In a trio of iconic ballets by the man responsible for American ballet, George Balanchine, Boston Ballet skillfully demonstrated the great choreographer’s versatility—and I think he would be proud. The thoroughly engaging Classic Balanchine program of Prodigal Son, Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Chaconne put forth some of the Company’s most entertaining and skilled dancers.
The show opened with huge impact in Prodigal Son. Giving the most memorable performance of the evening as the Son in this biblical parable, new Soloist Derek Dunn was fiercely dynamic. His muscular build and surprising grace convincingly and poignantly embodied the character’s tumultuous journey.
Opposite Mr. Dunn as the alluring Siren was the ever-captivating Principal Lia Cirio. She seduced the Prodigal Son with confidence and prowess, and the two danced a bold yet vulnerable pas de deux filled with sensually acrobatic bends and complicated lifts, which they pulled off flawlessly, to the crowd’s audible delight.
Another standout performance came from Second Soloist Lawrence Rines as one of two servants to the Prodigal Son. Mr. Rines consistently brings life and energy to the stage with strong technique, and I hope to see him take more leading roles soon.
Balanchine’s creative storytelling made me wish he produced more narrative ballets. Insightful themes from the parable were highlighted through artistic details like the slightly abstracted backdrops by Georges Rouault, music by Sergei Prokofiev (conducted admirably by Beatrice Jona Affron), clever choreography, and one prop used as a fence, table, pillar, boat and gate.
Second was a reprise of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto, a characteristically neoclassical Balanchine ballet. Vivacious, fresh and fun, Stravinsky became a quick favorite when Boston Ballet performed it last season. It was a treat again this year, although the casting was not quite up to par.
While Principals John Lam (the only returning lead from last year’s opening night) and Kathleen Breen Combes paired beautifully in Aria I, I couldn’t help but miss Mr. Lam dancing it with Ms. Cirio. Aria II was danced by Principal Paul Craig and Soloist Maria Baranova, and while they look nice together, they lacked the spice that Principals Lasha Khozashvili and Seo Hye Han brought to the stage last season. Mr. Craig was clean and strong, but I wished for more enthusiasm and electricity from the couple.
The final ballet of the night was the exquisite Chaconne, which falls on the classical end of Balanchine’s spectrum. Right from the curtain’s rise, revealing goddess-like women with long, flowing hair and dresses (to the audience’s awes and applause once again), Chaconne was a treat for the eyes.
Principals Misa Kuranaga and Patrick Yocum led the cast with effortless technique, emitting an illusion of weightless soaring. For Ms. Kuranaga, it was yet another superb night of dance, and for Mr. Yocum, it was a moment that proved his coming-of-age as a principal dancer.
Another noteworthy performance came from Soloist Ji Young Chae and Artist Patric Palkens, two quickly rising dancers, and deservedly so. With charisma in addition to technical excellence, they were a couple I’d love to see paired again. While Ms. Baranova and Soloist Florimond Lorieux struggled with tempo in the pas de trois, Soloist Rachele Burisassi shone, displaying precision, elegance and gravitas.
From dancing to artistic vision, this was a program to beat. The Boston Dance Journal offers up high praise for Boston Ballet’s Classic Balanchine, and urges audiences to take advantage of the opportunity to experience monumental dance.