Simply Sublime

by Sue Katz
Sunday Feb 12, 2012

Boston Ballet’s 2012 spring performance season at The Boston Opera House is featuring programs consisting of three selections. "Simply Sublime," playing February 9-19, will be followed by "Play With Fire" and "Fancy Free," with "Don Quixote" sandwiched between.

"Simply Sublime" opens with Florence Clerc’s classical staging of Michel Fokine’s "Les Sylphides," continues with Christopher Wheeldon’s witty, energetic "Polyphonia," and finishes with the drama of George Balanchine’s "Symphony in Three Movements."

The slow, lyrical Chopin melodies of "Les Sylphides" are mirrored by choreography that holds almost literally to the music. The traditional corps de ballet wears tiny wings at the base of their backs which lightly flutter as they synchronize en pointe. They cushion the poet and his two muses in this historically significant piece that was first performed in 1908 at St. Petersburg’s Maryinsky Theatre where Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Galina Ulanova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov all performed. The performance is more seduction than passion.

In contrast, Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography for "Polyphonia" to music by Gyorgy Ligeti joyfully exploits all the permutations four couples can provide. There are duets, solos and groups - all using their classical skills as a basis to test the limits of their stretch, the variety of their lifts, and the twisting of their limbs. It is a playful and riveting performance that thrilled the audience by bringing exceptional movement candy to their eyes. Danced to the accompaniment of a single piano, played by Freda Locker right on the stage, the scope of the dancers’ unusual and geometric movements is startling in the best possible way.

"Symphony in Three Movements" (Igor Stravinsky), choreographed by George Balanchine, opens with a tableau so striking that the audience broke out in spontaneous applause before a step was danced. A line of sixteen women in white leotards and pony tails stands against a luminously blue wall in a way that reminds my companion of an Esther Williams film.

Indeed, one could imagine them diving off the stage, one after the other. Instead we get magnificent leaps and dazzling couple work as the stage fills up with more and more dancers. The looseness of the ponytails as the women’s hair whips around, a seemingly simple change from classic ballet’s tight buns, is itself a revelation. The finale has a crowded exuberance and the large Thursday night house leaves with high anticipation for the rest of the Boston Ballet’s season to come.

Sue Katz is a "wordsmith and rebel" who has been widely published on the three continents where she has lived. She used to be proudest of her 20-year martial arts career, her world travel, and her edgy blog Consenting Adult (suekatz.typepad.com), but now she's all about her collection of short stories about the love lives of older people, Lillian's Last Affair.


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