Jorma Elo to Premiere a Classical Piece with Boston Ballet

By Mary Hierholzer

Paulo Arrais and Jorma Elo rehearsing Creatures of Egmont; photo by Ernesto Galan, courtesy Boston Ballet

Paulo Arrais and Jorma Elo rehearsing Creatures of Egmont; photo by Ernesto Galan, courtesy Boston Ballet

On May 5, Boston Ballet Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo will premiere a new work, Creatures of Egmont, in Boston Ballet’s season finale, Robbins/The Concert. Six couples dance the piece to music by Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Schumann and J.S. Bach.

A typically contemporary choreographer, award-winning Mr. Elo took Creatures of Egmont in different direction, continuing in the same vein of classical style as his well-received last work, Bach Cello Suites. “I thought of going even further with this one,” Mr. Elo said in an interview with The Boston Dance Journal, “to have structure, more architecture, connected to the music.”

The Finnish choreographer was wise in choosing the musicians he did to achieve this effect—Beethoven’s, Schumann’s and Bach’s compositions are danceable, artistic and rhythmically innovative. The ballet is aesthetic and emotional, allowing the music to be the story, Mr. Elo says. His choreography corresponds very literally to the music’s beats; packed with steps, Egmont keeps the dancers busy. “I tried to follow the architecture and the beat,” Mr. Elo said of the creation process. “That’s how I see the music onstage.”

jorma Elo by Sadie Dayton; courtesy Boston Ballet

jorma Elo by Sadie Dayton; courtesy Boston Ballet

Having worked intimately with Boston Ballet for 12 years, Mr. Elo approached this ballet with particular dancers in mind. He knows their strengths, their look and their nature in rehearsals—an especially important element in creating a new ballet. In the studio, it is a serious but gracious and patient give and take between Mr. Elo and the dancers of Boston Ballet. Together, they work through spacing issues and nailing the many steps he’s given them.

“I know that some of the dancers work so well with me and they come up with solutions, and most of them are fun to be with in a creation situation,” he said. “It is a collaborative feeling…. It’s wonderful to build that kind of relationship with a company.”

Casting-wise, Mr. Elo also took a fresh approach aesthetically, pairing couples who Boston audiences don’t often see together. “Casting is an instinct,” he says. In contemporary ballets, he’d usually opt to partner Soloist Sabi Varga with Principal Lia Cirio, but this being a classical ballet, he took a different route, pairing Mr. Varga with Second Soloist Diana Albrecht, and Ms. Cirio with Principal Lasha Khozashvili.

“I put (Mr. Varga and Ms. Cirio) together and I know they’re beautiful dancing together in contemporary vocabulary,” Mr. Elo said. “But I didn’t want to go to the obvious choice, so I paired them with different people and I think that the choices I made are correct to the task I want to do. I don’t want to go for the contemporary vocabulary, and that requires new things from me and from them.”

See Boston Ballet in the world premiere of Jorma Elo’s Creatures of Egmont in Robbins/The Concert, May 5–27 at the Boston Opera House. For tickets and show times, visit the Boston Ballet webpage.