it allows the potential to experience something truly transcendental”.

Forsythe’s work does have a trance like effect on the audience.  In the second and third Act of the evening, during the Artifact Suit -my companion Sveta and I found ourselves hypnotized in a “combined” response to the grounded pushing-and-pulling movements, minimalistic music, costumes and stage design.

The central part of the evening- (world premiere) Défilé is designed as a “prequel” to existing parts of the Artifact Suite (which in turn is based on Forsythe’s full length ballet Artifact from 1984).  The piece is inspired by Paris Opera tradition of defile du ballet – “a spectacle that showcases the artists of the entire company in a stately, processional manner”.  Forsythe explained in his interview to Boston’s WGBH that everything here is based on the ground, there are almost no jumps… Ballet’s roots are all about “stylish walking”.

The “courtly” mood of the Défilé is accentuated by minimalistic musical score based on Bach’s Variations (produced by Forsythe in collaboration with Boston Ballet music director Mischa Santora).  Part II of the Artifact Suite- “Chaconne” is set to Bach; and Part III – to Eva Hecht’s Bach adaptation.  The Défilé audience is encouraged to make connecting references to the original “Artifact Suit” and I want to re-watch the program now to better appreciate all the references. What is seen to the naked eye is Forsythe’s both “honoring” and reinventing balletic traditions.  And I agree with Mikko Nissinen that As Anticipated is  “A world premiere from him is an international event you won’t want to miss.

While I admired the interesting construction of large ensemble numbers, it is the pas de deux that has the most impact on me.  In Chaconne I was completely taken by principal Chyrstyn Fentroy  (partnering with principal Lasha Khozashvili).  In general I found the choreography of  Artifact Suite more agreeable than the more rigid (“shocking”, as my companion put it) movements in the pas de deux of Approximate Sonata.  In Défilé I could not turn my eyes off of principal Lia Cirio, and soloist Maria Alvarez  (See full casting information here).

Lia Curio rehearsing with William Forsythe. Photo by Liza Voll. courtesy of Boston Ballet

It is obvious that Boston Ballet dancers are very comfortable with Forsythe’s choreography- (they have been working with him here since 2016 and some even longer- during earlier careers with European companies) and we look forward to more Forsythe during years to come.

As Anticipated runs on November 3-13 and is second program of Boston Ballet’s 59th season (which opened with “My Obsession” 4-works program in October).

For tickets go to Boston Ballet’s website. Use code BBFRIENDS to get a $40 ticket for all performances of As Anticipated and Our Journey. Valid on select dates of Don Quixote  (March 16-26) and The Sleeping Beauty (May 25-June 4).

All performances of As Anticipated will take place at the Citizens Bank Opera House
(539 Washington St, Boston)

At the premiere

Remaining performances of As Anticipated:
Sunday, Nov 6 at 1:30 pm
Thursday, Nov 10 at 7:30 pm
Friday, Nov 11 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, Nov 12 at 1:30
Saturday, Nov 12 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, Nov 13 at 1:30 pm

Program Details:

Approximate Sonata
Choreography: William Forsythe
Music: Thom Willems
Scenic Design: William Forsythe
Costume Design: Stephen Galloway
Lighting Design: William Forsythe

Défilé (World Premiere)
Choreography: William Forsythe
Music: Mischa Santora, after J.S. Bach Goldberg Variations, Variation 15

Artifact Suite
Choreography: William Forsythe
Music: J.S. Bach (Chaconne in D Minor), Eva Crossman-Hecht
Costume Design: William Forsythe
Lighting Design: William Forsythe


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