Boston Ballet’s second program at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater was a smashing success. The company as a whole brims with great energy and physical strength. These dancers are compact and well-muscled and they move with uncommon speed and versatility. This program showed them at their best and the audience was enthusiastic in appreciation. It is difficult to mention all of the dancers by name, but there were a few exceptional individual talents worth mentioning.

<i>Symphony in Three Movements</i> © The George Balanchine Trust | Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
Symphony in Three Movements
© The George Balanchine Trust | Photo: Rosalie O'Connor

The evening opened with Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, set to Stravinsky’s music of the same title. It’s a masterful piece of his later years and all of his talent for intricate patterns is displayed in full. While Boston Ballet is full of dancers of many different sizes and shapes, they move well together with a fine sense of unity and their vitality is wonderful to see. The second movement in particular, performed by Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili, was a highlight of the evening. Cirio is typical of the Boston Ballet style: athletic, vibrant and vivacious. She is an all-out, all the time dancer who holds nothing back. While Khozashvili didn’t particularly impress as a soloist in the first movement, his partnering with Cirio was perfect and the pair handled the choreography with a fine sense of its poetry. The music of the second movement sounds more like something that was left out of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet than typical Stravinsky and here, Balanchine created a duet of sophistication that never lost sight of the beauty possible in small, simple gestures. At times they gave the impression that they were gently swimming rather than dancing.

The second piece on the program was Nijinsky’s legendary Afternoon of a Faun. This ballet is over one hundred years old and serves as a potent reminder that modernity is not the exclusive province of the present. Nijinsky’s concept of choreographing the movement in two dimensions to create the effect of characters seen decorating an ancient Greek vase is still surprising. Altan Dugaraa played the Faun capably and was even powerful. Erica Cornejo, as the Nymph, ran away with this piece. In contrast to the rest of the cast, Cornejo is a beautiful, lyrical dancer who can’t be squished into two dimensions. She kept popping out into three fully realized dimensions and was more compelling to watch than anyone else on stage, even when she was standing still. She brought life to this piece with a bit of suggestively sly humor while dropping her scarves which made it seem as though it were brand new again.

Nijinsky's <i>Afternoon of a Faun</i> © Rosalie O'Connor
Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun
© Rosalie O'Connor

Jorma Elo’s Plan to B was the piece that probably should have closed the program. It makes the best use of everything that is great about Boston Ballet. It is full of high energy and excitement. Whitney Jensen and Dusty Button (possibly the most adorable name in ballet today) took the stage like a pair of firecrackers. The whole company is, in fact, a string of firecrackers. They moved with dizzying speed along with four strong men. Everything about this piece celebrates what is amazing about ballet dancers. There’s the stunning whip-like turns, explosive leaps, astonishing flexibility, beautiful and passionate musicality. Sabi Varga, among the men, was especially musical in his expression of the choreography. Judging by the audience’s reaction it was the most popular piece of the night. As a closing piece it probably would have gotten the standing ovation that it deserved.

<i>Bella Figura</i> © Rosalie O'Connor
Bella Figura
© Rosalie O'Connor

For better or worse, Jiří Kylián’s Bella Figura closed the show. There is much that is beautiful about this ballet. It is full of bravura dancing and challenging movement. There is great sensitivity and imagination at work. The modern movement quality is striking even as snippets of classical ballet steps are thrown in almost like brief quotations that remind you you’re watching serious ballet dancers. The most interesting theatrical device was moving black scrims to create smaller, more intimate performing spaces on the stage. It created frames that enhanced the expression of the dances and turned them into self-contained vignettes within the larger work. The finale of the piece tapers off with an introspective pas de deux that gradually fades away well after the music is finished. The effect is to leave the audience in a quiet, contemplative mood that dampens the hard earned enthusiasm that was generated by the performance of Plan to B.

With this engagement at Lincoln Center, the finale of its fiftieth season, Boston Ballet affirmed its place among the premiere dance companies. From the principals down to the corps de ballet, it was all about strength, attack and positive energy. There was no wispy or effete dancing and they all gave everything they had. There were a lot of dancers from New York City’s top dance companies in the audience and they all seemed to be enjoying the show. If you can impress them then you’re well ahead of stodgy old critics who don’t care for all that “loathsome,” newfangled modern stuff.  Boston Ballet’s fans are right to crow about the treasure they have in this company.

****1