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Boston Ballet’s 'The Art of Classical Ballet' Review: Ballet from the Studio to Your Living Room

Soloist Chisako Oga in a variation from Giselle.
Soloist Chisako Oga in a variation from Giselle. By Photo by Brooke Trisolini; Courtesy of Boston Ballet
By Angelina V. Shoemaker, Crimson Staff Writer

After months of quarantine, the latest installment of Boston Ballet’s BB@yourhome, “The Art of Classical Ballet,” provides a program well suited to online viewing. The understated backdrops and staging allow the dancers’ strong technique and artistry to shine through. Of course, the experience is not quite the same as attending a ballet performance in person. The environment of the performance hall –– when physically present –– allows viewers to ride the surging emotions of the music together with other audience members and also brings another dimensionality to the performance itself, which a virtual program cannot emulate. Nevertheless, Boston Ballet compensates for this shortcoming by bringing many different styles to their production, highlighting their versatility even in the midst of a pandemic.

“The Art of Classical Ballet” consists of several different excerpts from different classical ballet pieces, including “Swan Lake,” “William Tell,” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” Although some acts are shakier than others, each piece in the production is presented with exceptional attention to detail and excellently showcases the artistic strengths of the dancers. The precise movements and rich emotion speak to the passion of the dancers. The subdivided layout of the program is also novel and refreshing, displaying a plethora of ballet styles within a single program. The diversity of pieces showcases the individual talent and diversity of the cast themselves, which includes several international members. In “La Esmeralda Pas de Deux,” principal ballerina Viktorina Kapitonova dances while synchronizing a tambourine to the beat of her movements and the piano. This feat, in addition to the many pirouettes and complex gestures, is precise and well-executed.

One criticism is about the dancers’ slight mistimings when synchronizing with the counts of the music. It is clear that the art of ballet is very difficult to perfect at such a high level; nevertheless, some timing and synchronicity issues do leave something to be desired. Moreover, some dancers seem a bit stiff during landings, which makes some excerpts seem mediocre. Most dancers, however, are truly exceptional and reach a level of mastery, truly outlining their talent. Particularly, the last “Swan Lake” excerpt, performed by principal dancers Lia Cirio and Paulo Arrais stands out: The fluidity of their movements and sentimentality, which can be felt through the monitor, embodies the highly refined and delicate nature of ballet.

Boston Ballet’s production of “The Art of Classical Ballet” is delightful to watch. Although the performance video does not showcase the orchestra or give the audience a physical sense being in the performance hall, it is a beautifully orchestrated program that many can appreciate. “The Art of Classical Ballet” is an enjoyable mini-performance perfect to be enjoyed at home in the midst of the pandemic. Whether you are looking to become informed in the fine arts or are a regular ballet viewer, online performances like this one are worth checking out until it becomes an option to see these productions in person once again.

— Staff writer Angelina V. Shoemaker can be reached at angelina.shoemaker@thecrimson.com

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