One of North America’s premier ballet companies, Boston Ballet, is celebrating a milestone in its rich history… its 50th anniversary. With a repertory that ranges from the classical and neoclassical works of Petipa and Balanchine to the more contemporary works of Jiří Kylián and resident choreographer Jorma Elo (just to name drop a few), the company is marking the occasion with five premieres, plus such other exciting events as “Night of Stars on Boston Common“, Boston Ballet’s gift to the city and free to the public, and landmark tours to Washington DC, New York City and of course, London, UK.
What goes into putting together a celebratory season? Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director, says that he wanted the programs to be both representative of the company’s vision, as well as reflective of its past. The season will include a world premiere by former POB Étoile José Carlos Martínez, as well as US premieres by Petr Zuska and Alexander Ekman. The company will also perform Jewels, La Bayadère & Ashton’s Cinderella, and the celebrations will see three of Boston Ballet’s dancers showcasing their own choreography, including that of principal dancer Jeffrey Cirio.
Jeffrey’s sister, Lia, also a principal dancer, shared with me some of her picks for the upcoming season: “I am looking forward to everything we are doing. I love La Bayadère. The role of Nikiya is probably one of the closest to my heart. Working with former POB Étoile Florence [Clerc] is amazing. I cannot wait. I am also looking forward to dancing Jewels. I was fitted for the lead role in Diamonds, which I have not done before. The word “excited” does not explain how I feel getting to dance that. I also think that Cacti will be a very interesting work, and I always love dancing Jorma’s works. In reality, I love dancing everything, so I can’t wait for the new season to begin. Well, after a few weeks off, of course!”
Nissinen says he is very excited about the high caliber of performances, as well as the new works on show. When putting a program together, Nissinen thinks about it “Like a chef. Where do we want to start, how to create balance. How is the audience throughout the evening? Some programmes start off loud then digress. Sometimes they build up.” Much like a first date and getting to know the other one, the upcoming London tour will allow a new audience to experience the Boston Ballet style. Nissinen says he is looking forward to showing the different sides of Boston Ballet with the two programs they will be offering: featuring Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun, George Balanchine’s Serenade and Symphony in Three Movements, plus resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s Plan to B (2004), Program A will clearly be saying “American Ballet Company”, while Program B, he notes, shows off the company’s versatility with three contemporary masterpieces – William Forsythe’s The Second Detail, Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, and Jiří Kylián’s Bella Figura.
During my visit to Boston, Jeffrey Cirio also shared his thoughts: “It is very difficult to prepare for such an important tour after a long and intense season. Our bodies are tired and we could all use some rest. But the dancers at Boston Ballet are the type who will dig in and get it done. We are trying to remain focused, we are all working hard, and we are hoping to represent Boston Ballet well in London. Performing at the Coliseum is exciting and an honor and we hope that the London audience appreciates the varied rep that our company brings.”
Lia shares her brother’s enthusiasm: “It is exciting to rehearse in the Royal Opera House and perform at the Coliseum. I am happy to be able to share what we do with London. I am also very excited to do some sightseeing after our performances are finished. I am a huge Shakespeare fan, so I am looking forward to going to Stratford-upon-Avon and I love English history – so I am in the right place”, while soloist John Lam (pictured above, and below with Lia) sums it up: “Thoughts about the London trip? We are ready and can’t wait to show the UK what BB is all about!”
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge & see as slideshow)
All photos © Brian Mengini
Despite all the anniversary and tour excitement, the company has not forgotten where it comes from and the community it serves. In this spirit, Boston Ballet has created a wonderful t-shirt as a tribute to the tragedy of the Boston Marathon which occurred under a mile away from BB’s Clarendon Street studios with all the proceeds going to The One Fund. To purchase a shirt, visit Boston Ballet’s Online Shop.
Boston Ballet at the London Coliseum: Program A (Nijinsky/Balanchine/Elo) 3, 4, 6 & 7 July, Program B (Wheeldon/Kylián/Forsythe) 5 & 6 July. For tickets and further information, visit the ENO/Coliseum Website.
About the Author
Photographer Brian Mengini resides in suburban Philadelphia and keeps a studio in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Brian’s unending passion for ballet came in the summer of 2007, when the Mann Center asked him to come in and shoot the Royal Ballet’s final performance of Swan Lake. Since then, his images have appeared in a variety of exhibits and publications including Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine. In June of 2010, Brian started Barre Boys, a website dedicated to the male in ballet with a goal of squashing stereotypes and inspiring more males to pursue ballet. Together with his wife, he has launched Hope Dances, a nonprofit dance outreach program for children with special needs.