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Interplay of music, dance center stage for Boston Ballet’s new season

Susan Saccoccia
Susan Saccoccia
Interplay of music, dance center stage for Boston Ballet’s  new season
Boston Ballet in Justin Peck’s “In Creases.” (Photo: Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet)

Boston Ballet opened its spring season with “Parts in Suite,” a trio of works by living choreographers who are in the vanguard of advancing ballet as a 21st-century art form. On stage through April 7 at Boston Opera House, the program presents “Bach Cello Suites,” by resident choreographer Jorma Elo; “In Creases,” by Justin Peck of New York City Ballet; and “Pas/Parts 2018,” by world-renowned contemporary ballet pioneer William Forsythe.

In a delightful demonstration of the interplay between music and dance that is celebrated in the dancers’ whirling, leaping and torquing bodies, the works by Elo and Peck feature live musicians on stage with the dancers. The electronic score of the third work, “Pas/Parts 2018,” while not performed live, is born of an extraordinary partnership between Forsythe and composer Thom Willems, who have collaborated on more than 60 ballets.

On the web

For more information about the new season of Boston Ballet and “Parts in Suite,” visit:

Black and white contrasts

A two-hour program with two intermissions, “Parts in Suite” began with the enchanting work by Elo, in which a highly energetic ensemble of five women and five men conveyed great serenity. Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen designed its spare set, a lattice suspended overhead that rises, falls and turns at an angle during the 40-minute performance, casting evocative shadows, with lighting by John Cuff and sleek black costumes by Charles Heightchew that accent the dancers’ contours.

“Bach Cello Suites” opened with a darkened stage and a spotlight on a single figure to the right, cellist Sergey Antonov, who performed the suite with exquisite tenderness. As soloists and pairs, the dancers gradually joined him on stage, interacting in intimate duos and fast-moving ensemble formations that echo Baroque dance patterns of Bach’s era. Each couple had its own tempo and personality, and each conveyed subtle fluctuations in mood with concise, semi-abstract movements, their brevity like a language of balletic emotional shorthand. Gestures were incomplete, but fluid, like the music.

Peck, 31, the youngest choreographer of the three, is a soloist at New York City Ballet, and its resident choreographer. Compact in length — just 17 minutes — his “In Creases” was packed with visual surprises. Performed by four men and four women in sleek white costumes designed by Peck and Mark Happel with silver pointe shoes for the women and black socks on the men, the exuberant piece unfolded against plain white walls, with agile lighting by Mark Stanley. In sharp contrast to the white set and costumes, two grand pianos, joined together, formed a long black bar behind the dancers.

Pianists Alex Foaksman and Freda Locker played “Four Movements for Two Pianos,” a Philip Glass composition laced with repetitive rhythms. In tune with the highly patterned score, the dancers frequently clustered in geometric forms — lines, circles and rows. As soloists, in duos and in unison, they moved with great precision and acrobatic verve, constantly varying speed and seeming to both defy and exaggerate the pull of gravity with the same movement. In the finale, seven dancers were on the floor, their legs crisscrossed in a rug-like mass, while one made his way across their bodies, slowly raising one leg at a time as if pulling himself out of a swamp. It was great fun to watch, and over too soon.

The final acts

Concluding the program is Forsythe’s “Pas/Parts 2018,” which he first presented in 1999 with the Paris Opera Ballet. He substantially revised it for its 2016 American premiere at the San Francisco Ballet and has now adapted it for the Boston Ballet as part of his five-year partnership with the company.

A 14-member ensemble performs this challenging, cerebral work to jarring electronica by Willems. Forsythe designed the monumental white walls and pearlescent lighting that encompass the dancers, who wear multicolored costumes by Stephen Galloway. The work opens with a compelling solo, performed on this night by Emily Entingh, in which the lone dancer, dwarfed by the set, spanned the stage to a rasping whistle-like sound. Groups continually shifted during the 20 sections of this 37-minute piece — eight solos, five duets, three trios, a nonet, a sextet, a septet and a finale uniting all. Relieving the relentless momentum were Seo Hye Han’s swinging solo to a syncopated passage in the score and a lyrical duet by Roddy Doble and Chyrstyn Fentroy to a melodic interlude.

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