Boston Ballet "New Visions"

June 19, 2007

The Boston Ballet made its annual foray into contemporary dance with “New Visions,” a program that showcased a world premiere by Finnish-born Jorma Elo, the company’s resident choreographer, and let the dancers loose on some cool moves for a weekend. Elo’s Brake The Eyes with music by Mozart and a sound score by Nancy Enverink opened the evening, followed by Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, a company premiere, made in 2001 for New York City Ballet; and a reprise of Val Caniparoli’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, created for the BB in 2004.

The prize/ surprise of the evening was the 30-minute Brake The Eyes, which proved to be another major work by Elo, choreographer du jour of the dance world. The work was defined by the startling appearance of Larissa Ponomarenko as a broken-limbed puppet, speaking disparate phrases in her native Russian, amplified by a body mike hidden on her long-sleeved gold tutu. As the resident Swan Queen since 1993, Ponomarenko has reigned mostly as a serene classical ballerina, rather than as Elo saw her—in soft slippers and portraying a reality-challenged waif, gyrating awkwardly to the sound of human noises. Just when that image registered, outlined brightly against the dark stage shadows by white lights hung beneath the ever-changing bank of steel grids above her, designed by Mark Stanley the sound-and-lights shifted to Mozart under incandescent colors, shining on four other couples in break-neck performance. The octet hurled themselves through Elo’s digest of ballet technique interrupted by hip hop, tango, and daredevil turns, led by none other than Ponomarenko, partnered by the long and lean Sabi Varga in an equally virtuoso, sexually charged performance. And he was matched by Joel Prouty and John Lam in their high-octane, space-gobbling leaps. Elo continues to integrate his movement style into a total aural and visual experience that feels as filled with promise as a sunrise.

Wheeldon’s homage to Balanchine treated the audience to intensely woven pas de deux to Ligeti music, again featuring Ponomarenko and Lam in the ensemble. Caniparoli’s work made its way through Bartok”s two-part score by casting 12 dancers in each “Sonata” and changing only the four lead couples. They moved mostly in mostly lightning quick, quirky maneuvers but Caniparoli did not give the ballet a cohesive through-line. However, for Boston audiences that like their ballets wrapped in stories and dancers accustomed to displaying their technically assured smarts in service of character and narrative, the entire program provided a jolt of the new.