In one of his post-performance talks (following a modern program last March), Boston Ballet’s artistic director Mikko Nissinen promised that the company would continue to embrace both traditional story ballets and the diverse works by the modern choreographers. This May, ballet lovers in Boston are being treated to two superb productions as diverse as ballet performances could be: The Sleeping Beauty and Robbins/The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody).
The Sleeping Beauty
Set to the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Boston Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty is based on the 1890 version by Marious Petipa first performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. With a battle of good and evil at its center and some of the most iconic and technically challenging ballet roles, this lavish production has a prominent place in ballet’s history (pay attention as Princess Aurora balances on pointe in attitude while interacting with four of her suitors at her 16th Birthday – in the famous Rose Adagio) .
The Concert is a three-ballet contemporary program. As Nissinen noted in his interview to Boston.com’s radio BDC, the program is like “a three course meal: it starts quiet, then goes to different places with the following courses”. The first “quiet” course refers to George Balanchine’s 1972 Stravinsky Violin Concerto. It is Boston Ballet’s premiere of Balanchine’s work requiring utmost musicality from the dancers – for which, Nissinen feels, his dancers are now ready.
Second “course” is world premier of Creatures of Egmont by Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo. Set to a collection of music by Beethoven, Bach, and Schumann, it derives heavily from classical technique, yet, according to Elo himself, “stays away from going deeper and telling the full story”. Robert Perdziola, who designed costumes for Nissinen’s productions of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, is the costume designer for Elo’s world premiere.
Jerome Robbins’ 1956 comic ballet The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody) set to the music of F. Chopin is a light-hearted “dessert” of the evening: it follows the antiques of a colorful set of concert-goes and is an easy winner among the ballet audiences world-wide (You may even recognize yourself in one of the characters).
I happened to see both productions during the same weekend. I have not planned it this way, but seeing these performances so close together gave me me an opportunity to compare and contrast the way I experience traditional and modern ballet.
Last Friday, during the opening night of Robbins/The Concert, I noticed that I was more tense and had to “work” much harder to appreciate an intricate blend of music and movement (especially during Balanchine’s and Elo’s parts of the program, as The Concert piece is more “classical” in its ease of following). Although I was mesmerized by the superb athleticism of almost acrobatic movements, I never for a second lost touch with reality, with myself; the lack of a story to follow made me go deep inside myself in searching for one.
In contract, during the three hours of the Sleeping Beauty last Saturday, I was much more relaxed, as I was transported to another world, enchanted by the magical spells and overtaken by the grandiosity of the production.
If you have a chance to see both productions in the remaining three May weekends, you would also be able to appreciate an incredible versatility of Boston Ballet dancers. Coming from seventeen different countries with diverse ballet and musical traditions, they blend their talents to bring us the ultimate joy of dance – in any style they are tasked with!
WHO TO TAKE WITH YOU
Contemporary Concert, with its complex blend of movement, musicality and expression should be a hit with your older teens and anybody else who claims to be bored with fairy tale ballets.
Traditional Sleeping Beauty is a full scale three-hour production based on young girls’ favorite fairy tale; I brought my seven-year old girl who followed most of the performance with impressive attention to detail, but only you know if your child is ready.
Both performances take place at the Boston Opera House through May 27. For tickets (starting at $35), call 617-695-6955 or check Boston Ballet’s website.
Remaining performances of The Concert (two hours with one intermission): Thursday, May 11 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 14 at 1pm; Thursday, May 18 at 7:30 pm; Sunday, May 21 at 1 pm; Friday, May 26 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 27 at 1 pm.
Remaining performances of the Sleeping Beauty (three hours with two intermissions): Friday, May 12 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 13 at 1 pm; Friday, May 19 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 20 at 1 pm; Saturday, May 20 at 7:30 pm; Thursday, May 25 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, May 27 at 7:30 pm.