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The Boston Ballet ‘Spring Experience’: Saving the Best for Last

Seo Hye Han and Haley Schwan in Jiří Kylián's "Bella Figura."
Seo Hye Han and Haley Schwan in Jiří Kylián's "Bella Figura." By Courtesy of Erin Baiano / Boston Ballet
By Madelyn E. Mckenzie, Crimson Staff Writer

The extravagant, gilded architecture of the Citizens Bank Opera House entranced attendees as they filed into their seats, greeted by a live orchestra. As the curtains finally lifted, viewers may have expected beautiful costumes, delicate shoes, and sophisticated choreography — only to have their expectations upended by monochrome leotards and flat ballet shoes. The Boston Ballet’s 2024 “Spring Experience” connected three distinctly different ballets to create a cohesive show with a strong finish.

Beginning with what felt like hours of music, Ken Ossola’s world premiere was sadly lackluster. The live orchestra set an anticipatory tone before curtains were lifted to reveal a half-pipe shaped structure encompassing the stage. The ballet began with duos or trios trickling on and off the stage, their movements appearing almost improvised while still incorporating repeated motifs like slides across the stage, turned-in feet, and wandering walks.

A sense of meaningful disconnection was created through the joining of some dancers in groups while others remained as solos or duos. All dancers came together at key moments with four quick, precise arm movements, but the dancers were not in sync — what could have been hard-hitting moments of intense accuracy were ruined by a lack of synchronization. Whether this visual dissonance was due to the dancers’ lack of coordination or the choreography itself was unclear, but its effect was counterproductive in the piece. However, small groups and trios continued to dance as a unit despite the mishap.

Furthermore, the intensely artistic tone was slightly overshadowed by moments of elementary choreography. Preparatory steps before each pirouette interrupted the flow of the dance. Otherwise, the movements flowed together impeccably: Dancers shifted between groups seamlessly and viewers were held in excited anticipation of the next phrases of choreography. While the dancers’ talent still shined throughout, the shortcomings of the performance made for a disappointing start.

Luckily, the following pieces redeemed the show. The next piece, William Forsythe’s “Blake Works III (The Barre Project)” was created for the Boston Ballet in 2022. This set was much more plain, consisting of a short ballet barre placed far upstage. Initially, it seemed that the piece was also going to be underwhelming as soloists were confined to the barre. Yet, despite not physically taking up space, each soloist danced largely enough to not be dwarfed by the stage with sharp, powerful movements.

While the score featured electronic beats and a fast tempo and dancers did not dance en pointe, the piece’s combination of traditional steps with these elements lended it a refreshing bounciness and exuberance.“Blake Works III (The Barre Project)” was a wonderful recovery from the questionable timing and choreography of the previous work.

Lastly, “Bella Figura” promised to once again mesmerize audiences upon its return to Boston. Prior to the performance, viewers were warned of partial nudity and live fire on stage in the program, a stark contrast to the first two pieces. When curtains lifted, they revealed two nude human forms in clear boxes hung at angles above the dancers. Their abstract motions added to the uneasiness created by the uncanny figures until curtains were briefly closed to change the set. Rectangular, gray fireplaces were then added, initially without flames, serving as a unique background for dancers moving across the stage to discordant sounds.

This piece, like Ossola’s world premiere, featured small interchanging groups, but the staging was broken up by a memorable duo: Two dancers took the stage in extravagant red skirts and each grabbed hold of a curtain. As the curtains were drawn closed, the dancers moved under and around it, breaking the fourth wall of the stage space. More dancers in the same costumes progressively joined in until the curtains opened to reveal lit fireplaces and the full cast in a truly breathtaking moment.

The color and design of the skirts mirrored the dancing of the flames, and the uniform costume obscured the genders of the dancers. These elements were key in creating a satisfying harmony despite the experimental props, costumes, and music. After the first set of dancers, another duo replaced the group in basic leotards. They remained in front of the closed curtains, nearing the audience, and danced through the remainder of the sound track as well as the following silence. The pair maintained synchronization in silence while building an intimate relationship with the audience.

The duo walked off stage to end the piece, leaving the stage as it appeared prior to the show. “Bella Figura” was a wonderful choice for the third piece due to its dynamic set, intriguing costumes, and curious soundtrack. This piece propelled viewers deep into thought about the limits of the human form, human interaction, and human emotion.

Boston Ballet’s “Spring Experience” offered viewers unfamiliar with ballet a beautiful, cohesive, and original show by incorporating many emotions across both traditional and contemporary choreographic styles. However, the lack of synchronization and perplexing choreography of the first ballet created an initially mediocre experience, making for an underwhelming viewing until the wonderful “Bella Figura” epitomized the intricacy of dance. All in all, the slight initial mishaps did not overshadow the careful dancing and designing of the show. Each viewer was left to grapple with themes of connection and restraint, offering important insight into the human experience.

—Staff writer Madelyn E. McKenzie can be reached at

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