Sight and insight

Boston Ballet’s ‘New Visions’
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  March 7, 2007

POLYPHONIA: Karine Seneca and Carlos Molina.

“New Visions” is the kind of title ballet-company directors come up with for programs that are sort of new and purport to tell you where dance is going. There are only so many story ballets, and besides, dance, like classical music, has to keep trying to push forward, even if audiences dig in their heels. The three works Boston Ballet presented at the Wang Theatre last weekend — Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia (2001), Val Caniparoli’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (2004), and the world premiere of Jorma Elo’s Brake the Eyes — are new enough and gave audiences plenty to look at. They were formidably performed, too — this was some of the best dancing I’ve seen the company do in more than 20 years of watching. And if you couldn’t quite tell which way the Spirit of Dance Yet To Come was pointing, well, it’s not like the directional signals are that much clearer in New York or London.

Brake the Eyes is the fourth piece Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo has made for the company, following Sharp Side of Dark (2002), Plan to B (2004), and Carmen (2006). (Last year he also made Slice to Sharp for New York City Ballet’s Diamond Project; it got a thumbs up from the Times’ John Rockwell.) The Elo basics are in place: a classical score, here cut with a “soundscape”; lighting that sometimes bathes the audience rather than the dancers; jittery choreography that segments the dancers into extreme Cubist planes; no obvious overall shape; a headscratcher title (“Break the Ice”?).

The music here, all by Mozart, is drawn from piano and violin sonatas plus, toward the end, the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra; it’s intercut with sonic booms of the sort that Niels Lanz provided for David Dawson’s The Grey Area, a sound that suggests the underwater death agony of Titanic, or perhaps the mind sinking into its subconscious. The lighting bank first appears hovering overhead, four long bars in the shape of a jet plane, or the Northern Cross; later it will break apart and dip, rise and fall. There’s no set to speak of. Charles Heightchew’s beige costumes give the men unobtrusive tunics and trousers and the women childlike poufy tutus.

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