October 11, 2023
Review: Boston Ballet's 'Fall Experience' Is Not to Be Missed
Sue Katz READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Boston Ballet's extraordinary "Fall Experience" runs until October 15 at the Citizens Bank Opera House. With the four separate, unrelated pieces they've included in the program, "experience" is an apt description. It is a show full of emotion, variety, surprises, and brilliance. The final piece is quite simply a masterpiece.
The evening begins with the Boston Ballet's own Jorma Elo, the Resident Choreographer, and his piece "Bach Cello Suites." The curtain rises to Sergey Antonov, the prize-winning cellist, at one end of the stage, serenading 10 dancers as they morph seamlessly into varied combinations. Their simple costumes of black leotards and tights help emphasize the soothing quality of the "Bach Cello Suites" and allow the audience to focus on the devotion of these talented dancers to interpret the music with intimacy. The choreography employs myriad balance points among the dancers, a quite fluid and flexible approach to partnering.
"Trois Gnossiennes" by the prolific Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen features the pianist Alex Foaksman at one end of the stage on a low platform surrounded by three dancers whose only role is to move that platform around the space. This pas de deux to Erik Satie's Gnossiennes Nos. 1-3 features Ji Young Chae and Patrick Yocum at their most lyrical. His leading is impeccable and her backwards stretch-outs and smooth splits are mesmerizing. Her extensions and control during the many lifts are unparalleled, as the audience is fully hushed and uplifted. This is a beautifully performed piece of trust and almost acrobatic grace.
"Form and Gesture" by Artist of the Company My'Kal Stromile is not only the choreographer's first mainstage work, it is also a world premiere – the first of two that we'll see. The complex structure of the piece (13 dancers in five sections) is the scaffolding on which Stromile has built his work. Initially in silhouette against a white background, the dancers work to teach one of their own how to pose and where to place his limbs. Soon dancers appear in bright blue costumes but they are interrupted by a man in street clothes. While the music of the early segments is dissonant, this man ends up dancing to the noise of a crowd. The women come out with flat, stiff tutus that remind me of 45rpm records. The whole concept is fresh, almost experimental. The home audience was in the palm of Stromile's hand and he received an explosive standing ovation.
Finally, we were profoundly rewarded with Akram Khan's "Vertical Road (Reimagined) 2023," another World Premiere. Dramatic and hypnotic, this is as magical a piece as I have ever seen on a stage. To music by composer Nitin Sawhney, with whom Khan often works, the hero cannot awaken the otherworldly mummy-like woman who sheds clouds of dust whenever he touches her. Behind them a group in eerie shadow begin to come into focus, and to shake off piles of dust.
The London-born Khan has achieved an astonishing list of awards and honors, many times through innovative collaborations with a massive list of such creative people as the writer Hanif Kureishi, the artist Anish Kapoor, and the singer Kylie Minogue. The influence of his classical South Asian dance background is felt in the texture of his expression. His unique creative process asks the 12 dancers to concentrate exclusively on "Vertical Road" for over six weeks of rehearsals, and to contribute to the emotional tenor of the performance.
Khan's goals are anything but minimal. He wants his work "to express and question what it means to be human..." And for the audience, as well, this feels like an all-consuming dive into the heart of life, of death, and of living. This piece is an exploration of the fragility and mutability of the body. The set and lighting amplify the wallop of revelation at the end, provoking the loudest collective gasp I have ever heard in a hall. Once the audience caught its breath, the dancers received ovation after cheering ovation. It was the intensity of artistic experience one is honored to be part of very few times in life.
Remaining performances of "Fall Experience" are Thursday, Oct 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct 13 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct 14 at 1:30 p.m.; and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct 15. Performances are at the Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA. For more information, visit the Boston Ballet website.
Sue Katz is a "wordsmith and rebel" who has been widely published on the three continents where she has lived. She used to be proudest of her 20-year martial arts career, her world travel, and her edgy blog Consenting Adult (suekatz.typepad.com), but now she's all about her collection of short stories about the love lives of older people, Lillian's Last Affair.