|| Boston Herald
|| March 7, 2013
|| Katie Eastman
Ballerinas in bubble wrap.
A Steinway on stilts.
And a giant tree suspended upside down.
Boston Ballet is bucking tradition.
The ballet is the first American company to take on "All Kylian" - three experimental ballets by Netherlands choreographer, Jiri Kylian. (The show runs through March 17.)
"Whenever it's time to do a ballet by Mr. Kylian, I know we're going to do something fun," said Ben Phillips, Boston Ballet's production manager and technical director.
He is the mastermind behind everything but the choreography.
"I wouldn't use the word mastermind, but I'm the poor schmuck who's
responsible for all this," Phillips said.
The humble creative problem solver had a blast with the "All Kylian" sets.
"To have 'em drop on my desk an 18-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall tree with a crane makes you smile a little bit," he said while looking at his creation hanging upside down in the Opera House.
The first ballet has a crane that spins a spotlight around an upside-down tree, and if you think that's crazy, just wait until the curtain lifts for Act 2.
For the second ballet, "Tar and Feathers," Phillips and his team had to cut the legs off of a $100,000 Steinway piano and replace them with 9-foot steel stilts.
Kylian had one person in mind to play that piano,
Japanese-born Tomoko Mukaiyama.
"He needed someone who was, first of all, not afraid of heights," Tomoko said before her dress rehearsal on Wednesday night.
You really do have to feel the piece, because aside from a few minutes of a Mozart piano concerto, Tomoko is improvising the entire thing. And as if the height weren't enough, the piano is tilted, so even a pencil won't stay put.
"It's a funny feeling," she said. "It's quite scary."
The last ballet is the oldest, created in the 1970s, and the set reflects the age. Phillips had to suspend 50 Persian rugs in the air as a backdrop for the dancers.
"I can't tell you the hours that have been put into figuring out how to build this," Phillips added. "It's funny how simple
it all seems, and how complicated it really is."