In the opening remarks of Boston Ballet's “Night of Stars” Saturday night, Executive Director Barry Hughson thanked the audience for filling the seats and concluded “we will not let you down.” The curtain then opened on an evening of artistic diversity so finely executed, there remained no doubt that Hughson spoke the truth.

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo's Double Evil © Rosalie O'Connor
Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo's Double Evil
© Rosalie O'Connor

For anyone who has not seen Boston Ballet in the last ten years (under Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen), “Night of Stars” is a firecracker of an introduction – and an affirmation of Hughson's promise. For anyone who has been to Boston Ballet lately, it is a trip down memory lane (with a few surprises and teasers thrown in for good measure). “Night of Stars” is a sampler of the company's ability and repertoire – which ranges from Marius Petipa to Jiří Kylián. If its intention is to prove to the audience that this company is capable of anything, it succeeds.

The evening began with an excerpt from Jorma Elo's Double Evil. It's a modern piece with classical underpinnings – including bronze brocade tutus and several nods to classic choreography. But just as the choreography begins to look safe and familiar, it turns angular and unexpected. Likewise, it goes from intellectually imaginative to stingingly beautiful in the blink of an eye. Elo has been Boston Ballet's resident choreographer since 2005, premiering six ballets with the company. Double Evil premiered last season as part of the full-length “Elo Experience.” Pre-recorded music is by Philip Glass.

Without missing a beat, the curtain reopened on Marius Petipa's Carnival in Venice - an excerpt from Satanella, described by Nissinen as “a delightful little gem from the Imperial ballet era.” It was a showy, classical contrast to the Elo piece, with Boston Ballet's fine orchestra accompanying (music by Cesare Pugni).

Jennifer DePalo , principle dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, punctuated the evening with three Graham-choreographed solo pieces, beginning with the earliest of the three, Serenata Morisca. The piece is danced barefoot (with bells on the dancer's feet). It was a sinuous, exotic lead-in to the excerpts of La Bayadère from last season's world premiere.

Seeing new choreography for a favorite ballet is like a freshly retold fairy tale. The language is updated and the illustrations are alive and imaginative. Florence Clerc's La Bayadère kept the pagaentry and seduction of the original, adding nuance to an already lustrous gem. The Golden Idol danced by Jeffrey Cirio, is a favorite spectacle and this new version does it great justice. It was followed by Indians - a frenetic and wild swirl of color and energy. It has been a few years since I have seen La Bayadère. The last time I saw it as a complete ballet it struck me as dated (although I still loved the exoticism). If one needs a reason to revisit a story ballet, fresh choreography tips the scale.

Florence Clerc also choreographed Les Sylphides, which Boston Ballet will premiere in 2012. Lia Cirio and Neson Madrigal danced the pas de deux. If this small sampling is any indication, the new ballet promises to be romantic, lush and dramatic.

This company likes keeping the audience on the edge of their seats, so following the Les Sylphides excerpt was another solo by Jennifer DePalo – Martha Graham's Lamentation. It is danced seated, using the costume (a word that does not do justice to what was essentially a partner) to shape the movements. Nissinen describes the work as “not the sorrow of a specific person, time or place, but the personification of grief itself.” This is what makes dance so powerful – it is universal, striking a nerve on every level. The music is Kodály's Neun Klavierstücke.

William Forsythe's The Second Detail was revisited from last season, with an altogether too short excerpt. It is electrifying, sharp, fast and very, very engaging. This is the choreography which sets the company in its best light. They work brilliantly together – with no weak links or room for error. With movement, action and energy in every direction all at once, it's hard to know what part of the stage to watch.

After the intermission came Antique Epigraphs, a ballet so perfectly poetic it is impossible to hear Debussy's music and not picture the autumnally colored chiffon shifts and distinctive Jerome Robbins choreography. It is like leaves caught in an eddy, except the leaves have moments of perfect synchronization amid their organic flow.

The Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux was set to music originally composed for Swan Lake, but not used by Petipa. Balanchine choreographed the pas de deux in 1960. It was a showstopper, danced by Misa Kuranga and the virtuosic James Whiteside.

Satyric Festival Song is the antithesis of Lamentation. The third of Jennifer DePalo's solos, this is the embodiment of laughter and mirth. It gyrates and convulses in giddiness. In contrast to the sombre stretch of purple that bound her in Lamentation, DePalo was adorned in a mod, green-striped dress that stretched with her movements and seemed to laugh along with her.

To close the evening, a silver curtain was drawn up like the frosting on a wedding cake to frame the processional, Défilé. Students from the Boston Ballet School joined dancers of Boston Ballet II, the corps, soloists and principals, in a final reverence.

It is the icing on a very delicious cake and the promise of a very happy future for both the company and its patrons.