No travel plans for this spring? Don’t despair! This week Boston Ballet takes us to Paris in its new program Kaleidoscope, a colorful springy fusion of four pieces of modern choreography (at the Boston Opera House, March 17-26).
Going to Boston Ballet performances is a family affair in our house. While my husband prefers modern pieces (especially the programs performed at the BB@home intimate studio on Clarendon Street), my son has traditionally joined me over the years for the dramatic ballets (“Romeo and Juliet”, “Don Quixote”, and a recent “Onegin”) and my 6-year daughter Vi and I take delight in the fairy-tales on stage (“Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake”, and the “Nutcracker”).
This year, Vi surprised me by asking to see Kaleidoscope, a program of four mini-ballets by 20th century masters. She knew that it was not a fairy-tale but was inspired by the colorful costumes from one of the pieces- Gaîté Parisienne that she saw on the Boston Ballet postcard. She could sense a joyful celebration and she was not disappointed!
But Gaîté Parisienne was actually the closing piece.
First, on stage was George Balanchine’s Kammermusik No. 2 (premiered in 1978 by New York City Ballet). Set to the “disjointed” score of German composer Paul Hindemith, complex and eccentric movements of the dancers mimic the music to showcase Balanchine’s neoclassical style. The work was precise and energetic, but out of the four ballets in the program this one left us the least engaged.
We both were really taken by the next piece – Pas de Quatre by a much lesser known Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson (premiered in 1971 by his theater of Choreographic Miniatures in St. Petersburg, Russia). Poetic and dreamlike, it is a four-ballerina ballet, comprised of intertwining patterns and long lines and set to the beautiful music of Bellini’s opera Norma. It is supposed to promote sisterly love among equally talented ballerinas (at the time of balletic rivalries) and while technically challenging (imagine linking four sets of hands in a dance) is easy to follow and adore.
Next, the most contemporary-created of the four – The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by William Forsythe (premiered by Ballet Frankfurt in 1996) is actually a heavily classical piece, except reinvented and amplified. We both loved the 11-minute ballet set to the striking final movements of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 and requiring extreme speed and “exactitude” from the dancers.
As the closing program of the evening, Gaîté Parisienne (choreography by Russian-born Léonide Massine, premiered in 1938 by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo) put the exclamation point to the evening!
My daughter could not read the French name Gaîté Parisienne on the curtain, but she could immediately tell that we were transported to Paris (I will not reveal all the set design details). Vi is not old enough of course to know what “saucy” means yet she related to the comedy, “crazy” costumes (designed by French designer Christian Lacroix), exuberant music of the German composer Offenbach, and vivacious multi-dancer can-cans. She was swaying to the music and showing off the new moves at home. I doubt there was anyone in the audience who was not moved by the light-hearted energy of the piece.
The performance time is two hours, twenty minutes with two intermissions. You can read more of the stories behind these four distinct works and their remarkable choreographers at Boston Ballet’s website. (Tickets start at $35 online or call 617-695-6955). For discounted tickets try bostix.org.
Remaining Kaleidoscope Performances:
Thursday, March 24 at 7:30 PM
Friday, March 25 at 7:3 PM
Saturday, March 26 at 1:00 PM
Saturday March 26 at 7:30 PM
We thank Boston Ballet for offering us complimentary media tickets to facilitate this review.