Inside Look: Jorma Elo’s Bach Cello Suites

 Paulo Arrais and Lia Cirio in Jorma Elo's  Bach Cello Suites;  photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet

Paulo Arrais and Lia Cirio in Jorma Elo's Bach Cello Suites; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet


Boston Ballet opened Parts in Suite, a triple-bill program featuring work by three powerhouse choreographers: Justin Peck, Jorma Elo and William Forsythe. For Boston, this will be the first time seeing Mr. Peck’s In Creases and Mr. Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018. The third, Mr. Elo’s Bach Cello Suites, was a hit with audiences and dancers alike when premiered at Boston Ballet in 2015.

The Boston Dance Journal spoke with Mr. Elo, and the stagers for In Creases (former Miami City Ballet Principal Patricia Delgado) and Pas/Parts 2018 (Harvard Dance Director Jill Johnson). With deep personal knowledge with the three pieces and time rehearsing with Boston Ballet, the three gave an inside scoop of what to expect from Parts in Suite.

Simple, rich and intimate, Jorma Elo’s first plunge into classical ballet features selections from Johann Sebastian Bach’s famed Cello Suites. Since its premiere in 2015, Mr. Elo has simplified Bach Cello Suites’ choreography and brightened its lighting.

Featuring a mostly original cast of Boston Ballet dancers, the ballet’s movement has evolved, too. Mr. Elo says it’s fascinating to watch new dancers dance the roles he’s used to see others performing. He offers Second Soloist Addie Tapp as an example, dancing opposite Principal Lasha Khozashvili, in the role formerly performed by former Boston Ballet Principal Dusty Button.

“I found that there was a new world they discovered and they believed in, and they convinced me it can work,” Mr. Elo says. “It was beautiful and then I said, ‘Okay, it’s going to be different, but it has value,’ so then I just tried to encourage them to go more into that direction that they want to put in it.”

On the end of the spectrum, Mr. Elo notes the increased maturity of original cast members such as Principals Lia Cirio and Paulo Arrais. “They make the craft richer,” Mr. Elo says. “I think I see that they are sharing more things than just the physical approach to the material, and that makes it more beautiful. They bring their life into their work, and I benefit from this.”

Though choreographing to widely popular music with a beloved style of dance, Mr. Elo says he does not create ballet with an audience in mind.

“My responsibility lies in making something beautiful that I feel inspired by. . . with the knowledge that in the end it will be shown to a viewing and listening public, and respecting them,” he says. “But it’s not really my responsibility to think of them very much, and I feel like I should stay a little bit away from that, because my ballets are performed all over the world and I should invite the audience into my world, and the stronger my world is, the more compelling and interesting it is to most of the public.”

In the end, Mr. Elo says, it’s mysterious what will affect his viewers. “Of course, I want the audience to go away and be blown away by what they’ve seen—the intimacy and the connection with the music, the simplicity that has emotional undertones that you can’t really put to a story.”

Read “Inside Look: William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018
Read “Inside Look: Justin Peck’s In Creases

See Boston Ballet perform Parts in Suite at the Boston Opera House, March 9–April 7. Buy tickets >>