REVIEW: Featuring virtual world premiere in studio, Boston Ballet presents luminous and vibrant ‘Celebrating Jorma Elo’

Since last August’s inventive Carmen, Boston Ballet has not brought new work to BB@Your Home until now.

Celebrating Jorma Elo not only introduces highly-anticipated new dance back in studio including a Jorma Elo World premiere, but launches a luminous montage of Elo’s innovative and exciting work over a fifteen-year history as Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer.  Introduced by Artistic Director Mikko Nissenen and Jorma Elo, Boston Ballet took to the studio to record Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, excerpts from Bach Cello Suites, and the world premiere of Story of Memory before presenting a vibrant montage of Jorma Elo’s brilliant past work. 

The Boston Ballet’s BB@Your Home’s Celebrating Jorma Elo continues streaming through Sunday, March 7.  Click here for more information.

Resident Boston Ballet Chorographer Jorma Elo on right with Boston Ballet dancers Photo courtesy of Brooke Trisolini/Boston Ballet

In masks and filmed under one studio light designed by Jon Gonda, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s fiddle-laden score lays the groundwork for this joyful and intense dance in Elo’s Plan to B filmed in February 2021.  Concise, surefooted, and sharp moves dominate this urgent and sweeping performance that feature Lia Cirio, Ji Young Chae, John Lam, Patric Palkens, Tyson Clark and an impressive solo by Tigran Mkrtchyan.

It is an upbeat, contemporary performance with pulsing movement as dancers slice the air and form seemingly impossible forms and shapes.  In purple coordinated leotard, Cirio and Palkens perform a duet with building intensity as Palkens carries and spins Cirio romantically before she hastens forward.

Lia Cirio and Patric Palkens Photo courtesy of Patric Palkens

A more intimate performance blooms with excerpts from Bach Cello Suites also taking place in studio February 2021 featuring music from Johann Sebastian Bach performed by cellist Ron Lowry.  Lia Cirio and Paolo Arrais dance romantically in shadow as an opaque backdrop softly burgeons into light.  This beautiful dance is further enhanced by the nature in which the two perform.  Arrais spins and handles her delicately in each movement before they embrace. 

Dialogue is rarely introduced into dance and it was fascinating to witness the world premiere of Elo’s Story of Memory and the sheer beauty of this piece’s compelling cinematography filmed in February 2021.  Dressed in alternately black and white, Viktorina Kapitanova and Tigran Mkrtchyan depict two people who struggle to understand one another.  It has moments of discovery, passion, fury, and mystery wrapped in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Nancy Euverink’s captivating scores.  Kapitanova and Mkrtchayan depict two struggling, determined people in an increasingly intense dance longing for understanding before coming to a stunning realization.

Tigran Mkrtchyan in ‘Story of Memory’ Photo courtesy of Brooke Trisolini

Surely it was quite a challenge to choose the highlights of Jorma Elo’s 15-year tenure of rich and revolutionary dance into one luminous montage.  It was about as monumental as it was writing about it having experienced only excerpts of some pieces in its one and a half hour timeframe.

A photo montage prefaces these particular highlights from Sacre du Printemps featuring James Whiteside and Kathleen Breen Combes to the most recent production of Carmen with Lia Cirio and Victorina Kapitanova taken by renowned photographers Rosalie O’Connor, Gene Schiavone,  and Liza Voll.

Too many standout moments to count in this wide spectrum of work including various approaches to the same work at different times in the ballet’s history.  Each impressive interpretation brings a new dynamic to the performance.

An excerpt of Elo’s 2004 Plan to B kicks off this collection of works at the Wang Theatre featuring Sarah Lamb, Larissa Ponomarenko, Joel Pronty, Jared Redick, Raul Salamanca, and Sabi Varga drawing comparisons from its most recent interpretation.  Though both are impressive, but the newest version seems a bit more intense with sharper, more concise choreography.

Whitney Jensen, Bo Busby, and Jeffrey Cirio in Jorma Elo’s Plan to B, photo by Gene Schaivone; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Featuring solo pianist Bruce Livingston, excerpts from Jorma Elo’s C to C (Close to Chuck) Reborn filmed in February 2014 takes the audience into a dark, mysterious, and transcendent world.  C to C showcases the dancers’ athleticism and the human form as they move about in shadow to pulsing rhythms featuring Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, Jeffery Cirio, Whitney Jenson, John Lam and Sabi Varga. 

Many of Jorma Elo’s chorography and works have a unique spirit, liveliness, and a seemingly freestyle nature.  In this Avant Garde piece, Kathleen Breen Combes, Lia Cirio, and Whitney Jenson’s swing like pendulums.  Certain moves seem to play with time as the dancers move swiftly in fast forward, rewind, repetition, slow motion, and then wild intonations to the music’s runaway urgency.  Similar unconventional moves are performed in Elo Experience.

