I thoroughly enjoyed Boston Ballet’s Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration last week. I saw the final performance, and here’s a quick run-down.
In Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son” Jared Redick gave an assured and athletic performance as the Son, although I didn’t find Melissa Hough’s performance as the Siren to be nearly as characterful as the role requires, perhaps due to a sort of restraint overall. Also, the middle section involving the troupe of layabouts called “The Goons” started off appropriately comical, but then lacked any hint of sinister or violent intention, making the Son’s defeat and crawl back home curiously uninvolving.
James Whiteside was simply superb in Fokine’s “Le Spectre de la Rose”, despite what Macaulay, in his review in The New York Times, aptly describes as “a dismal headdress”, haha. I’d thoroughly enjoyed his performance as the Bluebird in BB’s The Sleeping Beauty, and his performance in “La Rose” was technically top notch and a superb depiction of the light and graceful yet still masculine incarnation of a young girl’s dream of love.
Roman Rykine imbued his Faun in Nijinsky’s “Afternoon of a Faun” with an adroit blend of disdain, irreverence, and ego, and Lorna Feijóo was a suitably serene Nymph.
Choreographing anything to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” just seems like you’re setting yourself up for failure since several ballets to that score already exist, and resident choreographer Jorma Elo did just about as well as one could expect. None of the reviews I’ve read seemed at all taken with it, although there’s plenty of technical virtuosity on display. Macaualy says, “The harder I tried to concentrate on any notion of story, relationship, theme or even style, the more diffuse and self-contradictory this work looked.” But for the story, or lack thereof, I’m going to have to side with The Phoneix’s Gantz on that one:
- But Elo’s storyline is clear enough. Yanowsky (in a dark-red metallic top — the other men are all bare-chested) is Elo’s Chief Elder, Lorna Feijóo (who sometimes dances with the men) is his Old Woman of 300 Years, and the two of them keep cornering and manipulating Ponomarenko as if she were Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Hough is Ponomarenko’s BFF, Varga her would-be lover. At the end of part one, the villagers swing Ponomarenko aloft and she bicycles in a vain attempt to escape. Hough rescues her and shoos everyone else away, but in part two she too is manipulated by Yanowsky and helpless to intervene. Ponomarenko has the last word, however: she bourrées off and Yanowsky becomes the Chosen One, the villagers chopping him down to size.
Which isn’t to say that the story makes the work much more interesting. I found the motifs to be drearily repetitive instead of thematic, and I also grew weary of the dancers standing in single file and repeating the same movements in sequence down the line. The latter combined with the sparkly red outfits helped leave a strong impression of high school/college dance teams, which was unfortunate to say the least. On the plus side, the orchestra, led as usual by Jonathan McPhee, sounded better the whole evening than I’ve ever heard them.
Along with The Times and The Phoenix’s reviews, here are The Globe’s review and The Patriot Ledger’s. Also, BB has some photos on their website. Overall a nice finale to the season. There isn’t anything in particular that’s grabbing me for Boston Ballet’s next season, though, but I’m sure I’ll end up checking out something or other.