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Boston Ballet’s ‘Fall Experience’ Review: A Cultivation of Human Experiences

Boston Ballet principal dancers Ji Young Chae and Derek Dunn perform “Bach Cello Suites” in "Fall Experience."
Boston Ballet principal dancers Ji Young Chae and Derek Dunn perform “Bach Cello Suites” in "Fall Experience." By Addison Y. Liu
By Selorna A. Ackuayi, Crimson Staff Writer

“Fall Experience,” Boston Ballet’s 60th season show, running from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15 may appear unassuming. But beneath the name of Boston Ballet’s season premiere lies a show that did not fail to express the many intricacies of human experience and provided audiences a unique experience they will never forget.

The first ballet, “Bach Cello Suites,” was accompanied by famed Russian cellist Sergey Antonov. Antonov performed Cello Suites No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 to a series of pas de deuxs and group ensemble pieces within the ballet. The first pas de deux was fluid and youthful and maintained high balletic technicality while still remaining playful.

This playfulness did not take away from the intentionality of the piece, however. Choreographer Jorma Elo distinctly incorporated the cellist in the ballet with various dancer-cellist interactions and explored many geometrical shapes in the piece as well. Dancers used their bodies to create unique shapes of diamonds, triangles, and rectangles with dynamic leaps in the air, elongated arabesques, and graceful pliés. Audiences could tell that each posed moment was meant to be seen and appreciated, much like one appreciates a painting or a sculpture.

A notable moment in this ballet was a pas de deux towards the end of the piece danced by Boston Ballet principal dancer Chyrstyn Fentroy and second soloist Tyson Clark. Fentroy brought life to the pas de deux with intricate and precise épaulment, a term that describes body positioning and direction of the head in ballet. Whether looking at her dance partner, into the audience, or offstage, Fentroy’s gaze and body language always had a defined focus.

Following a brief intermission, the curtain rose again to reveal another classical music ballet, Hans van Manen’s “Trois Gnossiennes”, set to Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes Nos. 1-3 performed by pianist Alex Foaksman. In front of a black background, principal dancers Ji Young Chae and Patrick Yocum performed a duet. As the duet partners performed, three male dancers followed them across the stage, pushing a grand piano all while the pianist played.

Manen’s choreography was subversively provocative. Amplified by Chae’s simple blue ballet costume and the classical ballet music, the piece initially presented itself as very classical but in reality leaned into something more contemporary and avante-garde. The piece began with Chae being lifted and moved around by her dance partner, which introduced an interesting gender dynamic to the piece. In one particular lift, Yocum raised Chae high off the ground as she remained completely motionless, much like a mannequin and very reminiscent of the doll character in the famous ballet “Coppelia.”

“Trois Gnossiennes” was intricate and thought-provoking, but at times, the movement of the piano distracted from the dancers in the duet, especially with the light illuminating the stage flashing off of the shiny piano lid. This piece may have been attempting to bring the piano and pianist into the piece as dancers, but this integration was not as distinct and impactful as the interactions with the cellist in the Bach Suites were.

The third ballet in the show, “Form and Gesture” was the world premiere of the choreography of Boston Ballet company artist My’Kal Stromile. The piece — a depiction of the journey towards becoming a professional dancer — was subdivided into four exhibits. In the first exhibit, four dancers moved gracefully around one soloist — Boston Ballet principal dancer Derek Dunn — performing simple movements typically found in an elementary ballet class, such as développés and tendus. One of the most striking moments of this exhibit was the pattern of the four dancers demonstrating movements to Dunn, then watching him perform them, as if tuning an instrument then testing it. These simple patterns of choreography combined with the unique music of ringing tuning forks truly conveyed the refined nature of ballet training that dancers go through at the beginning of their career.

Two more exhibits were also performed, but the final exhibit of “Form and Gesture” — “Exhibit D: sketches, graphs, and parabolas” — was the highlight of Boston Ballet’s entire show. What made this piece stand out from the rest was its dynamism and originality through its mix of modern and classical ballet steps, which worked together to cultivate a sense of shared joy and community in the piece. It was very easy to tell that the dancers on stage were having fun together, and their powerful and in sync movements conveyed that to the audience — bringing them into the enjoyment as well.

“Fall Experience” rounded out with a ballet called “Vertical Road (Reimagined) 2023 World Premiere” by Akram Khan. Khan’s choreography was powerful, most memorably the precise synchronized movements of the ensemble dancers that transformed them from individual dancers to one body made of many different parts, the literal definition of a “corps de ballet.”

—Staff writer Selorna A. Ackuayi can be reached at selorna.ackuayi@thecrimson.com.

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