Boston Ballet

February 12, 2009

Boston Ballet
Wang Theatre, Boston, MA

February 12–15, 2009

Reviewed by Theodore Bale


Photo by
Gene Schiavone, courtesy Boston Ballet. Kathleen Breen Combes and Sabi Varga in No More Play.


JiÅ™i Kylián’s five ballets gathered under the evening-length rubric Black and White are already familiar classics in Europe. Nederlands Dans Theater premiered the oldest, Sechs Tänze, nearly 23 years ago; the most recent, Petite Mort, dates back to 1991. But to see all five in one evening in the U.S. had been impossible until Boston Ballet’s recent program, the first time any ensemble other than NDT has performed a complete Black and White.

The dances are highly virtuosic, combing the discipline of classical ballet, the expressivity of modern dance, and even the ancient wisdom of yoga. Throughout, the dancers wear simple black or white costumes by Kylián and designer Joke Visser. A series of long, formal gowns float through as either props, sets (cleverly mounted on wheels), or intermittent costumes. The only other props are simple icons: sword foils, heavily powdered wigs, and a green apple.

As the title suggests, the movement constantly presents some form of polarity: male and female, comic and tragic, historical and futuristic, ensemble and soloist, decorative and plain. With each viewing, yet another binary idea emerges, making these dances infinitely fascinating. No More Play, set to Webern, is a challenging opener. It bears some relationship to Balanchine’s often literal treatment of serial music (for instance, a phrase of atonal pizzicatos gives way to a set of odd little quick jumps). At one point, Larissa Ponomarenko stands on Boyko Dossev’s calf while he sinks into a lunge not unlike the yoga “warrior” poses––simply breathtaking. Petite Mort uses passages from two Mozart piano concertos to unite large groups of men and women, then breaks them out into a lengthy series of intimate pas de deux. In Sarabande, Yury Yanowsky offers a sexualized, serpentine solo wearing only white trunks and a pair of black pants pulled down around his ankles. His spine resembles a vacuum-cleaner cord being snapped back into its casing. Falling Angels is a daunting women’s dance that delves into Steve Reich’s method of phasing seamlessly from one idea to another, set to an excerpt from Reich’s classic “Drumming.” The slapstick finale, to Mozart’s charming “Sechs Tänze,” brings comic balance to the evening through layers of hilarious and magical illusions. Jared Redick, his powdered wig leaving a trail of dust across the stage, was the petit-allegro Pierrot, deceivingly simple and charming despite the intricate challenges of his role.