Theme and variations

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  May 13, 2010

That took the form of Les Passages, seven short pieces created by the school’s faculty to show off the company’s pre-professional and trainee students. Accompanied by Tanya Foaksman on piano and, briefly, Soo-Gyeoung Lee on violin (and not the least fazed by an initial curtain malfunction), wave after wave of girls appeared in pink, in lavender, in blue, progressing from simple tendus all the way up to a fouetté sequence, and then a handful of boys flashing through tours jetés, cabrioles, pirouettes, tours à la seconde, even a brisé volé or two, before settling into a dance with the air of a csárdás. Impressive as it all was, what stayed with me was sight of the youngest girls getting center stage to do ballet basics, in unison, and being applauded for it.

That’s all there was before intermission, and yet it seemed a lot. The fireworks came after. Balanchine’s virtuoso TchaikovskyPas de Deux — a piece he created in 1960 for Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow, from discarded Swan Lake music — hardly sounded like “Next Generation” material, but for Yurika Kitano and company corps member Isaac Akiba, this pas de deux was pas de problème. Kitano is like a rawer, longer-limbed Misa Kuranaga: she unfolds gloriously in développé, and at one point, she hopped backward so fast, the music could hardly keep pace. Akiba too has a beautiful line, and in his succession of double tours en l’air and then his tours à la seconde, he looked better than some of this company’s principals. I was tempted to lean across the aisle to company director Mikko Nissinen and ask whether he couldn’t sign them up to do Theme and Variations this weekend.

What followed was Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s contribution to the evening, a piece called One Concerto that he set to what I think was the first movement of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto but would in any case remind you of Glass’s music for Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. Six trainee students — Bezerra, Riffee, Julia Mitchell, Amber Neff, Nicholas Renauro, and Ariel Rose — whirled and writhed through Elo’s signature tropes, swimming, lassoing, windmilling, anemone-ing, turning, turning, turning. Like most of Elo’s pieces, this one morphs rather than develops, a creature in constant flux and in search of its identity. The trainees looked every bit as comfortable as the regular company in this repertoire.

“Next Generation” ended with something completely different, the celebratory pas de six and tarantella from act three of Danish choreographer August Bournonville’s 1842 ballet Napoli. The Bournonville style can be a breath of fresh air, stressing as it does buoyancy and beats and basic arm positions. In the pas de six, Rachel Cossar, Sylvia Deaton, Suzette Logue, Emily Mistretta, Francisco Estevez, Yoshiya Sakurai, and Patrick Yocum coped well with the special demands, though it was Deaton who stood out, and no wonder, since she’s spent time at the Royal Danish School in Copenhagen. The tarantella was kinetically infectious and brought off with panache.

No surprise that, with so many parents and schoolmates as potential ticket buyers, the Opera House was bustling — and yet, with many principal dancers in attendance, and even former Boston Ballet director Bruce Marks, it seemed a grand occasion rather than a parochial one. The company should try to make it an annual affair.

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