Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Backstage at "Black and White"

I was lucky enough to be invited this weekend to one of the final rehearsals for Boston Ballet's American premiere of Jiří Kylián’s dance program "Black and White." (Opening at the Citi Performing Arts Center this Thursday.) The Ballet has already performed two of the dances ("Sarabande" and "Falling Angels"), but this is actually the first time Kylián has licensed all five ballets to an American company.

I won't discuss the dances themselves (you can get a sense of them from the original Nederlans Dans Theatre production, which Kylián directs, above), except to say that yes, they're theatrical and exciting and sexy and funny, and all the more so up close and personal, as it were (although with only a few key costumes and props, and none of the striking lighting). I really think the Ballet should invite the general public to their rehearsals (although I know that's impossible!) - if only because it's the best way to experience the thrilling physicality of dance. When you're just inches away from the performers, and able to see the flex of every muscle and twist of each ligament (as well as, yes, the beads of sweat and the bandages and bruises), it's impossible to hang onto silly resentments about the supposed snobbery of the form and not experience something like awe at these amazing artist-athletes.

And awe not merely at the fact that they're such physical thoroughbreds, but at the the sheer discipline and determination behind their achievement. In rehearsal, you can see when somebody's had a long Saturday night (this was Sunday morning!), or when someone is already winded even before their next entrance, or when somebody begins to hobble as soon as they're offstage. And then they turn right around and come back and begin doing moves that would put yours truly in the hospital. And then they do it again. It's the kind of discipline that may be matched only by Olympians. And by that I mean both the athletes and the gods.

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