Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A belated fanfare for the Ballet's "Next Generation"

The dancers and players of Fanfare - photo: Rosalie O'Connor.

I've been meaning to post a note about the Boston Ballet's "Next Generation" performance of almost two weeks ago (!), which probably counts as the most fun I've had at a dance concert in some time - or at least since the last "Next Generation" concert. This year, as always, the opening Les Passages sequence was adorable, and gave everyone a chance to show off what they can do, even though one or two students took a spill (as one or two students do every year, don't sweat it guys).  I was encouraged to see that once again it seemed more boys were making a serious commitment to dance; gone are the days when an ocean of young ballerinas had to be organized around only a handful of teen danseurs.

The contributions from Boston Ballet II were likewise compelling, although the excerpts from Jorma Elo's Lost by Last, alas, seemed a bit blurry; far more finished was the climactic pas de deux from Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty, here essayed by rising talents Dawn Atkins and Marcus Romeo. Both are elegant dancers, and both all but gleamed in their roles as Aurora and Prince Désiré. Mr. Romeo did seem to tire slightly, however, over the course of his solos, while Ms. Atkins seemed to only move from strength to strength in an elegant tour de force that was remarkable in a dancer so young.

I have to admit that the Ballet saved the best for last, however, with Jerome Robbins' captivating Fanfare, set to Britten's justly famous The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (itself a brilliant set of variations on a theme by Purcell), narrated with professorial bemusement by New England Conservatory's own Tony Woodcock - and played with confidence and freedom by the Conservatory's orchestra (under the baton of the Ballet's Jonathan McPhee).

The choreography was likewise delightful - Robbins organizes squads of dancers (all in fanciful unitards, with the instrument they represent emblazoned on their chests) into a kind of balletic half-time show that's never less than charming and sometimes flat-out hilarious.  And the Ballet's Next Generation danced it to the hilt, with just the right kind of tongue-in-cheek aplomb.  (The Percussion crew in particular - Beau Fisher, Andres Garcia, and Christopher Scruggs - put the audience into stitches with their deadpan slapstick.) The work's final fugue proved quite dazzling in its complexity, and wrapped the evening with a rousing burst of energy.  The crowd enthusiastically rose to their feet at the finale - proud parents, beaming dance fans, and even a few giggling critics among them.  And as the lights went up on the house, the future of dance looked bright indeed.

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