|| The Guardian
|| July 6, 2013
|| Judith Mackrell
Boston Ballet's London season has only lasted five days, but that's been time enough to see them as a company of engagingly individual performers. Across the ranks there's a variety of personality and physical presence that give a dynamic sociability and colour to the most abstract choreography.
The liveliness of the company is most evident in their second programme, a contemporary-ish triple bill that lays out its stall with William Forsythe's The Second Detail. The design of this 1991 ballet is functionally austere - ice-blue costumes against an ice-blue background - and it's on this theatrical whiteboard that Forsythe presents one of his most vintage, pleasurable dissections of ballet grammar. In an exuberant welter of dance activity, classroom steps are fractured into stark lines of semaphore or warped into jittering, mercurial curves; there's a continual shift of focus from the soloists performing centre-stage to the edgy hand jives of the chorus at the back.
All 14 dancers are musical, alert, but above all playful. There's an unusually raunchy vibe to Forsythe's choreography here, amplified by the blasts of fairground organ and rocking beats that are layered through Thom Willems' score. The dancers' delight in that vibe is infectious, with Kathleen Breen Combes especially bright and mocking as she snaps her body through the wicked small detail of Forsythe's movement.
Almost as interesting and articulate are the performances of Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia, especially Ashley Ellis's - she finds a lyrical mystery in her solo, a musical suspension that makes the space resonate around her. But in some ways the Boston dancers are most impressive of all in the evening's closing work, Jiří Kylián's Bella Figura. This is a work with which I normally struggle. Kylián has an undeniable mastery over the alchemy of light, costume and gesture: he spins an extraordinary, dream-like world of ritualised movement and surreal, half-animal play. Yet while there are good reasons for the work's popularity, for me it's one of those pieces where Kylián's fluency looks facile, his invention lacking musical or conceptual heart.
With Boston Ballet, however, Bella Figura looks like a much more human piece. Because the cast engage with it in such vivid but un-self-regarding ways, they add emotional light and shade to it, they roughen up its gloss. It's the journey these dancers take though Kylián's choreography that supplies the drama behind the beautiful image.