Dancers Demonstrate Creative Vision in Dancers/Dance-Makers

By Mary Hierholzer

Boston Ballet in Paulo Arrais' Castle; photo by Sabi Varga; courtesy Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet in Paulo Arrais' Castle; photo by Sabi Varga; courtesy Boston Ballet

Six dancers from the Boston Ballet presented original choreographed works in early October, opening the year’s BB@home series. For four of them, Dancers/Dance-Makers was their choreographic debut, and each one left me impressed.

In a post-show discussion, Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen noted that the choreographers’ start-to-finish process allowed them each to transform from “interpretive artists to creative artists.” These six developing artists presented personal works, and each intrigued me enough to make me want to see more of their work.

The first ballet of the evening was the quick and witty Hoist by Matthew Slattery. Danced brilliantly by Boston Ballet’s Ji Young Chae, Hannah Bettes and Lawrence Rines, this play on elevator social etiquette was packed with creativity. In a recent interview with The Boston Dance Journal, Mr. Slattery said he considered re-choreographing the Onegin Act III pas de deux—such a different style would be fascinating to see from him.

Next, Roddy Doble danced with Rachele Buriassi in his own pas de deux, Things We’ve Said, set to Spanish-style classical guitar. Though the romantic tension in the pas was at times derivative, Doble’s inspiration from Jiří Kylián was evident in the smooth and innovative lifts and intricate intertwining. Ms. Buriassi was thoroughly captivating, and as in Boston Ballet’s spring performance of Kylián’s Wings of Wax, the couple performed nicely together.

The only female choreographer of the night, Reina Sawai, presented a commentary on the distracting nature of technology. Her vision was manifested in 54448 #5, using some of Boston Ballet’s most fierce dancers—Daniel Cooper, Daniel Durrett, Andres Garcia, Dalay Parrondo and Irlan Silva—to bring to life elements of hip-hop and intriguing arrangements of dancers. The choreography lost its steam at times, but I am compelled by Ms. Sawai’s artistic vision.

The only classical piece of the night was L’abandon, a pas de deux by Florimond Lorieux. His French background was channeled exquisitely by fellow French dancer Anaïs Chalendard, whose elegant lines were ever graceful and masterful. Mr. Lorieux’s ambitious choreography evocatively echoed the many riffs in Frederic Chopin’s haunting Nocturne No. 20. His usage of classical vocabulary did not always lend itself to seamless movement, and Ms. Chalendard’s partner, Alexander Maryianowski, visibly struggled to keep up. But even after a drop, from which the couple recovered admirably, the final pose was spectacular.

Boston Ballet in Isaac Akiba's Burning; photo by Sabi Varga, courtesy Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet in Isaac Akiba's Burning; photo by Sabi Varga, courtesy Boston Ballet

In a drastically different ballet, Isaac Akiba demonstrated a mature take on choreography with a clear-eyed view of how to tell a story through movement. Burning was an effective allegory about the current environmental crisis, with two female dancers, Abigail Merlis and Brett Fukuda, portraying Mother Nature, and two male dancers, Samivel Evans and Seung Hyun Lee, portraying man’s destruction and abuse. The only choreographer to use color as metaphor, Mr. Akiba’s well-told story was succinct and strong. Ms. Merlis’ impassioned performance was particularly worthy of mention.

The final ballet of the night, Castle, was a showstopper. A more experienced choreographer, Paulo Arrais’ ballet told the story of impactful friendships in a sophisticated way, with creative use of his four exceptional dancers. Paul Craig, Matthew Slattery, Desean Taber and Junxiong Zhao clearly grasped and carried out Mr. Arrais’ vision.

Exploring a dynamic range of emotion, Castle was meaningful but not literal, leaving room for the audience to form interpretations. Especially in Leonid Yacobson/Pas de Quatre-esque moments, the dancers’ chemistry was natural, and with arms around each other as they walked offstage, the diverse skin tones of their exposed backs spoke loudly. Mr. Arrais’ ballet has the legs to stand independently as a piece that I imagine will be performed again in the future.

Boston Ballet will next perform Obsidian Tear in the company season premiere, November 3–12. Learn more on the Boston Ballet webpage.