Thrill of Contact is Boston Ballet‘s season finale at the Boston Opera House and Principal Dancer Jeffrey Cirio’s début on the big bill as a choreographer. Cirio’s fremd is sandwiched between George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and the program doesn’t miss a beat. t’s a bit like watching someone walk the red carpet in a Chanel jacket, some gorgeous Louboutin heels and a fabulous pair of pants that you assume is part of the Chanel design but in fact is made by some young unknown designer. The outfit looks fabulous and you can’t get over how flawlessly each piece holds its own.
As a dancer, Jeffrey Cirio is technical, theatrical, and overall a power house. The precision and dedication he puts into his art of dancing is also reflected as clear as day in his choreography. Cirio’s piece is so well crafted that it’s complexity almost goes unnoticed. Each detail, from the movement, the music and soundtrack to the lighting and the staging, has a purpose. There are no garnishes for garnish sake nor are there forgotten points.
fremd means foreign or alien. With the movement in fremd, Cirio is creating something new and different without alienating his audience. The music and soundtrack plays a role almost visually impacting the dancing as lighting usually does. The beat and ambient sound of Apex Twin, the static and electricity layered with spoken German of Olaf Bender, and the sweet melodic sounds of Frédéric Chopin and John Field make similarly stylized movements look completely different. From classical to pulsing beats, to spoken word and then to complete silence, the music is so contrasted but yet not disconnected. At one point, there is a void in the soundtrack until you realize the music has been replaced with just the sound of bodies moving through space. Often when music stops, even intentionally, there is a level of discomfort for the audience, it’s like being caught naked, there is a riff of uncomfortable little coughs and clearing of throats, but in fremd the silence was met with silence. It seemed to suck us, the audience, into the movement even more.
Cirio’s dancers Altan Dugaraa, Lia Cirio, Paulo Arrais, Whitney Jensen, Paul Craig, Emily Mistretta, and Bradley Schlagheck, create illusions of bending and twisting time. If you’re old enough to remember changing the speed of a record on a record player, or twisting the turntable slowly backwards in a sort of reverse slow motion, then you might be able to visualize how the dancers seem to manipulate time. Sometimes the still moments in between are even more powerful than the complex movement in between because it sort of reverberates through you as you take it all in.
fremd is filled with grace and beauty even when the music doesn’t reflect that. Watching Jeffrey Cirio’s piece you lose track of where you are. At moments, you wonder how a dancer got somewhere without seeing a transition. The matching of classical ballet movement to the expected more “alien” awkward movement that you see in contemporary ballet is done perfectly. There are points in the dance when you wonder if you are seeing things or not seeing things with rapid flicks of a finger or wrist almost imperceptible but just strong enough to catch the attention of your eye. The spacing, especially in the beginning and end of the piece, forces you out of your familiar comfort zone of sitting back and taking in the dance as a whole, because you have to choose what to watch and what to cast away into your peripheral vision. There is a lot of interplay with dancers in the background and foreground exaggerated with lighting, spacing, costumes and a contrast of duets and solos.
The experience of fremd, at The Boston Opera House definitely makes me want to be come more familiar with Jeffrey Cirio’s work and I have no doubt that this is just the beginning of something groß.
Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact is at the Boston Opera House through May 24th. Tickets are available here or rush tickets can be purchased at the box office. For more details on getting to the ballet on a budget you can go here. As a blogger, I have been invited to see Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact as always all opinions are my own.