Lia Cirio and Paulo Arrais in Jorma Elo’s ‘Bach Cello Suites’, photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Elo Experience filmed in March 2011 opens with an audible laugh and dialogue.  It also has elements of avant garde work as a large group of dancers gather all in black.  Elo’s innovative choreography showcases freestyle, unconventional moves in an upbeat, lively setting featuring a compelling solo by Jeffrey Cirio.

Excerpts from Elo’s Brake the Eye from March 2012 is part of Elo Experience.  It is a playful and vibrant piece as dancers swing in angular movements while others remain still.  Dressed in purple and crème and performing to the divine works of Mozart, it is a bustling and upbeat performance featuring Larissa Ponomarenko, Jeffrey Cirio, Robert Krenz, John Lam, Sabi Varga, James Whiteside, Lia Cirio, Kathleen Breen Combes, Whitney Jensen, and Dalay Parrondo.

Humming is integrated into excerpts of Elo’s Sharp(er) Side of Dark filmed in February 2012, showcasing different dancers performing in what seems like heaven.  Accompanied by a string trio composed of violinist Michael Rosenbloom, Jean Haig on viola, and cellist Ronald Lowry, Lia Cirio and Sabi Varga, lights hover above them as they playfully glide and frolic in bodysuits to lively, urgent, and joyful music by Bach before seeing excerpts of the same dance performed by duos Kathleen Breen Combes and James Whiteside, Corina Gill and Paulo Arrai, and Whitney Jenson and Jeffrey Cirio. 

Lia Cirio and Paul Craig in Jorma Elo’s Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius, photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet revisits excerpts of a past performance of Bach Cello Suites from March 2018 featuring cellist Sergey Antonov and dancers Maria Baranova, Junxiong Zhao, Lia Cirio, Paolo Arrais, Kathleen Breen Combes, Derek Dunn, Misa Kuranga, John Lam, Addie Tapp, and Lasha Khaozashvili.  Dressed in black leotard, this lively performance shows a wide range of moods including pain, love, and passion.  A particular highlight showed the dancers briefly interacting with the onstage cellist, leaning in as the cellist plays.

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Creatures of Egmont, photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet

The final two performances are on a larger scale exploring the sheer dynamic nature of Elo’s work from the traditional to the contemporary culminating into a jubilant finale.  The sheer athleticism in excerpts of Elo’s Creatures of Egmont as dancers form angular, symmetrical shapes under a twilight sky and then Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius filmed in November 2017 a joyous and uplifting grand scale finale that reflects Jorma Elo’s continuing luminous, inventive, and astonishing work with the Boston Ballet.

BB@Your Home continues with The Art of the Classical Ballet from March 25 through April 4 which includes excerpts from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.  Click here for more information and a look at Boston Ballet’s full season.

REVIEW: Boston Ballet’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a regal, dazzling achievement

An unexpected hero, an insulted fairy, true love, and a terrible curse make up the enchanting and haunting fairy tale classic as Boston Ballet proudly presents The Sleeping Beauty.  Unfolding with elegant and athletic choreography by Marius Pepita and Sir Frederick Ashton, The Sleeping Beauty has returned to Boston for a limited run by popular demand through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  Click here for a closer look at more of Boston Ballet’s upcoming performances.

A full house including a wealth of excited children gathered inside the Boston Opera House as Ming Luke conducted Tchaikovsky’s famous and dramatic music score, transporting the enthusiastic crowd into a world of royalty, betrayal, innocence, a few familiar fairy tale faces, and a dose of magic.  Disney’s popular animated adaptation possesses a few similarities to this captivating tale, but Boston Ballet delivers more to the story.  At the center of The Sleeping Beauty was raven-haired Lia Cirio as regal and elegant Princess Aurora, a triumph of athletic grace, her limber body mastering a few of ballet’s most difficult dance moves with impeccable balance, an arabesque garnering particular applause.

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Lia Cirio and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Based on Russia’s Imperial Ballet’s 1890 production, The Sleeping Beauty is a visual treat, boasting finely-detailed costumes and a multi-dimensional set design by David Walker.  From ornate, lush and colorful backdrops in gold, red, and green to the enchanting Renaissance era costumes, each scene is a portrait to behold.  Wearing wreathed tiaras and dressed in sparkling pink, green, yellow, and blue, the gracious fairies made up of Dawn Atkins, So Jung Lee, Maria Baranova, Maria Alvarez, and Emily Entingh floated, frolicked, and twirled, each displaying their own unique personalities.  The energetic yellow fairy was a particular highlight, performing a sweet, joyful, and humorous dance.

