|| Boston Herald
|| May 8, 2010
|| Keith Powers
Boston Ballet’s latest, “Ultimate Balanchine,” is a breathtaking homage to George Balanchine, the man whose choreography paved the way for today’s neoclassical ballet and modern dance.
The show, on stage until May 16, features three works. “Apollo,” the earliest surviving Balanchine piece, is from the 1920s. “The Four Temperaments” is a series of episodes set to music by Hindemith. The lush “Theme and Variations” features music by Tchaikovsky.
As you would expect with Balanchine, the stages and costumes are tastefully simple. The focus is on the dancing. Lighting designer John Cuff imagined the three works as a unit, bathing them in a bluish wash. A large backdrop of the same color fills the rear of the stage. “The Four Temperaments” opens with a brief prologue, three duets that create a somber mood. The men wear white T-shirts and black tights, while the women are in dark leotards. But the monochromatic stage still seems alive with tension.
In Thursday’s performance, John Lam gracefully expanded that mood in “Melancholy,” the first of the “Temperaments.” Next, Erica Cornejo and Nelson Madrigal duetted in “Sanguinic,” sculpted with curvy, bold body lines and challenging lifts. Carlos Molina soloed beautifully in the third section, “Phlegmatic,” and it kept getting better as Kathleen Breen Combes charged the finale, “Choleric,” with wistful articulation. The supporting ensemble played an extensive role, showing off the almost embarrassing depth of the company.
Often for Balanchine the body is the subject, not just a vehicle for revealing the subject. High kicks, excessive arm extensions, unusual and striking hand positions challenge dancers and create a unique visual language. The troupe seems to have internalized this formal strategy and creatively explores the potential within it.
“Apollo” featured the impressive Pavel Gurevich, who physically embodies all that Balanchine could want in a male dancer: long limbs, expressive hands and a regal bearing. The evening closed with “Theme and Variations,” taken from the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s third symphony. It was a feast for the eyes and ears. The costumes became a little more elaborate - women in tutus and tiaras, men in splendid waist jackets. The stage was draped and adorned with a glittering chandelier. But the focus on the movement and the arched lines of the dancers’ bodies remained. James Whiteside and Misa Kuranaga starred, but once again the ensemble was the real strength.
Presented by Boston Ballet at Boston Opera House, Thursday night. Through May 16.