|| Boston Herald
|| April 30, 2011
|| Keith Powers
Call it two beauties and the beast. Boston Ballet presented three contemporary works Thursday evening at the Opera House, with the two beauties — Helen Pickett’s triptych inspired by Arvo Part, and Jiri Kylian’s “Bella Figura” — contrasting sharply with William Forsythe’s techno-stomp “The Second Detail.”
This program offered movement ranging from animal (Forsythe) to ethereal (Pickett) to theatrical (Kylian). And, sure to be much discussed, topless female dancers.
Not everything succeeded, but all of it had artistic integrity.
Forsythe’s “Second Detail,” premiered in 1991, was the most troubling. An ensemble work set to a ceaselessly annoying trash can symphony by Thom Willems, the piece explores Forsythe’s popular technique. His work is physical and free, almost careless, with the accent on the individual. No narrative is offered. The unique dance language — classically informed with a dose of ecstasy — is a good thing. But maybe too much of a new thing, like hearing composer Arnold Schoenberg for the first time, or trying to parse out Jackson Pollock in 1955 — you understand that it’s influential, even if it’s too much to bear. The score may have been hip 20 years ago, but now sounds like a teenager with a garage band and a Kmart drum machine.
Pickett’s work rewards close attention. Three settings by religious minimalist composer Arvo Part — two duets and a striking ensemble piece — were tasteful and brave. “Layli o Majnun,” a romantic pas-de-deux gorgeously explored by company veterans Larissa Ponomarenko and Yury Yanowsky (with a cameo by a demonic Lorin Mathis), uses a score with nary a beat and uncertain rhythm to create a cerebral, controlled and gentle masterpiece. “Tsukiyo,” brought to life by Lia Cirio and Sabi Varga, was clearly a crowd favorite, with their coupling onstage matched by an exposed violin/piano sonata in the pit (the only use of the orchestra all evening; even that was amplified).
The centerpiece was Kylian’s “Bella Figura,” a gorgeous flourish of staging, costuming, lighting and daring theatrics. And bare-breasted dancers.
“Bella Figura” explores shape in every aspect: the shape of the body, the shifting geometric shape partners form together and the defining shapes of the stage. Opening and closing curtains constantly redefined the dancers’ “playing field” — stark reminders about the “limits” of enclosed space. In fact, the piece opens unannounced, with the house lights up and the audience still chit-chatting and air kissing, with two naked dancers suspended from the ceiling in what look like large lobster traps. Every aspect of “Figura” drew attention — it’s clearly a work that demands repeated performances.