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Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

With a cruel, mocking laugh and appearing in a dark, glimmering carriage was Dalay Parrondo as treacherous Carabosse.  Accompanied by a group of monstrous henchmen performed by Tyson Clark, Derek Drillon, August Generalli, and Christian Pforr, Dalay delivered an electrifying performance as an insulted fairy in a haunting display of sharp, rigid movements.

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Kathleen Breen Combes and Boston Ballet in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty; photo by Liza Voll Photography, courtesy Boston Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s uplifting score hit a crescendo as Rachel Buriassi appeared as the Lilac Fairy.  In this adaptation, she acted as a guide, her quick thinking and courage setting her apart.  Her skillful performance was most evident among her lively, energetic lilac fairy attendants in a glorious display of fouettes, plies, and pirouettes.  She was also impressive in a compelling scene with Lasha Khozashvilli as Prince Desire.  Lia Cirio as Aurora and Lasha Khozashvili as Prince Desire had instant chemistry and perfectly complemented each other in a dream-like dance, swept up in love.

The Sleeping Beauty delivers many magnificent performances within this large cast, many taking on multiple roles.  From a fascinating, thrilling duet from Maria Alvarez as Little Red Riding Hood and Alexander Maryianowski as the Wolf to a humorous, feline flirtation from Emily Entingh as The White Cat and Irlan Silva as Puss ‘N Boots, many beloved fairy tale characters took the stage in a joyous celebration.

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With two intermissions, The Boston Ballet also offers an opportunity to learn more about ballet through The Warm Up, an interactive, photo friendly display located in the lower lobby.   Boston Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty through Saturday, May 19 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter and Facebook.

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Boston Ballet presents the North American debut of emotionally-charged ‘Obsidian Tear’

In a season filled with extraordinary contemporary and classic performances, the Boston Ballet continues its 2017-18 season with the debut of Obsidian Tear.  Choreographed by Wayne McGregor, The Boston Ballet takes on a gripping exploration of raw human emotion as Obsidian Tear makes its North American debut from Friday, November 3 through Sunday, November 12.  Co-produced with the Royal Ballet, full of athletic grace, and inspired by poetry by Esa Pekka Salonen, Obsidian Tear depicts the powerful impact emotion makes on society, in all of its extremes.  The second half of the show features the world premiere of Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius, choreographed by Jorma Elo.

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Royal Ballet Artist Calvin Richardson in Wayne McGregor’s Obsidian Tear; photo by Andrej Uspenski, courtesy The Royal Ballet

The Boston Ballet concludes 2017 with the triumphant return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from Friday, November 24 through Sunday, December 31.  Starting in March 2018, The Boston Ballet mixes the classic with the contemporary with Parts in Suite, combining the imagination of esteemed choreographers William Forsythe, Justin Peck, and Jorma Elo from Friday, March 9 through Saturday, April 7, 2018.  Two crowd pleasing romantic classics take the stage with Romeo and Juliet from Thursday, March 15 through Sunday, April 8 and Sleeping Beauty from Friday, May 11 through Saturday, May 19.  Explore beauty and the pursuit of everlasting love with Classic Balanchine from Thursday, May 17 through Saturday, June 9 and La Sylphide from Thursday, May 24 through Sunday, June 10.

Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. All performances are held at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre announces ‘Shrek the Musical’ auditions

Everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek is heading to Hingham Civic Music Theatre.  Based on William Steig’s imaginative fairy tale, the Dreamworks Animation film adaptation, Shrek was an instant hit in 2001 starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow.  Several sequels followed and was also adapted an innovative, fun-loving musical on Broadway.

Hingham Civic Music Theatre is searching for an all-new, fun-loving cast to join Shrek the Musical as it makes its Hingham debut in October.  Auditions for Shrek the Musical will be held at the Sanborn Auditorium at Hingham Town Hall, 210 Central Street in Hingham, Massachusetts on Monday, June 26 and Tuesday, June 27 at 7 p.m.  Callbacks will take place on Wednesday, June 28 at 7 p.m.  Click here for more information on auditions, cast descriptions, rehearsal schedule, and to download the audition form.  These will be closed auditions.

Shrek is a lone, but not lonely, green ogre who lives a quiet swamp life until life as he knows it is threatened, forcing him to embark on a daunting quest and tremendous adventure.  Featuring a large cast of beloved fairy tale characters with a few new faces added to the tale, Shrek the Musical is a parody, offering its own fairy tale twist with plenty of witty humor, family fun, and life lessons.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Mark Bono, with choreography by Tara McSweeney Morrison, Hingham Civic Music Theatre presents Shrek the Musical for two weekends from Saturday, October 21 through Sunday, October 29.  Follow Hingham Civic Music Theatre on Facebook for upcoming events and more.