Dance Meccas around the world are New York City, Los Angeles and Moscow, but did anyone take a look at the plethora of dance performances, opportunities and innovations in Boston?
Over the past few months it’s become more and more apparent that Boston is growing as a dance center for traveling companies, dance instruction schools and Boston Ballet, one of the best and most well-known ballet companies in the world.
New vision and classic technique
The Boston Ballet’s full-length production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," choreographed by George Balanchine was an experience rather than just a show. It is a definitive reason as to why the Boston Ballet Company is so well-respected and popular. The costumes, set and music transformed the Victorian-decorated Citi Wang Theatre into a fairy woodland, complete with impressive fouette sequences and comedic relief from Puck.
But not everything was perfect, despite the 25 children from the Boston Ballet School who were jubilant, energetic and just plain great at playing some of the mystical creatures. The Pas de Deux, or partner dancing section, which made up the entire second act, was repetitive and quite frankly, boring. However, the dancing was never flawed and each movement was carried out precisely — a true hallmark of great ballet. That’s the thing about ballet: it is all about perfection and doing things a certain way that has been in existence for centuries.
March will be a month of innovation for the Boston Ballet when "New Visions," the work of resident choreographer Jorma Elo delving into the world of contemporary ballet, comes to life March 1 through March 4. Also, Christopher Wheeldon’s award-winning Polyphonia and the return of Val Caniparoli’s exhilarating Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion will be danced during "New Visions."
But contemporary ballet has been taken to new heights and intricacies thanks to the work of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, creators of Complexions Dance Company, based in New York City. The troupe was featured in the Bank of America Celebrity Series and appeared at the Boston University Tsai Center February 2 and February 3 to a sold-out house and an enthusiastic audience.
Complexions stir the mind
The creators and directors of the Complexions company, Rhoden and Richardson, are both former Alvin Ailey dancers with impressive dance resumes. The self-called “contemporary ballet” genre of dance their company members perform, is an eclectic mix of ballet, jazz and modern dance with influences from Ailey, Twyla Tharp and other key performers in the genre.
For a student in Boston, tickets to the ballet and dance performances can be expensive, but $20 for a student rush ticket bought me an evening of inspiration and incredible talent. All the dancers were flexible, showcased strong ballet backgrounds and broke barriers in terms of traditional styles of dance. Plus, this was the Boston premiere of the Complexions company.
The company has a very diverse group of dancers with varying ethnicities, heights, body types and styles of dance. This made for a great dynamic where the same movement was portrayed in a different way because of contrasting heights between partners.
The first piece, “Hissy Fits,” was described in the program as a comment on the tumultuous and ambivalent nature of relationships, and the movement for the piece depicted that sentiment perfectly. The full performance showcased a range of emotions, ideas and dance styles with Fosse-inspired jazz, Ailey inspired contractions, as well as the influence of Rhoden and Richardson, who manifest their love and reverence for dance through dedication and modernization.
Complexions will be traveling all over the world for their 2006-2007 season and will include first time performances in Israel, Wales, Poland, among other places.
Student dancers take art new heights
With the hundreds of universities and colleges in and around Boston, an enormous number of dance clubs, companies and groups emerge to create unique pieces with individualistic choreography and a sense of community.
Boston University is one such school that is not only a fountain of education, but an outlet for various dance teams, groups and even classes for credit. February 15 through 18, "Aurora Borealis: A festival of light and dance" took the stage at the Whitney Auditorium in the Calderwood Pavilion to a small crowd of friends and families.
In its fifth production, "Aurora Borealis," directed by Judith Chaffee and Micki Taylor-Pinney, students from both the School of Theatre and the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance at BU came together to perform pieces of "dance theatre": ballet-inspired lyrical and a melding of hip hop, jazz and lyrical in another piece.
All of the pieces — most strikingly "Still Life" and "Clash" — use unconventional techniques of timing and melding of styles. Despite fairly simply costuming, but with incredible light engineering and special effects, the dances were all breathtakingly fresh. Leaving the theatre left a sense of "I’ve just seen something new" rather than the feeling of "I’ve seen that 10 times last year." It was really refreshing to see dances performed by students juggling not only a passion for dance, but one for college classes as well.
The pieces "If Any Such Space Exists" and "Meeting Points," channeled theatrical dance productions such as "Einstein on the Beach." In "Meeting Points" the audience lost all sense of time with the beats provided by the performers and the change in directions. It was as if Robert Wilson (director of "Einstein on the Beach") and Lucinda Childs (choreographer for "Einstein on the Beach") had come together to create these two specific pieces using techniques of dance of body control and extending motions through long periods of time.
A hub of dance is in full swing
So many new and exciting dance companies pass through Boston, and Internet dance sites such as www.dancemagazine.com and www.dance.net are all great tools for finding out the latest in the dance world and in the Boston area. The Boston Ballet will also be performing "Classic Balanchine" and "Giselle" during early May, not to mention the yearly visit from the Alvin Ailey Company in April. Plus the Compania Nacional de Danza, a contemporary Spanish ballet group will be showing at the Schubert Theatre. The events are plentiful if you know where to look.
With a little research and an open mind, the dance possibilities in Boston are endless.