Edge of Vision: Boston Ballet Leaps off the Edge of the Expected


The sweet deep voice of the cello, the feeling of heaviness on your body as night falls and tiredness overcomes you, the joy of celebration, and the sound of an Irish jig, are all familiar to us.  It is this common ground of shared experiences that makes this particular program the perfect first step off the edge of classical ballet and into contemporary ballet.  If you scoff at the mention of contemporary ballet or you tremble at the thought of discordant music and flailing movement when you think of contemporary ballet, then this is the time for you to take a deep breath, loosen up (yes shake it out) and take that step to see what you’ve been missing.  Boston Ballet’s Edge of Vision opened at the Opera House yesterday and will run though May 10th.

Principals Lia Cirio and Paula Arrais in Boston Ballet's Bach Cello Suites.
Principals Lia Cirio and Paula Arrais in Boston Ballet’s Bach Cello Suites.

A great program has diversity of choreography and music, and a common thread that ties it all together. Edge of Vision is a program of three ballets each one approachable and with it’s own unique “story” and vibe.  Each of the pieces: Eventide, Bach Cello Suites, and Celts all premiered with Boston Ballet and Bach Cello Suites had their world premiere on Thursday, April 30th for opening night.   For parents, if you have a cello student (or orchestra player) or a child who does Irish dancing, bring your child to see Edge of Vision as their first non-Nutcracker or classical ballet “story book” performance.  “I feel it is my responsiblity as a choreographer to cultivate an atmosphere that not only nurtures connection, but also incites collaboration.” says Eventide choreographer Helen Pickett.  The idea of nurturing connection carries through the entire Edge of Vision program.  There is a natural connection to the music, the movement and the sense of place.

Boston Ballet's Eventide.  Photo courtesy of Alison Borrelli Photography
Edge of Vision:  Boston Ballet’s Maria Alvarez, Diana Albrecht, and Dawn Atkins performing Eventide. Photo courtesy of Alison Borrelli Photography

Eventide

Eventide begins with a deep red backdrop and red velvet curtains are pleated and draped creating a sense of being somewhere luxurious. With the lighting, movement and music, you feel the heat of the desert and the slow movement of dusk. Saxaphonist Jan Garbarek’s tone creates the perfect jazzy lullaby to draw you into the moment.
As night falls, the red back drop is replaced with a black one.  Pitch black fills all the negative space and without a change of costume or movement everything you see looks completely different.

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Boston Ballet’s Eventide. Photo courtesy of Alison Borrelli Photography

Bach Cello Suites

Bach Cello Suites begins with a single cellist, Sergey Antonov, on stage.  The stage is dark aside from the warm glow of a spotlight on the musician.  At first you hear the deep warm voice of the cello.  It is all about the music.  Then as Antonov continues to play, it as if the musician becomes the first dancer on stage.  Antonov is both music and movement.  Then dancers begin to appear on stage starting with a duet.  In the beginning, it is as if the music notes are falling like rain from a staff-like structure that hangs from the ceiling; the notes are rolling down the dancers cheeks and off their backs. As the duet progresses, the movement begins to play back and forth with the music. Then, a quintet of dancers in black seem as if they are the notes themselves and the cellist is almost secondary.

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This interplay between dancers, Bach’s music, and cellist Sergey Antonov continues throughout the piece each taking turns stepping into the foreground.  Then, something changes and another dimension is added.  The dancers are exposed as instruments themselves as the choreographer, Jorma Elo enters the dance.  It’s like a peek into the process, accidentally walking by a rehearsal, or capturing a moment inside the choreographers head.  Elo was appointed Resident Choreographer of Boston Ballet in 2005, where he has created many world premieres including Bach Cello Suites.

Left to right, Boston ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio, Choreographer and dancer Jorma Elo, and Boston Ballet
Left to right, Boston ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio, Choreographer and dancer Jorma Elo, and Boston Ballet principal Kathleen Breen Combes in Elo’s Bach Cello Suites. Taken during dress rehearsal for Boston Ballet’s Edge of Vision.

And just for fun, a sneak peek into an actual rehearsal moment.  The detail and work that goes into each piece, each movement, each step, takes hours of work and a team of trained, watchful eyes.

Ballet master
On left: Artistic Director Mikko Nissenen going over the piece with dancers. Center back: principals Kathleen Breen Combes & Jeffrey Cirio. Center foreground Principal Whitney Jensen takes corrections from Ballet Master Anthony Randazzo

Celts

We’re in Boston, and if anyone knows an Irish jig (outside of Ireland) it’s Bostonians.  What I love about Celts is that it is not “Boston Ballet does River Dance.”  For those who know or do Irish dancing, of course they will see familiar moves but done as ballet rather than ballerinas doing actual Irish dancing.  The movement, lighting, costumes, hair, and music transport you far away from downtown Boston to the old, historic, slightly fantastical world of Ireland.  The audience went from completely silent and mesmerized to bursts of applause throughout the piece.

Boston Ballet Principals Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in Celts.
Boston Ballet Principals Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in Celts.

Principal Jeffrey Cirio was as sharp as a pin in his movements and Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili had this primal energy seemingly running through their veins propelling them through space. Dusty Button had a grace and etherealness to her movement that made the piece dreamlike.

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Pricipals Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili in Boston Ballet’s Celts

The festive nature of Celts had everyone smiling on and off stage. The corps de ballet looked like they were enjoying themselves even as they threw themselves across the stage at a non-stop allegro pace.  There were also some quieter moments where you felt that you stood at the edge of the land watching waves lap against the shore.   
  All in all, Edge of Vision is a wonderful program.  The dancing is precise, dramatic and Boston Ballet’s star dancers shine brightly. For tips on getting tickets and student rates you can look here.

Eventide Photo courtesy of Kerry Goodwin Photography
This photo, courtesy of Kerry Goodwin Photography, shows how much the red backdrop changes the entire “picture” painted on stage.  Below you have the black backdrop, and all of a sudden the costumes and dancers have a completely different look.
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Principal Paulo Arrais and Soloist Rie Ishikawa in Boston Ballet’s Eventide. Photo courtesy of Kerry Goodwin Photography.

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