Earlier this month, Boston Ballet gave a promising preview of their upcoming program, Parts in Suite, as part of their BB@home series. With excerpts from Justin Peck’s In Creases (2012), Jorma Elo’s Bach Cello Suites (2015) and William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018 (first premiered in 1999), the evening celebrated the creative experience of producing works by still-living choreographers and peaked my excitement for the full show.
Each piece included comments from Boston Ballet, providing the audience with history, context and insight. Offering wisdom typically not otherwise accessible to the average viewer, Ballet Master and Artistic Coordinator Shannon Parsley, Principal Dancer Kathleen Breen Combes and Assistant Artistic Director Russell Kaiser, in addition to the subsequent Q&A session with Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen and dancers, turned spectators into more informed viewers.
On Thursday night, empty seats were still scattered throughout Boston Ballet’s studio-turned-black box theater. It is astounding that more people don’t attend BB@home performances—the opportunity to learn and to watch such a high caliber of dancers in such an intimate setting is special.
When the dancers of In Creases took the stage, I was struck—it’s an all-star cast. Eight exceptional dancers performed the first movement of New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer Justin Peck’s very first ballet. With a cascading score for two pianos by Philip Glass (performed brilliantly by Pianists Freda Locker and Alex Foaksman), Peck’s angular and Balanchine-inspired style was evident.
Ms. Parsley urged us to take note of the opening pose, and afterward explained that Mr. Peck intended to display the impression of magnetism in the relationship between the dancers. Indeed, their subtle pushing and pulling suggested force, but before the full performance goes onstage in March, I hope the dancers put more emphasis into the physicality their interactions to more clearly drive home Mr. Peck’s vision—at BB@home, it looked more like high-fives.
Emotionally, though, the magnetism was present. While Mr. Peck briefly visited to cast In Creases, Ms. Parsley says, he emphasized the importance of the group dancing together as humans, and the cast of eight embodied it well. Principal leads Lia Cirio and Paul Craig, especially, danced with compelling chemistry.
Next, 10 dancers performed excerpts from Boston Ballet Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo’s elegant Bach Cello Suites. Having danced with Mr. Elo for 15 seasons now, Ms. Breen Combes’ comments shed light on the significance of Bach Cello Suites as the choreographer’s first dive into more classical movement, a style he has been exploring since. Despite the shift in style, Ms. Breen Combes says, Mr. Elo’s “quirky language” and characteristics are still present in the ballet.
Of the excerpts, the pas de deux between Second Soloist Addie Tapp and Principal Lasha Khozashvili was the most arresting. In a romantic, yet emotionally and physically controlled dance, Mr. Khozashvili made difficult partnering look as easy as breathing, Ms. Tapp, who grows as in capability and artistry with each performance, showed a very mature side of herself.
The final performance of the evening was five out of twenty-two divertissements from William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018. With this ballet, Mr. Forsythe created some fascinating dynamics and sequences of movement, set to a dissonant electronic score by Thom Willems. The first piece, a pas de trois by Second Soloist Hannah Bettes, Soloist Roddy Doble and Principal Patrick Yocum, was intense, precise and energetic. Like with Ms. Tapp, I am extremely impressed with Ms. Bettes’ skill and ability to capture the music in her movement.
It was surprising but nice to see Artist of the Company Emily Entingh in a slow, calculated pas de deux with Mr. Khozashvili; though her dancing of this piece is not completely polished yet, she was engaging and I hope to see more of her in Boston Ballet’s casting. After the fact, Mr. Kaiser informed that audience that the counts in this pas de deux are largely improvised based on the two dancers’ communication, making the feat even more impressive, and infinitely more interesting. I wished we had known it before watching.
Soloist Ji Young Chae and Principal Seo Hye Han danced a fiery and sharp third piece with phenomenal energy and execution, nicely touching on moments of lightheartedness. Next, Patrick Yocum gave an expressive and smooth solo, then Ms. Chae and Ms. Han performed the final piece, another intense and intriguing pas de trois with Principal John Lam.
Mr. Kaiser and Mr. Nissinen both sung praises for Mr. Forsythe’s innovative choreographer, comparing his role in contemporary ballet to the roles that masters like Marius Petipa and George Balanchine played in their respective times in ballet history. He pushes the boundaries of movement, they said. I found the excerpts from Pas/Parts 2018 to be aesthetically interesting and creative, and look forward to more.
See Boston Ballet perform all three works in Parts in Suite at the Boston Opera House, March 9–April 7. Buy tickets >>