Kaleidoscope: Boston Ballet's Spring Fever

Kaleidoscope: Boston Ballet's Spring Fever

Okay, so it is snowing outside, and we’re all half-heartedly  grumbling. The truth is, we know we’ve been spoiled this winter and this little last hurrah of a snow fall is nothing we can’t handle. While the world outside is a bit confusing, there is nothing confusing going on at the Opera House. Boston Ballet has a serious case of spring fever with Kaleidoscope, and like the snow outside it will be gone before you know it.  


Boston Ballet in George Balanchine’s Kammermusik No. 2 ©The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet
It only happens occasionally that I want to see a performance for a second or third time within a week or so, but I found myself grinning ear to ear throughout Kaleidoscope and I cannot wait to see it again this week.  Just like Pharell’s song Happy you can’t help but “clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth”.  Boston Ballet provided me with press tickets and I purchased tickets to see it all again. 

When is the last time you picked up a kaleidoscope and looked through it?  When looking through that magical scope, you can’t help but get lost in the patterns and colours you see.  In fact, if you need one to look through, stop by Joie de Vivre in Cambridge, they have a wonderful collection of Kaleidoscopes.  Or, raid the children’s toy chest.  

The word kaleidoscope is rooted in Greek with kalos meaning  “beautiful” and eidos meaning “form”.  Boston Ballet understands beautiful form so well.  Their dancers each bring something to the stage in terms of their form, they are able to absorb and project the styles that each dance requires and there is passion to spare, so much so that the audience can’t help but soak some of it in.   

Lia Cirio and Dusty Button Boston Ballet in Leonid Yakobson’s Pas de Quatre; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Kaleidoscope begins with Balanchine’s Kammermusik No. 2. The stage is clean and costumes simple, which I like because the movement then becomes brighter and louder than the setting. Kammermusik No. 2 plays with tempo in an almost mischievous way. It reminds me a bit of Peter Pan and his shadow. 

 The choreography feels new and fresh as so much of Balanchine’s work does despite having premiered in 1978. Kammermusik No.2 is abstract but the movement is filled with the familiar; skipping, hopping, and jumping. Watching Kammermusik you feel like you are seeing something new yet familiar. It’s a wonderful experience. Both Lia Cirio and Dusty Button were a great point and counterpoint for one another as the female leads. 

Ji Young Chae, Seo Hye Han, and Misa Kuranaga in William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, costumes by Stephen Galloway; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

 The men in Kammermusik were the most polished group I have seen this year aside from Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler which was also a male triple tour de force! Kammermusik was a perfectly beautiful whirlwind and that was just the “warm up” compared with the whirlwind that is Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude

Everrett Shinn The White Ballet 1904 oil on Canvas. On display at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.
In between Kammermusik and Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude is Pas de Quatre, a piece that feels like it is taken straight out of a ballet history book.  The look (long tutus from the romantic era), lighting and feel of the piece is like a painting.  Take the iPhone’s Live Photos and cross it with Everett Shinn’s The White Ballet painting (minus several dancers) and you have Pas de Quatre. 

Pas de Quatre feels like a dream. It is like climbing into the mind of a little dancer lost in a daydream standing in a museum staring at one of Dégas’ paintings of dancers; the room and the people around him/her disappears and (s)he imagines him/herself in that time and place.  Pas de Quatre has that effect on the audience. It takes you through time and space to the world of Marie Taglioni, Carlotta Grisi (1819 – 1899), Fanny Cerrito (1817 – 1909) and Lucile Grahn (1819 – 1907).  

This Pas de Quatre was choreographed by Leonid Yakobson, a revolutionary choreographic voice of the 20th century.  Yakobson created 178 ballets in his lifetime, including many “miniatures” out of necessity.  Miniatures were created in the 1970’s due to imposed restrictions by Soviet authority for what they saw as a threat to classical ballet, limited resources and suppression.  These miniatures are like the most well crafted bon bons.  Little perfect bites with a full flavour story from first nibble to last lick of the lips.  

Boston Ballet in Leonid Yakobson’s Pas de Quatre; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

After Pas de Quatre you’re brought forward through time to the 1990’s for William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, which is a bit like Kammermusik on acid.  The strikingly bright lighting and the bold colours as well as the sharpness of the costumes (a tutu reduced to a single thin line) and the “no time to even take a breath” speed of the movement doesn’t give you time to think too much.  You just open your eyes and take it all in and after you find yourself on your feet clapping and grinning ear to ear because”…how cool was that?!” 

Boston Ballet in Léonide Massine’s Gaîté Parisienne; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet’s Kaleidoscope ends with the piece that has my favourite set and collection of costumes.  Gaité Parisienne is a spectacle of delectable proportions.  You can almost hear the thick French accent as soon as the curtain rises (the second curtain that is).  Where Pas de Quatre is a perfectly crafted poem, Gaité Parisienne is a comedic collection of short stories.  You would have to see it several times to catch all the stories.  The pantomime is equally matched with Léonide Missine’s choreography. 

If you’re not already grinning ear to ear (I was from the very first moments of Kammermusik), then you will be grinning and giggling by the time the Parisian party begins.   

Anaïs Chalendard and Paul Craig in Léonide Massine’s Gaîté Parisienne; photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Kaleidoscope is a great 1st ballet for anyone new to ballet.  This collection of pieces create a well balanced program.  Nothing is too heavy or too abstract, but there is a little of everything making Kaleidoscope palatable for even the newest and youngest audience members.  Gaité Parisienne has some slightly lewd skirt fluffing and a little Champagne imbibing but nothing I would deem inappropriate for the little ones.  

Only a handful of performances remain. All of Boston Ballet’s Kaleidoscope performances are at the Boston Opera House.  Remaining performances are:

  • Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm
  • Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm
  • Friday, March 25, 2016 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 1:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit www.bostonballet.org or call 617-695-6955. For tips on getting discounted tickets click here

 Kaleidoscope performance length is approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions.

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