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Boston Ballet transforms fairy tales into dance



The Boston Ballet.

Wang Center, May 10, 8 pm.


THE BOSTON BALLET BROUGHT their season to an exuberant close with their performance of three Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales: "The Ice Maiden," "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" and "The Wild Swans." The use of ballet lends itself extremely well to the dreamy world of fairy tales, and this performance in particular displayed how the two art forms complement each other.

"The Ice Maiden" is the story of a boy who is traveling with his mother when the Ice Maiden captures them both. She claims the boy with a spell and disposes of the mother. The boy grows to manhood and is about to be married when the Ice Maiden returns to take him.

This was the most serious of the three stories, not so much in plot but rather in how it was presented. The characters' costumes were somber and far from elaborate. The choreography was smooth and flowing. The number of performances on stage was dynamic and ever-increasing, from mother and son, to the wedding scene, to the finale -- when the Ice Maiden returns, bringing forth a clan of ice people who fill the stage in a kaleidoscopic effect. The music, written by Stravinsky in 1928, brought the piece together into a cohesive whole.

The second story, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," is a classic tale about a tin soldier who falls in love with a paper ballerina. The jealous jack-in-the-box pushes the soldier out a window where he falls into a paper boat, floats into a sewer, and is swallowed by a large fish. The family finds the soldier in their fish supper, and the soldier is reunited with his ballerina. A strong wind blows the dancer into the fireplace, and the soldier follows her.

Although the story is sad, it was presented in a comic light. The costumes were bright and cheery, and the dancers' motions were playful. The special effects were fantastic. They made the transition from the real world to the imaginary world of dolls and toys both smooth and fun. The giant fish was also quite a spectacle -- it was 40 feet high, and its mouth opened wide enough to swallow the tin soldier (Rolland Price). The paper ballerina (Jennifer Gelfand) danced beautifully to Bizet's music.

The world premiere of "The Wild Swans" was a fresh and creative depiction of the fairy tale. The story relates the tale of an evil stepmother who banishes her stepchildren, one daughter and eleven sons, turning the sons into swans. The sister must knit jackets out of nettles in order to transform her brothers back.

Compared with the other effects, the nettle-cloak was somewhat disappointing. It was poorly constructed and did not resemble nettles in the least.

The dancers portraying the brothers captured the motion of the flight of the swans with grace and splendor. There were times when there was no background or music, and only the pure motion of the swans filled the stage. The story had a happy ending and was a wonderful close to the program.

The evening was a tribute to one of the greatest storytellers of all time, and the Boston Ballet did Andersen justice. Through their transformation of bedtime stories into dance, the entire audience was connected and could share in the experience.