I Brake for Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet is going places. One place, last weekend, was the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process program. They showed two ultra contemporary pieces and the White Swan pas de deux. The best was, subjectively speaking of course, Jorma Elo’s Brake the Eyes. It has nicely bizarre, distended movement, surprises in the ensemble choreography, and a great sense of form. Plus that crazy cackle of Larissa Ponomarenko’s as she speaks in Russian while snaking her arms or knocking her knees. It was Ponomarenko too who carried off a sublime Odette, at least as sublime as it can be on the tiny basement stage at the Gugg with taped music and a thudding floor.

Mikko Nissinen, BB’s artistic director, can be credited with the sudden Jorma Elo-trend in this country. None of us had heard of him before Mikko brought him to Boston as resident choreographer (see our April cover story). But now he is everywhere, setting and making works on companies across the U.S. and Europe.  I like it that not every work of his is a masterpiece or anything close. He is still experimenting. What’s exciting is his wild movement coupled with a sure sense of form. Anyway, as I said, I’m not at all objective about his Brake the Eyes for two reasons. One is that I helped, inadvertently, to title the piece (see my Curtain Up in the April issue) and the other is that it’s coming to Fall for Dance, where I am an artistic advisor. Oh, and a third is that it was really fun to interview him for our April cover story.

Now on to Helen Pickett. The excerpt from her Etesian was beautifully danced, partly because it started with a solo for the gorgeous Kathleen Breen Combes (our October cover dancer), who makes Forsythe-type movements into something long and lyrical and limpid. But it is, as Mikko said more than once, Pickett’s first professional piece. I know that place where she is at: easily making great movement but having little sense of overall form. (To be fair, this was just an excerpt.) (As a choreographer, I was at that beginning place for many years.)

Other dancers stood out too, for example the sharp and forceful Rie Ichikawa. I’ve recently seen the company a couple times in Boston, and the overall level is excellent. So the upshot is that Boston Ballet seems to be succeeding at blazing a new path as it also maintains ballet history. Bravo!

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