|| The Patriot Ledger
|| May 7, 2010
|| Iris Fanger
The Boston Ballet connects directly to the DNA of choreographer George Balanchine (1904-1983) through his early role as mentor to the original company, so it’s no wonder the dancers looked so beautifully at home in his works Thursday night.
The program, to be repeated this weekend and next, featured three of his seminal ballets, “The Four Temperaments,” “Apollo,” and “Theme and Variations,” set to major scores by Paul Hindemith, Igor Stravinsky and Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky.
These ballets are reminders of Balanchine’s relationship to the most significant modern composers (and their forebears) and the musicality of his choreography.
The program opener, “The Four Temperaments,” takes the dancer’s body and juts it out at the hips, alternates the feet between moving on point or flat on the floor, and twists and turns the torso inside out and back again, all in time to syncopated beats that sound as avant-garde today as at the ballet’s premiere in 1946.
Three women with perhaps the longest legs in the troupe: Kimberly Uphoff, Luciana Voltolini, and Megan Gray – along with their partners – presented the movement themes at the beginning. A languid and weighted John Lam followed with the first variation, “Melancholic.”
Next came “Sanguinic” with Erica Cornejo and Nelson Madrigal, giving an excellent account of himself as a Balanchine dancer. Carlos Molina pulled the rhythms up and through the length of his body, accompanied by a quartet of women who mirrored him in a pulsing, unison chorus line for “Phlegmatic.” Kathleen Breen Combes, a commanding stage presence on her own in “Choleric,” introduced the finale as the large cast curved on and around the stage in patterns that echoed the earlier themes.
“Apollo” which dates from 1928, marks Balanchine’s first collaboration with Stravinsky, to continue into one of the most memorable artistic partnerships of the 20th century. The simple storyline follows the growing up of the boy-child god, Apollo, into a creative artist, mentored by three of the muses.
Apollo watches each of the women in turn before choosing Terpsichore as his guide in a poignant touching of fingers reminiscent of the figures in Michaelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel. The work began slowly because Pavel Gurevich as Apollo did not come to life until his pas de deux with Lia Cirio as Terpsichore, despite evocative solos by Rie Ichikawa as Calliope and Whitney Jensen as Polyhymic. However, with his striking half-turns in the air, and the emphatic driving of the muses as a troika, Gurevich brought the work to an exciting climax.
The program closer, “Theme and Variations,” performed by a corps de ballet of women in tutus and crowns on their heads, and men in tights, is Balanchine’s homage to his childhood in St. Petersburg when he was a student in the ballet school of the Czar. The enchanting Misa Kuranaga, tiny in stature and powerful in her balances and multiple turns, was caught in mid-air by her self-assured partner, James Whiteside, as they led a cast of 24 dancers to a star-spangled finish.
ULTIMATE BALANCHINE Boston Ballet, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St. Boston. Through May 16. $25-$132. 617-695-6955. www.bostonballet.org.