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Boston Ballet season closes with ‘Fancy Free’

Jules Becker
Boston Ballet season closes with ‘Fancy Free’
Lawrence Rines, Boston Ballet dancer. (Photo: Boston Ballet)

Lawrence Rines probably could not have picked a better time to train and dance with the Boston Ballet. The Philadelphia dancer joined Boston Ballet II in 2009 during a time of great advancement for the company.

With apprentice turns in such company favorites as “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Nutcracker,” Rines was promoted last year to the position of company dancer. Recently, he demonstrated his talent in ensemble turns with strong extension and good leaps in an inspired revival of “Don Quixote.” Such growth can also be seen in the company as a whole.  

A force in the world of American dance, Boston Ballet has reached a high level of technique and polish under the artistic direction of Mikko Nissinen. Now that Nissinen is celebrating his 10th anniversary season as the company’s leader, it is particularly fitting that the season’s final program “Fancy Free” closes with “Etudes,” which demonstrates the superb form and equal fire of the entire corps de ballet.

A one-act 1948 ballet by the late Royal Danish Ballet dancer Harald Lander, “Etudes” (“Studies”) begins with simple barre exercises and closes with an intricate ensemble finale.

 In between, soloists, couples and diverse groups move through such standard ballet routines as tendus (stretches), ronds de jambe (leg circlings) and ports de bras (graceful arm movements). Rines, along with several other corps dancers and soloists, displayed good height in both small leaps and broad leaps and impressive spirit as one of a group of men identified as Gentlemen.

The Gentlemen also partnered Ladies in White and Ladies in Black in the larger ensembles that precede the finale. The program’s press release notes that Lander saw ballet combining spirit, dance and music. Thomas Lund consistently captured all three elements in his tightly synchronized staging. On opening night, Jeffrey Cirio proved a standout as one of the Solo Gentlemen with exciting leaps and wide turns. As Ballerina, principal Misa Kuranaga exhibited strong extensions and full pirouettes. The final Sortie (exit) brought together the principals and dozens of soloists and corps members in a breathtaking full ensemble. It bore witness to the skills of the individual dancers and Nissinen’s achievement with this estimable company.

That achievement is very much in evidence as well in the first two ballets. “Barber Violin Concerto,” choreographed by famed former New York City Opera principal Peter Martins. Set to the title concerto — played by violinist Lydia Hong — this opening study in contrast brings together two diverse couples, one classical and one contemporary. Dancers switch partners later to return to their original couples. At the opening, Lia Ciro and Pavel Gurevich as the classical pair, and Sylvia Deaton and especially Yuri Yanowsky as the contemporary one, gave distinct expression to movements conveying sadness, exuberance and reflection.

Exuberance is the dominant tone of the middle piece, which doubled as the name to the program. “Fancy Free,” with high-stepping Jerome Robbins choreography and pulsating Leonard Bernstein music, demonstrated the company’s skill with narrative ballet.

Here, three sailors on leave in New York move in and out of romantic involvements with young women passersby. If this story sounds familiar, it was to become a Robbins-Bernstein hit musical “On the Town.”

Some of the music pre-figures Bernstein’s quick-tempo numbers for the famed later collaboration with Robbins, namely “West Side Story.”  

On opening night, Isaac Akiba, Paul Craig and James Whiteside danced the roles of the sailors with impressive agility and caught their diverse personalities with good expressiveness.

Bernstein fans should also head over to the Paramount Theater for “Maestro.” Hershey Felder, an accomplished pianist in his own right, combines well-played  excerpts and numerous insights about Bernstein in this thoughtful one-man homage.

Among the insights are a vivid segment about the conflict between the conductor-composer and his father about his choice of profession and mention of an evening that the very liberal Bernstein and his wife held for the Black Panthers.

Felder will also reprise “George Gershwin Alone,” his one-man look at George Gershwin, May 30-June 10.

Felder’s tribute gives significant attention to his landmark opera “Porgy and Bess,” now in a Tony Award-nominated musical version “The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” (first staged locally at the American Repertory Theatre) at least through September 30 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway.

“Fancy Free” runs through Sunday at the Opera House: www.bostonballet.org or 617-695-6955.

“Maestro” also runs through Sunday at Paramount Theater: www.artsemerson.org or 617-824-8000.