Twinkle, twinkle

Boston Ballet’s ‘Night of Stars’
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  January 31, 2008
THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS: Melanie Atkins implacable.

For some 15 years now, Boston Ballet has danced like a major international ballet company, and its current artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, wants to be sure everybody’s aware of that. Thus this summer’s tour to Spain, and the institution of an annual season-opening gala complete with Paris Opera Ballet–inspired défilé, in which the company appears on stage, in hierarchical order, each dancer receiving the plaudits of his or her fans.

The 14 works presented at the second such gala, last Friday, skewed toward the modern, with just two pieces from the 19th century and nothing from the classic ballets that Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev scored. But it was a better program than last year’s, and if we saw a number of pieces the company has staged recently, we saw them done with greater confidence and éclat.

The evening opened with an “Overture,” the Danse Russe from Stravinsky’s Petrushka (which, after all, was written as a ballet), performed stoutly by the Boston Ballet Orchestra under Jonathan McPhee. The dancing started with Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Carlos Molina and Erica Cornejo (husband and wife) sweetly matched in the act two Pas de six, Larissa Ponomarenko meltingly dreamy in the Adagio that followed. Set to music from a Schubert piano trio, Found, by company second soloist Heather Myers, was more pleasing than memorable, but it showcased four pairs of energetic Boston Ballet II members, and the men looked great in their rolled-up white shirtsleeves. Nicholas Legat’s 1903 The Fairy Doll was the early hit of the evening, with Dalay Parrondo in a baby-doll pink tutu teasing hapless Pierrots Mindaugas Bauzys and Jared Redick. A short opening excerpt from Helen Pickett’s Etesian looked sharper than when the company premiered it in March 2006. Reyneris Reyes was all swaggering good humor to Lorna Feijóo’s cute high dudgeon in the Pas de deux from John Cranko’s 1969 The Taming of the Shrew. The first half of the evening ended with the Choleric finale from Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Melanie Atkins swiveling more implacably than ever.

The less successful second half began with the Reel from Bournonville’s La Sylphide (with which the company will open its 2007–2008 subscription season this weekend). Boston Ballet II members Sylvia Deaton and Jeffrey Cirio then did the Pas de deux from Bournonville’s Flower Festival in Genzano, showing off what they’d learned — quite a lot — from their three weeks at the Royal Danish Ballet School in Copenhagen. Set to the slow movement from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, company member Boyko Dossev’s Crane seemed to want to tell us something, with Misa Kuranaga fashioning a paper crane on stage and conjuring Jaime Diaz to come dance with her, but it wasn’t clear what. Led by Ponomarenko, the excerpt from Jorma Elo’s Brake the Eyes, which Boston Ballet premiered last May, was again eye-popping in its Cubist displacements. But new company member Altankhuyag Dugaraa didn’t get enough to do in the “Black Swan” male solo (with a cheesy Tchaikovsky arrangement) from Roland Petit’s 1986 Ma Pavlova, and though Erica Cornejo got to dance with her brother, American Ballet Theatre principal Herman Cornejo, they seemed wasted in the Pas de deux from Vassily Vainonen’s 1932 The Flames of Paris, where Herman, his excellent barrel turns aside, seemed short on bravura. Ditto for Roman Rykine and Lorna Feijóo in Victor Gsovsky’s 1949 Grand Pas Classique — the company’s men just don’t have the chops for this kind of party piece. What Boston Ballet is really good at is the piece that split these two, the slow, anguished Pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s 2001 Polyphonia; when Yury Yanowsky and Kathleen Breen Combes reached its end, both kneeling, it was as if a light had come into their eyes.

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