On Pointe and Prickled Tink: Pricked with the Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet’s newest show, Pricked, was a bit of a mystery for me.  When I first heard the title I thought perhaps it would be an interpretation of Sleeping Beauty .  I don’t like to read too much about a performance before I see it, because I want to experience the performance in my own way.  Pricked was a fantastic collection of three dances that were beautiful and unexpected.  Watching the ballet from piece to piece was a bit like walking through a museum of art from one room to the next all tied together with one theme but all presented in totally different lights from classic to contemporary.  Pricked is about the dance and the dancer.  It is about human frailty and human strength.  It is about pontification and laughter.

Photo by Gene Schiavone
Photo by Gene Schiavone

The first piece reminds me of Dégas’ bronze statues of dancers but set in motion.  Dancers are in black tutus lighting placed only on their legs.  The music by Carl Czerny is gentle and subtle almost like the lighting on art, you don’t notice it is there, but without it everything falls flat.  Études is exactly that:  a study.  It follows the progression of a ballet class from barre to center, center to turns, turns to jumps, and finally a dramatic energetic dance across the stage playing with space and height.  With the help of lighting, costumes and choreography this piece seems to stroll through a gallery that goes from Dégas’ bronze statues, to a contemporary black and white photography exhibit with beautiful silhouettes.  From the silhouettes you move to a room of group portraits that feel a bit like some of Rénoirs paintings full of people posing together.

At some points you could focus on just one solo, duet or trio and at other points there were several dances going on at once on stage.  It was a bit like the Isabelle Stewart Gardner museum where paintings closely share spaces and you don’t know quite where to look first.  Not because of a storyline but rather for the beauty of the movement and the skill of the dancers, the audience didn’t applaud but rather exploded with applause throughout Études.

The second piece was D.M.J..  D.M.J. had a recurring motif of a single rose for each couple and also motifs in the movement throughout.  D.M.J. took us out of a classic museum of art to a contemporary museum.  There was playfulness with space thanks to large black platforms that the dancers moved and dance over, on, through and under.  This manipulation of space and time felt Dalí-eque.  There was a bit more of a story in D.M.J. choreographed by Czech choreographer Petr Zuska and set to music by Czech composers Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, Leoš Janáček yet the emotion was universally human neither set in time nor place.

Études from Boston Ballet's Pricked.  Photo by Gene Schiavone
Études from Boston Ballet’s Pricked. Photo by Gene Schiavone

The icing on the cake was the final post modern exhibit Cacti.  Cacti is full of humour.  A mockery of any critic that takes herself too seriously.  Although it was a laugh out loud piece, there was no slapstick or silly story twists involved.  Cacti is an “exhibit” you can visit and revisit and only find more humour as you notice more.  Even though Cacti is the boldest and most brazen of the pieces the show is complete, and wonderful because of each part of the show.  If you only see one performance this season, I think I have to say don’t miss Pricked.  It is for the dance lovers and the art lovers.  It is for those who take themselves seriously and those who can’t help but laugh at the little things.

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