|| The Telegraph
|| July 4, 2013
|| Mark Monahan
On a rare visit to London, Boston Ballet presented an entertainng, intelligently constructed evening of dance, says Mark Monahan.
For sheer pluck, it is hard not to love Boston Ballet. Fifty years old, and returning to the Coliseum for the first time in 30, they in many ways call to mind our own Scottish Ballet: a bright-eyed, internationally sourced young troupe that clearly relishes both variety and a challenge, and one determined to show audiences a good time.
And in that, they succeed. Premiered here on Wednesday, Programme 1 (of two) is an intelligently constructed, flawed, but still warmly recommendable evening. Bookended by works from the start and end of Balanchine's career (1934's Serenade and 1972's Symphony in Three Movements), it also includes the stylised sensual languor of the Ballets Russes' Afternoon of a Faun as well as a bracing piece of contemporanea in the form of Plan to B, by resident choreographer Jorma Elo.
The latter - a collection of interlocking solos and small ensembles, packed with drill-like turns and arms wheeling to a blur - is an efficient if somewhat anonymous showpiece for the company and bolstered by some spectacularly nimble work from Jeffrey Cirio, who also impresses in Symphony. In that great chugging locomotive of a first movment (credit to both Balanchine and Stravinsky), he and the company's other not-so-secret weapon - Misa Kuranaga - leap like a pair of hares, she in turn echoing her earlier crisp solo work in Serenade.
Balanchine is, however, immensely difficult to perform. And, enjoyable as both these works are in the Bostonians' hands, they also reveal certain shortcomings.
Those two world-class principals aside, solo work is in the main respectable rather than remarkable. And, although the corps catches the jazzy, twinkly-eyed spark of Symphony, there is too much unevenness in the early line-ups for the full Amazonian effect to flower, while Serenade lacks the chimera-like quality it ideally needs. (The girls' port de bras often lacks lightness, arms seeming to rest squarely on shoulders rather than on air.)
The company looks most uniformly at home in Faun, that enduringly strange-looking slice of exotica from 1912. While not quite matching the narcotised perfection of English National Ballet's Anton Lukovkin on the same stage last year, Altan Dugaraa knows exactly what he is doing as the irresistible, besotted creature (right down to the climactic orgasmic shudder that ENB in fact denied its faun), as does both Lorna Feijóo, as the object of his affections, and her sextet of supporting nymphs. The piece at once drips with sensuality and perfectly resembles a frieze in motion - I suspect Nijinsky would have approved.