ARTSMONDAY: Fresh Take On Ballet In ‘New Visions’

The Boston Ballet’s new show delivered what its title deftly suggested: “new visions” for the ambitions of modern ballet. Most interestingly, it both affirmed and denied ballet’s classical roots in its quest to discover just how “modern” modern ballet will become. With each of its three episodes—“Break the Eyes,” “Polyphonoia,” and “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion”—“New Visions,” which ran March 1-4 at the Citi Wang Theatre in Boston, demonstrated a deeply introspective, wildly innovative, and technically challenging dance form.

The world premiere of “Break the Eyes” was a success for Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo. He bluntly portrayed a tension that is subtly present in much of the Mozart music accompanying it—that between modern life and the outdated past.

He accounted for this tension in all aspects of the show, from the ballet itself to its surrounding atmosphere. The music abruptly alternated between Mozart’s chamber pieces and Nancy Euverink’s synthesized soundscape “Sub Pulse 2.” The costumes, by Charles Heightchew, were classical tutus—but also frayed and skin-colored so that the dancers appeared nude to the audience. The movement was classically grounded, but also edgy and fractured. All in all, it was a jarring performance.

Despite the discordant sense it evoked, “Break the Eyes” had a technically impressive choreography that was nearly flawlessly executed. Elo manipulated the most classical of movements into provocative, eclectic scenes. Corkscrew leaps and strange coils tested the limits of gravity—and of dancers’ limbs—before the audience.

Despite the often-distracting drama that their movements created, the dancers’ talent abounded. Sabi Varga, set against Mark Stanley’s striking light design, especially shone with his odd, beautiful leaps.

The company’s premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia” brought a welcome change to the previously severe tenor of the evening.

The ballet, world premiered by the New York City ballet in 2001, was a neoclassical ode to choreographer George Balanchine. With four couples clad in simple, plum-colored leotards, the performance began where all performances truly begin: in ballet class.

“Polyphonia” then quickly moved through ten vignettes, set to piano music by György Ligeti. The technique of the dancers was flawless despite their complex combinations of solos, duets, and quartets. Dazzling turns, explosive leaps, and abrupt, arresting endings characterized this exquisite performance.

Particularly impressive were Karine Seneca and Carlos Molina in a strikingly sensual pas de deux before the final ensemble. Each intricately constructed lift left the audience gasping, literally, not only at the visual beauty and flawless execution but also because of the pair’s penetrating intensity.

Balanchine would have been proud.

The final installment of “New Visions,” titled “Sonata for Two Pianos and a Percussion,” had neither the creative spirit of the first performance or sensational movement of the second. But it was stunning, nonetheless.

Beautifully choreographed by Val Caniparoli and set to the music of Bartók, “Sonata” stood out for its vivacity. Divided by two marches, the dancers began with moments of swelling creativity, traditional ballet positions were redefined with sharp, angled arm movements.

The dancers’ technical precision, however, often faltered. Perhaps it was first-night jitters or exhaustion from a long night of intense dancing, but there were moments when basic unison was obviously lacking.

A pas de deux between Yuri Yanowski and Lorna Feijoo stood out as a clear exception. The pair had a wonderful chemistry that benefited in the form of exhilarating dancing—particularly in the pair’s impressive, concluding turn sequence.

“New Visions” provided a night of innovative and exhilarating dancing. Although there were a few disappointing moments, particularly toward the end, it was still a pleasure to watch modern ballet maintain its classical origins while evolving in a completely new direction. For its audiences, “New Visions” truly provided a glimpse of the future of ballet.

—Reviewer Giselle Barcia can be reached at barcia@fas.harvard.edu.