By the grace of the old gods and the new in the course of 48 hours I took in Boston Ballet’s Edge of Vision twice and in the presence of three wonderful women. It’s ok to envy my good fortune, you should, but "to whom much is given, much will be required". So just hours before the “fight of the century” as I eagerly anticipate world-class boxing, I'm also a novice tasked with writing my second ballet review. Edge of Vision is a triple bill with works from some of Boston Ballet’s favorite choreographers; Helen Pickett for Eventide, Boston Ballet Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo Bach Cello Suites and Lila York for Celts respectively.
Live, masterful, artistic performances are like smelling salts to my soul and without warning Eventide grabs you the very instant the curtain raises. Science suggests I blinked at least three hundred times during this ballet but I’d beg to differ. Beautifully executed movements by a parade of dancers, Resident Choreographer for the Atlanta Ballet, Helen Pickett’s second coming of Eventide is smooth and sultry, sexy and exhilarating all at once. Treat yourself to a swift and effortless transition from the overwhelming press of a Monday morning to your first sip of wine on a midsummer Friday when your obligations may only be to relax, befriend a cocktail or to love.
Ballets are productions that require much of the choreographer and dancer(s) and plenty still of its musical pairing and set design to create spontaneous-seeming escapades. At the very least it needs the movements and the music to achieve this. Eventide does everything well and I'd like to first discuss its music. There are only a few things I love more than music and so when a sound moves me I can’t help but seek it out. Armed with the power of proven algorithms and a thirst for Eventide’s sound; a quick hunt for treasure in Google, Youtube, and Spotify delivered an album entitled 'Passages' by Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar. (Jan Garbarek also receives credit for Eventide's sound.)
'Offering' is the opening selection for Eventide (and first track from 'Passages'). This song is the musical equivalent of sipping malbec quickly and deliberately, pausing along the way only to confirm retreating inhibition, returning to your objective until a proper mood has been set. Have malbec, play ‘Offering’ and thank me later. 'Meetings Along The Edge', the sixth track from 'Passages' I believe is the second selection used in Eventide. This song shares similar elements with 'Offering' but tells its own story with a more hasty pace and quite appropriately greets us at the height of our dance inspired inebriation, gently pushing us to the edge of our seats before ending abruptly.
Choreographer Hellen Picket succeeded in meeting the potential of Eventide’s sound by creating an erotic exchange and inclusive arrangement proving you don’t have to be a principal dancer, center stage, or under the brightest light to move the audience. In fact it was the staggered entrances by several dancers on each side of the stage that stole the show in my opinion. Eventide received a long and deserved standing ovation and left me with a flirtatious smirk for my beautiful date.
BACH CELLO SUITES
Bach’s Cello Suites has been used widely in film and television for plot shifts and montages and to occasionally convey some sense of temporary refinement and sophistication within a narrative that lacks such sentiments. In Hangover II ‘Stu’s' soon to be brother-in-law ‘Teddy’ plays Bach’s 'Cello Suites No. 1' (while he still has all ten fingers) to which Alan (Zach Galifianakis) hilariously gives an emphatic thumbs down. Well it’s time to revisit this work of art. Cellist Sergey Antonov’s version was hypnotic and robust, transfixing the audience until graciously giving us back to the spectacle of dance. Antonov’s 'Cello Suites No. 1' competes with any version of Bach’s work considered to be great. This timeless composition still resonates today and Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo’s expression of the Cello Suites offers a proper presentation of Bach’s work. The most mediative of the Edge of Vision triple bill, this world premier of Elo’s Bach Cello Suites ballet, sits perfectly between Eventide and the lively Celts ballet.
All Images by James Mahaffey ©2015
I found myself having a drink in the same bar as Elo after the show and I was tempted to approach the entourage of Boston Ballet’s elite to ask Elo about his decision to be a part of the show and literally guide the dancers on stage. Beyond being impressed by his undeniable talent and preservation of form, I’m specifically curious about the sequence between Elo, Kathleen Breen Combes and Jeffrey Cirio. Was Elo trying to depict a loving, involved father closely monitoring the courting of his daughter, occasionally providing direction and observing the trios’ ability to align? Or is that just my own fatherly strategy spilling into this review years before its implementation?
I overheard others seated nearby discussing what the story was behind the dance. I understand the urge to ponder such things and create context for ourselves when taking in the arts. Interactions in ballet such as Elo’s though provide enough universal familiarity that one is able to draw their own conclusion. Only two ballet reviews in, thus far I’ve also found that when a performance is riveting enough to the senses it needs little explanation to successfully entertain or ignite our own creativity.
Celts is an irish jig, a propped up party of folklore and dance. It’s undoubtedly fun and this final ballet of the Edge of Vision triple bill was the crowds’ favorite. I heard several women, including the one I was lucky enough to escort opening night that this was their favorite and I can see why. It begins with an opening number from principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio that compels even the coolest of us to nod approvingly in astonishment of his footwork. Complimented by costumes that capture the spirit by Tunji Dada, and choreography by Lila York that uses the dancers themselves as set design, Celts will send you on your way primed to dance or engage in some cardio routine.
All Images by James Mahaffey ©2015
To see these dancers perform is to witness Olympic-level displays of fitness and strength, live in the majestic Boston Opera House. (The theater itself competes with any performance for your admiration.) And after some inner reflection on how or why you haven’t met your physical goals you begin to move past that to a better place and simply enjoy the display before your eyes, appreciating these artists, these athletes and their commitment to giving their all to put on a good show for our mutual, collective benefit.
Days after I began writing this review, with the results in from "fight of the century" it’s clear that expectations were set too high for casual boxing fans. A bout that some thought should be a brawl was instead a dance between great athletes as some boxing can be. Well I’m officially making a case for the ballet for anyone seeking to be entertained. For less money come witness a dramatic display of dance between great athletes in a grand space and have some wine while you do so. “He who loves not wine, women and song remains a fools his whole life long.”- Martin Luther. The only thing left to do now is find out who's joining me next time?
written by James Mahaffey firstname.lastname@example.org