Boston Ballet Company
May 2–12, 2013
Boston Opera House
Every time I go to the Boston Opera House I am blown away. Last week, which saw the premier of Chroma, was no different. The audience was treated to three very different but complementary ballet performances: Serenade, Chroma, and Symphony in C.
The first dance, Serenade, was set to Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings in C.” It was the first ballet choreographed in America by George Balanchine, the immensely prolific and esteemed Russian choreographer who helped found the New York City Ballet. The curtains rose to reveal a stage filled with women, identically dressed in pale blue tight-fitting leotards and long, translucent skirts. Like puffs of smoke uncurling, these nebulous swathes of chiffon served to emphasize the celestial nature of the dancers.
The focus was on the female dancers, and remained so throughout the piece, as they danced in sync or in various formations, sometimes drawing our focus to an individual, and sometimes making us appreciate the collaboration between dancers. For example, in one strangely hypnotic scene, a single row of girls stood alone on stage, with their backs to the audience. On pointe, they slowly and graciously twirled the outer dancers into and through the center of the line several times, and then twirled them back out again.
In another scene, midway through Serenade, as the girls danced off-stage we saw one fall to the ground, her hair in disarray. After the slick, classical moves of the beginning, this was a jarring experience, as though something had gone terribly wrong. Thereafter, one of the male dancers, wearing a midnight blue leotard with low scoop neckline, came on stage and arched his body over the fallen dancer. Close behind him stood another woman, with her arms contorted above her, as if she were embodying his wings. Throughout the next part of the dance, there was so much tension and emotion in the dancing, it seemed the dancers were involved in a dramatic love story, but it was up to the imagination of individual audience members to decide what this story might be.
The final scene was striking and unforgettable. One female dancer, standing with her hands stretched above her head, was lifted by her ankles and held high by four male dancers. Like a banner or a trophy, she was carried down an imaginary “aisle,” which cut diagonally from the front right to the back left of the stage. On either side of this were female dancers hovering on pointe, with their arms similarly stretched above their heads and facing the same direction as the dancer borne aloft. The curtains lowered on the men walking forward, and the women lifting their eyes skyward and bending backwards, as though transcending the earth.
The second piece, Chroma, after which the triplet of pieces is named, was choreographed by Wayne McGregor. It was set to a score by Joby Talbot and featured musical arrangements by Jack White of American rock duo The White Stripes. These required more musicians than almost any other Boston Ballet performance, so musicians played from the boxes at either side of the stage, which are usually reserved for seating. As such, the music in Chroma was physically and psychologically a part of the foreground. Musicians far outnumbered dancers, and the music was so loud and powerful it rolled over us like waves, keeping us engaged and excited.
Fittingly, the set was entirely white, with a large cut-out “window” in the back wall, showing a somewhat more distant white wall. The effect was of an otherworldly, sterile environment, like the inside of a spaceship. The dancers — six male and four female — were dressed alike in square, thin-strapped chemises in subdued colors of lilac, olive, pink, or nude. With their feminine attire and gyrating moves, I sometimes mistook a male dancer for a female one, and vice versa. The dancers were highly energetic, keeping time with the music, and faintly alien-like, with indecipherable expressions that struck a balance between deadpan and severe. It was impossible to see everything at once — they danced solo, or one or two males would dance with a female dancer, but each individual, pair, or trio would tend to occupy a different part of the stage and dance simultaneously with any other. I found myself simply focusing on a body part here or there, marveling at the perfectly toned muscle, and the incredible rapidity and flawless control of its movement.
Symphony in C was the final performance, set to the eponymous symphony in four movements by Bizet, which he composed when he was 17 years old, and choreographed by the aforementioned George Balanchine in a period of just two weeks. The piece was epic in scale, with fifty-two dancers. The female dancers wore traditional ballet garb, with stiff white tutus that crowned their long slender legs, and a few wore sparkling tiaras. As in Serenade, the male dancers wore dark blue outfits, this time with slightly flounced velvet sleeves, and the stage was bare with a blue backdrop. The dancing was classical in style, and continued with the high energy of the previous performance. One scene that imprinted itself into my memory was when the female dancers fringed the stage, and the male dancers gathered in the center of the stage. Dancing with great vigor, and in exquisite synchronicity, there was a snapshot moment when they leapt high into the air — and that is how I will forever remember this piece.
It was a wonderful ending to an eventful evening. Chroma, all three parts of it, holds the attention captive and keeps the audience intrigued about what is in store for them next. It is well worth going to see.