Wang Theatre, Boston, MA
May 11–21, 2006
Reviewed by Wendy Perron
Although resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s new Carmen showcased Boston Ballet’s terrific dancers, it did not, in any sense, project the passion and danger associated with the story. In Elo’s version, the place is not the streets of Spain, and Carmen is not a feisty girl who works in a cigarette factory. The choreographer recasts her as a supermodel, and set designer Walt Spangler offers two huge oval-shaped platforms that are supposedly fashion runways. Karine Seneca, who danced Carmen in this cast, is a delicious dancer who can turn from limpid to athletic on a dime. But there was nothing brazen or hedonistic about her choreography.
Mikki Kunttu’s lighting was the only dramatic element. With the lights rigged in an upside-down V, the set looked like a cruise ship. The lowering and raising of the lights signaled when something ominous was happening. Don José (Roman Rykine) killed Carmen not by stabbing her but by suffocating her. He simply placed a palm over her mouth. What gave it a sense of horror was the lighting instrument that lowered down almost on top of her, seeming more lethal than his hand.
In Elo’s sharp, disjointed movement style, hands cut through space and legs fly open in lifts and drags. The phrases are inventive but have little impact. Carmen’s duets with her man of the moment contained more tapping, chopping, and diving than touching. Nary a caress in sight, nor any body pressure that might build to sexual heat. The groupings too had no particular warmth, with activities spread evenly across the stage. Defying the general coolness of the production, Lia Cirio’s Michaela brought a beating heart to her Cassandra-like solos.
Luckily the program opened with a shimmering rendition of Balanchine’s Serenade. The company danced with delicacy and precision, led by three superb women. Lorna Feijóo was authoritative and yet full of surrender when the time came. Tai Jimenez was somber and lush as the Dark Angel, and Kathleen Breen Combes was joyous as the Russian Girl. The whole cast captured the pristine beauty and hint of lost love that make this a ballet you don’t forget. See www.bostonballet.com.