at the London Coliseum
Reviewed July 3, 2013
The Boston Ballet returned to London after a 30 year break to start their 50th Anniversary tour with two programmes, performed on separate nights from July 3 to 7.
If you were lucky enough to catch it, their programmes were well constructed; a large company with considerable athleticism and enthusiasm, ten principal dancers and fifteen soloists made both programmes a night to remember.
Programme One opened with Balanchine's first dancepiece created in the United States as Artistic Director to the newly formed Boston Ballet, Serenade (1934). Set to Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, it is alternately an expression of sadness and hope – the spirit of American émigrés.
The curtain rising to rows of diaphanously-skirted ballerinas in pale blue against a dark blue moonlit background was stunning and prompted applause. The Corps' synchronicity of movement was good, although elegant footwork was occasionally sacrificed due to the brisk pace, and an occasional port de bras was more earnest than ephemeral. But the choreography shone through to a magical piece, with a strong Corps and fine performances by the soloists, denoted by simple twinkling diamond stud earrings. Kathleen Breen Combes' dance was particularly elegant and meaningful.
Next came a faithful reproduction, down to the original set and costumes, of Nijinsky's L'Après Midi d'un Faune (1912) for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, set to Debussy's eponymous prélude. Both were inspired by the poem L'après-midi d'un faune by Stéphane Mallarmé. Considered one of the first modern ballets, this quirky, haunting, sensuous 'moving frieze', inspired by the nymphs and fauns of ancient pottery, was shocking in its time. It lacked oomph, but was a thrill to see live, and Altan Dugaraa's faun was a strong, exotic and slightly scary animal, although I think the nymphs would have been 'nymphier' unshod, as in the 1912 performance.
Plan to B (2004), by resident choreographer Jorma Elo, was an energetic fourteen minute workout of bees communicating, as bees do, inside the hive. With waggle dances and competing queens, this was perfect for this company of enthusiastic, athletic dancers. Jeffrey Cirio excelled in this (he can jump so high, so often!) and the next piece.
Finishing with the last ballet Balanchine devised, Symphony in Three Movements (1972) is danced to Stravinsky's music of the same name, (Stravinsky suggested Balanchine devise a dance to it way back in WWII). This work is 1970s New York: young Americans, children of those émigrés, who bustle to work, hustle, cheerlead, meet and fall in love, but above all are one nation, all with the verve and energy that only Americans have, and this American company come up trumps. The males made their entrance with such a perfection of élévation they resembled gazelles in flight. The synchronicity of the choreography, enthusiasm, energy and sheer depth of the Corps, Leaders and Principals onstage, was impressive.
Needless to say, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, tucked under the apron and conducted by Boston Ballet Music Director and Principal Conductor Jonathan McPhee, played faultlessly and divinely throughout. Mikko Nissinen (Artistic Director) has certainly forged The Boston Ballet into a strong, world-class company, packed with young talent. A truly magical evening to remember.