Boston Ballet performs Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Wang Theatre May 14-17. This retrospective program honors the great contribution of Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev and marks Boston Ballet’s final performance at the Wang Theatre. The program includes an impressive range of works including Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, Michel Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose, the world premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps by Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo, and George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son.
Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, a company of Russian trained dancers, became known as one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th Century. The Ballets Russes were an engaging cultural and artistic force propelled by Diaghilev’s ground-breaking artistic collaborations among choreographers, composers, and artists. These collaborations consistently toed the line of the expected and the accepted, resulting in revolutionary works which shocked audiences and created a renaissance in dance and art that still resonates today. The company, which included some of the most promising Russian dancers such as Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karasavina, and Mathilda Kchessinska, created a rich aesthetic world that was immensely inspiring to artists and audiences alike.
“Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes have provided inspiration that the art form has worked off of for a century. From his revolutionary collaborations to his philosophy of innovation, Diaghilev has left a lasting cultural imprint,” said Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director, Boston Ballet. “It is an honor and a passion of mine to stage these great works and to pay tribute to Diaghilev’s genius. Additionally, Boston Ballet continues the tradition of looking towards the future with Jorma Elo’s world premiere, a work that will take the dancers and audiences to a new place.”
Boston Ballet’s Ballets Russes program includes four works which highlight the Ballets Russes era. Afternoon of a Faun was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Ballets Russes and was first performed in 1912. Nijinsky originated the role of the young faun, an interpretation which became legendary. The ballet was inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, “L’après-midi d’un faune.” The ballet was originally staged to depict the dancers as part of a large tableau and often featured the dancers moving across the stage in profile. Afternoon of a Faun is considered one of the premiere modern ballets and met controversy upon its debut for its erotic undertones.
Le Spectre de la Rose, choreographed by Michel Fokine, was first presented in 1911. It tells the story of a young girl, who returning from her first ball, falls asleep and dreams that the rose she holds in her hand is dancing with her. Fokine believed dance only had meaning when each movement contained drama and expression. Le Spectre de la Rose reflects this attention to the portrayal of emotion through dance. The ballet was given its U.S. premiere in 1916 at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo will premiere a new work, his sixth for Boston Ballet, set to Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. The score is rhythmic and inspired by primitive pagan rituals. Upon its premiere, the work was controversial, shocking audiences that were accustomed to classical ballet. Many choreographers have created works to the score, including Pina Bausch, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Maurice Béjart. Elo’s version will feature striking red, reflective costuming and a display of fire on the Wang stage. “I hope to surprise the audience with something they have never seen before. The score was an inspiration to work with; I wanted to bring a new perspective to the music and allow the dancers to do the same,” said Elo.
George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, one of his few narrative ballets, was choreographed for the Ballets Russes in 1928. It is based on the Biblical tale of the rebellious son who leaves his father’s home to find adventure in the wider world, only to return after experiencing the cruelties of humankind. The ballet features powerful dancing and highly dramatic lead roles. It maintains the central theme of the parable, with dancing reminiscent of the Russian tradition. Prodigal Son conveys the moral of the parable in the Gospel of St. Luke and emphasizes the themes of sin and redemption. Prodigal Son was one of the first Balanchine ballets to achieve international recognition. Together, these works will honor Diaghilev’s tradition of invention and innovation while serving as a historical retrospective.
Diaghilev's Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration
May 14-17, 2009
Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreography: George Balanchine
Afternoon of a Faun – BOSTON BALLET PREMIERE
Music: Claude Debussy
Choreography: Vaslav Nijinsky
Le Spectre de la Rose – BOSTON BALLET PREMIERE
Music: Carl Maria von Weber
Choreography: Michel Fokine
Le Sacre du Printemps – WORLD PREMIERE
Music: Igor Stravinsky
Choreography: Jorma Elo
The performances of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration are supported in part by the gift of Mr. & Mrs. Timothy W. Diggins. Additional funding for this production provided by the Harkness Foundation for Dance.
The World Premiere of Jorma Elo’s Le Sacre du Printemps has been generously underwritten by Elizabeth and Jack Meyer. The residency of choreographer Jorma Elo is made possible by a major grant from The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation/ Linda S. Waintrup, Trustee.
Tickets for Ballets Russes can be purchased by phone at 866.348.9738, online at www.citicenter.org, or in person at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM box office, located at 270 Tremont Street in Boston's Theatre District, open Monday - Saturday from 10am - 6pm. Prices for season ballets start at $25. Discounted group tickets (10 or more) are available by calling Boston Ballet's Group Sales at 617.456.6343. Rush tickets are available. Contact the Boston Ballet box office at 617.695.6955 or visit www.bostonballet.org for details.
Founded in 1963, Boston Ballet is one of the leading dance companies in North America. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, the Company maintains an internationally acclaimed repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works, ranging from full-length story ballets to new works by some of today's finest choreographers.
Boston Ballet's second company, Boston Ballet II, is made up of pre-professional dancers who gain experience by performing with Boston Ballet and as an independent group, presenting lecture-demonstrations and unique programs to audiences throughout the Northeast. The Boston Ballet Center for Dance Education is the largest ballet school in North America. In service of its mission to bring the highest quality arts education to all, it reaches and instructs more than 10,000 students of all ages each year through Boston Ballet School, Summer Dance Workshop, Summer Dance Program, Citydance, Taking Steps, and Adaptive Dance. The wide array of dance education programs are held at four major ballet studio locations, in community centers, and throughout the Boston Public Schools."