Boston Ballet

March 6, 2008

Boston Ballet’s “Next Generation”

Wang Theatre, Boston, MA

March 6–9, 2008

Reviewed by Karen Campbell

Though it wasn’t conceived that way, Boston Ballet’s “Next Generation” program of premieres had a nifty context. The four featured choreographers—Jorma Elo, Helen Pickett, Heather Myers, and Sabrina Matthews—were all given their first major commissions by artistic director Mikko  Nissinen, marking his commitment not only to discover but nurture new choreographic voices.

    The most experienced, resident choreographer Jorma Elo, presented his fifth Boston Ballet commission. In on Blue evokes an underwater fairy ballet saturated in blue, with women in tutus and tiaras and the men cavorting like schools of fish. At times it borders on camp, as phrases straight out of the romantic repertoire segue into robotic isolations and quirky gestures. Though disjunct and puzzling, it’s riveting to watch. Elo’s distinctive postmodern aesthetic was more cohesive in the opening “pièce d’occasion,” a short little gem choreographed to showcase the evening’s creative artists as performers—Elo’s and Matthews’ gestural charisma, Pickett’s brilliant, jazzy footwork, and Myers’ long-limbed flexibility, energy traveling in five directions at once.

    Myers, a Boston Ballet second soloist, created Gone Again on colleagues she works with every day, and it shows in choreography beautifully tailored to their strengths—Yury Yanowsky’s big leaps, Romi Beppu’s tensile fluidity, Kathleen Breen Combes’ sprightly incandescence. Set to Schubert’s elegiac Death and the Maiden quartet, this sweeping, wistful work for three couples is grounded in traditional ballet vocabulary yet leavened with subtle gestures of longing, loss, and hope.

    Canadian Sabrina Matthews makes her U.S. debut with Ein von Viel, commissioned by Nissinen back when he was artistic director of Alberta Ballet. John Lam and James Whiteside gave a spectacular performance of this stunning work. Set to Bach’s exquisite Goldberg Variations, it subverts the elegant lines of the music with quicksilver moves of sharp angles and muscular athleticism.

    Helen Pickett’s new three-part Eventide (above), the evening’s largest work (20 dancers), is a little messy, with the corps too often used as window dressing. However, it is visually gorgeous in tones of red and gold. When the work simplifies to smaller forces, solos and duets melding ballet with Eastern influences are striking, and Boston Ballet’s excellent dancers handle the work’s quickly shifting dynamics with commitment and flair.



(Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet)