Stairway to Paradise?

Boston Ballet's Gala performance
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 26, 2006

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Erica Cornejo and Reyneris Reyes in Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux
Each year, usually on the opening night of the season, the Paris Opera Ballet presents a grand défilé, in which, to the Marche from Berlioz’s Les Troyens, the entire company, from éleves (students) to étoiles (stars), comes forward in waves to the front of the stage while audience members cheer for their favorites. (I was there in 2004 and can attest that the factions can get pretty spirited.) It’s a mark of Mikko Nissinen’s ambitions for Boston Ballet that last night’s benefit Gala Performance at the Wang Theatre ended with such a défilé. The scale was smaller: Boston Ballet II and the Boston Ballet School did not participate, so there were only some 45 dancers on stage, not the endless reinforcements of Paris, where every étoile seemed to have his or her own battalion of students and corps members. The music — Henry Purcell — was also less grand, and the trumpet writing had the Boston Ballet Orchestra struggling for the first time all evening. And the choreography, by Nissinen and ballet mistress Trinidad Vives, was modest in an appropriate way for a company that knows where it wants to go and also knows it’s not there yet.

One might have questioned the wisdom of staging a gala in the middle of a production run (Don Quixote), but the Wang orchestra section was well filled, even with the front center seats going for $250. The 14 selections spanned the company’s repertoire of classical and modern: Balanchine (Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, excerpts from Apollo and Who Cares?), Jerome Robbins (Other Dances, Suite of Dances), party pieces (the Gopak from Rotislav Zakharov’s Taras Bulba, Fokine’s The Dying Swan), contemporary works by the company’s favored choreographers (the pas de deux from William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated, the pas de deux from Val Caniparoli’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, an excerpt from Jorma Elo’s Carmen), an excerpt from a piece by second soloist Heather Myers (One Constant), an excerpt from a piece the company has never performed (Edward Stierle’s Lacrymosa), and two selections from Don Quixote. Six of the 14 have been performed by the company within the last six months; less would have been nice, but this was a fair portrait of Boston Ballet.


Nelson Madrigal and Larissa Ponomarenko in Don Quixote

Nissinen did not put his best foot forward with the opening Who Cares? segment, “The Man I Love,” for which Lia Cirio lacked pelvis and Carlos Molina panache and there was labor in the lifts. Melanie Atkins put matters right in “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” all jittery, jazzy, and flouncy within the strict context of Mr. B’s weight transfers and Rockette kicks; Kathleen Breen Combes, substituting for Lorna Feijóo, had the right sensibility but could be a tad less floppy. Cirio’s energy seemed to be going down, not up; Molina’s energy needed less Fred and more Gene.

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Related: Hit and miss, Twinkle, twinkle, Impossible dream?, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Erica Cornejo,  More more >
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