Boston Ballet to stage diverse triple-bill with Kylián/Wings of Wax

By Mary Hierholzer

    Boston Ballet in Alexander Ekman's Cacti; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet


Boston Ballet in Alexander Ekman's Cacti; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Come to the Boston Opera House prepared to think, says Boston Ballet Soloist Isaac Akiba. On Thursday, the company opens Kylián/Wings of Wax, a triple-bill featuring George Balanchine’s poised and sweet Donizetti Variations (1960), Jiří Kylián’s arresting Wings of Wax (1997) and Alexander Ekman’s quirky Cacti (2010), through April 2.

The ballets’ range of themes and emotions offers two spectrums of dance and inspires thought on the art, says Mr. Akiba, who dances in Wings of Wax and Cacti. “When you come to the theater, you should be willing and open to be engaged, and you should be prepared to think deeply about things,” he said between rehearsals in an interview with The Boston Dance Journal. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster.”

Wings of Wax, the second ballet of the night, is particularly thought-provoking. Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián was inspired by the Greek myth of Icarus, whose wax wings melted upon flying too close to the sun as he tried to escape imprisonment. Kylián translated the story for ballet, expressing dancers’ prison of gravity and physical capability. His thoughtful, lyrical and powerful choreography evokes struggle and desire in beautifully seamless steps.

“Doing Kylián’s work is very organic and it feels good for us,” Mr. Akiba said. “There is a frame of the feeling and emotion that we are trying to show and express.”

It is a contrast, pleasantly so, from Balanchine’s charming Donizetti Variations, the first ballet in the program. With many trademark neoclassical Balanchine touches, Donizetti delightfully boasts dancers’ technique and energizes a crowd to music from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera, Don Sebastian.

Ekman’s Cacti closes the show, a triumphant finale, indeed. Created by the Swedish choreographer as a satire of art on the pretentious spectrum, Cacti is clever, cynical, wild—and tasteful. 16 dancers create rhythms on boxes and with their bodies; a string quartet plays furiously; spoken word hilariously narrates choreography; dancers absurdly cradle cacti. It’s a genius ballet with a genius score of Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Stein and Mahler.

Aside from being a guaranteed crowd favorite, Cacti tends to be a favorite among the dancers performing it. The celebratory ballet appeals to the daredevil in a dancer, Mr. Akiba says. Without that rush, we’re kind of empty,” he says. “When we are getting ready for the ballet, (we) know what’s coming—you’re going to hit the boxes, you’re going to scream, you’re going to laugh, you’re going to make noises, and throw your body all over the place.”

Boston Ballet will perform Kylián/Wings of Wax at the Boston Opera House, March 23–April 2. For tickets, visit the Boston Ballet webpage or call the box office at 617.695.6955.