Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 25, 2019

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, Boston Ballet

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August 25, 2019
by Josephine Sarnelli

Photo by Rosalie O'Connor
Last appearing at Jacob’s Pillow in 2004, the Boston Ballet’s return visit was long overdue. Their program highlighted versatility and their commitment to classical roots, yet an understanding that any art form should be forward-looking to remain meaningful. The standing ovation demonstrated the audience’s agreement.

The Bach Cello Suites opened the evening with ten dancers and cellist Sergey Antonov. It was a beautiful marriage of contemporary ballet with concert quality cello playing. Jorma Elo, the resident choreographer, employed movements that demonstrated the strength and athleticism of the performers with nontraditional lifts and asymmetrical balancing.

The Boston Ballet is fortunate to have the only domestic licenses to the choreography of Leonid Yakobson, a contemporary of George Balanchine. The Pas de Quatre, performed to selections from Bellini’s opera Norma, was the climax of the program for lovers of classical Russian ballet. Of note was the setting; the backstage of the theatre was open to reveal the night forest. Costumed in long white tutus, the four ballerinas were personifications of grace and beauty. Their emphasis on hand and arm gestures was true to the Russian style. It was a magical and memorable performance.

The second choreography by Yakobson was entitled Rodin, as it brings to life four sculptures by this artist. Through expert lighting, the four couples clothed in metallic unitards transform from inanimate statues to take on human emotions. The dancers exploit the realism and physicality that were the focus of criticism and controversy surrounding Rodin’s works. The Eternal Spring expresses newfound love with playfulness. The Kiss explores tenderness. Intimacy and passion are manifested from The Eternal Idol. The piece dramatically concludes with the lustful Minotaur and Nymph.

The finale, excerpts from Playlist (EP), was a pleasant surprise of classical dance movements juxtaposed to hip hop music. Newly choreographed by William Forsythe, it premiered in Boston in March. It has the many qualities of a team sport with quick formations and costumes with names across the back. The male performers’ high leaps, multiple pirouettes and batterie bring to mind the Enrico Cecchetti ballet style and worked well with the fast, upbeat tempo. Equally impressive was the performance by the six female performers en pointe. Their jazz-style movements were overlaid on exquisite technique. As Forsythe had expressed in an interview, this “…. work is just another way to love ballet.”