Boston Ballet School and Boston Ballet II: Next Generation
Boston Opera House, Boston, MA; May 6, 2015
This year’s Boston Ballet Next Generation performance, which features students, trainees, and members of Boston Ballet II (the apprentice company), was satisfying in many respects.
First, it was instructive (all puns intended) to see the progression of training among the students. The initial offering, Les Passages, with music by Giuseppe Verdi and choreography by members of the Boston Ballet School faculty, showcased that training. It reminded me very much of Harald Lander’s Études, which the professional company presented last spring. While Études takes the conceit of examining each aspect of a dancer’s training about as far as it can go in terms of bravura challenges, Les Passages features dancers-in-training and is geared to their still-limited technical skills. Even the greatest dancers in the world start somewhere, however, and Les Passages offers a glimpse of the chrysalis from which butterflies may emerge.
As the program continued, several members of BB II began to take flight – literally and figuratively. When they appear in Boston Ballet repertoire, BB II dancers are usually assigned corps roles, such as party guests in The Nutcracker. What a privilege to see them step into the spotlight and show why they were invited to join the apprentice company. In the Paquita Pas de Trois, with music by Minkus and choreography by Petipa, Albert Gordon gave a performance of stunning athleticism and grace. His cabriole jumps, which he landed in perfect position and then froze for seconds on end, just about took one’s breath away.
In Les Gentilhommes, with music by Händel and choreography by Peter Martins, Samivel Evans gave what might be called an object lesson in sheer elegance. The positions of his head and hands as well as the coordination of his upper and lower body were not merely correct but inspired. Gordon and Evans are dancers of such refinement that one hopes they will be taken into the professional company so that Boston audiences can see more of them.
Among the BB II women, Serena Søvdsnes in the Paquita Pas de Trois and Alexandra Heier in George Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 (music by Mozart), were the most memorable. Both had confidence, lovely technique, and seemed genuinely happy to be onstage. One hopes that they too will be promoted. Also in Divertimento No. 15, trainee Riko Fujita stood out as a dancer with sparkling presence.
The music, most of it under the baton of Boston Ballet Orchestra assistant conductor Genevieve Leclair, was provided by the New England Conservatory (NEC) Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and the NEC Chamber and Philharmonia Orchestras. They could not have been more professional. The program started with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla, conducted by David Loebel, which had a few murky moments, but the Verdi, Minkus, Händel, and Mozart were all beautifully realized. An expressive clarinet solo in the Verdi, played by Allen Yang, and a violin passage in another piece that ended on a sustained high note were especially notable.
Such a high-level collaboration between student orchestras and dancers-in-training is, no doubt, unusual. On this sixth anniversary of Next Generation, it’s something to celebrate.