And the thing about Elo is that he just keeps going, even after a work has premiered. Saturday afternoon, the second cast danced, but since pretty much the whole company is in the first cast, the second is a chance to see the same dancers in different roles. What seemed really different, though, was the ending. I hadn’t heard Cirio say anything as he went down Thursday night — perhaps his mic failed. Saturday afternoon he recited “We walk in the snow together and slowly grow old” in a dying cadence. But I wish this ending would continue to evolve. It seems odd to see Ponomarenko and Cirio without the Tchaikovsky that’s accompanied them throughout their journey. And odder still to watch Ponomarenko end it without him, as if it were her ballet when all along it’s seemed to be theirs. “More happy than sad,” they agree just before Double Evil starts up.
Much of the recited text was clearer Saturday. They keep talking about speed limits, and being late, and building a house. I couldn’t make out much of Ponomarenko’s Russian — “I agree,” echoing what she’d said earlier in English, “What is he doing?”, and perhaps “I know what’s important.” At one point, Cirio says, “I tried to make the turn,” leaving you to wonder whether his motorcycle didn’t make it and he’s now talking to Ponomarenko from the Great Beyond. Ponomarenko’s wide-eyed wonder and all the Red Queen–like running in place she and Cirio do might make you think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books; there’s also more than one instance where everybody seems to be playing “Red Light.”
The piece opens up in every direction. The Tchaikovsky corps — women in black tutus with open fronts, men in black shirts and pants, everybody with bare arms — suggest giant piano keys. There’s an unmistakable reference to the end of act two of Swan Lake in the wedge that forms in the Tchaikovsky section between Lost on Slow and Plan to B. The way Elo silhouettes Cirio and Ponomarenko against the very long, rectangular light screens in their Lost on Slow duet and then does it again for Double Evil and In on Blue conjures ’50s widescreen movies. And the lighting structure that descends at the beginning of Lost by Last looks like some triune robot god from outer space. The more you see, the more there is to like.
Yet it’s all incorporated in the dancers, rather than simply set on them. There are performances you might have expected: Whitney Jensen popping moves faster than a speeding bullet in Plan to B, Yury Yanowsky re-creating the inscrutable complexity of Elo’s Sacre du Printemps in Slice to Sharp and Double Evil, Kathleen Breen Combes and James Whiteside doing just about anything, together or separately. And there are those you mightn’t have expected: Keenan Kampa’s soft elegance in Slice to Sharp, Lasha Khozashvili’s uninhibited expansiveness and Rie Ichikawa’s speed and snap in Lost on Slow, the wistful, almost defeated duet between Paulo Arrais and Lorna Feijóo in Double Evil, and the idiomatic mastery of corps members Bo Busby, Robert Kretz, Paul Craig, and Bradley Schlagheck. This company owns Elo Experience in more ways than one
CHOREOGRAPHY BY JORMA ELO | MUSIC BY PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY, HEINRICH IGNAZ FRANZ BIBER, ANTONIO VIVALDI, WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, EUGÈNE YSAŸE, BERNARD HERRMANN, PHILIP GLASS, AND VLADIMIR MARTYNOV | SET DESIGN BY BEN PHILLIPS | COSTUME DESIGN BY CHARLES HEIGHTCHEW | LIGHTING BY JOHN CUFF | SOUND DESIGN BY NANCY EUVERINK | PRESENTED BY BOSTON BALLET AT THE OPERA HOUSE THROUGH APRIL 3