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‘The Gift’ from Boston Ballet

Company dancers choreograph new works inspired by ‘The Nutcracker’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘The Gift’ from Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet in BB@yourhome: The Gift; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

On Dec. 17, Boston Ballet premiered “The Gift,” an hour-long program featuring original works choreographed by Boston Ballet company dancers Paul Craig, Chyrstyn Fentroy, John Lam, Haley Schwan, My’Kal Stromile, Gabriel Lorena and Arianna Hughlett. “The Gift” is available for streaming through Dec. 27 with ticket purchase.

These original works are set to Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite,” the jazzy remix of Tchaikovsky’s classic score, bringing a new twist to the Ballet’s annual production. My’Kal Stromile choreographed a short piece set in the “untracked,” a term that refers to the musical interlude between two acts of a performance. There isn’t one in Tchaikovsky’s score, but Ellington put a few bars into his adaptation.

Alainah Grace Reidy and Boston Ballet II in The Gift; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Alainah Grace Reidy and Boston Ballet II in The Gift; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

“Something that I really wanted to highlight for this section is this idea that everyone is at the theater, the lights have come up, people are socializing, it’s a very energetic and lively dance,” says Stromile. “It’s a full story that happens in two minutes.” In a time when viewers are not able to visit the theater for the traditional holiday show, Stromile creates the feeling of the theater experience and the special magic of “The Nutcracker.”

The performances recognize our current challenges: The dancers are wearing masks during each piece, while bringing the joy of dance and exuberant energy into viewers’ homes. In one instance, the dancers aren’t on stage in the opera house but in the street outside it in plain clothes, in a powerful embrace of life as we know it and as we never expected it. “The Gift” illustrates a more inclusive, accessible vision of Boston Ballet.

In addition to the new works, “The Gift” features a performance of the classic pas de deux from Act II of “The Nutcracker,” performed by principal dancers Viktorina Kapitonova and Tigran Mkrtchyan to the original score. One of the most recognizable parts of the show, it serves to bring a little piece of the annual ballet experience to viewers everywhere.

Though working during the pandemic has been a challenge to Stromile, he says it’s allowed him to flex new creative muscles and to get back to the original purpose of the Ballet’s work.

“The whole point of what art is anyway is to connect with people individually and personally,” he says. “Although we’re not at the opera house with all the fancy production lights and everything … art is not just this big, grandiose illustration of strength and of beauty, it’s also something you can have at home when it’s snowing outside.”

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