Princesses & Pirates vs Sugarplums & Soldiers: Boston Ballet's Le Corsaire
Jardin Animé in Ivan Liška's Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

Princesses & Pirates vs Sugarplums & Soldiers: Boston Ballet's Le Corsaire

Maria Barano in Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

I know! I know ! “Nutcracker is a tradition!” you exclaim.  Do you know how many “traditions” get stale and are mentioned later in life as that day we all dreaded?  Don’t get me wrong, Nutcracker is a fun family ballet, but if you really want to share an appreciation of the arts you have to do more than see the same show year after year.  Stick to your tradition if you must, but I highly recommend adding Le Corsaire to your family’s repertoire.  It has something for everyone and a much better story line. I was invited to preview Le Corsaire at a rehearsal and view a performance for review.  I am also hoping to go back one more time with the whole family, by getting a pair of student rush tickets for the kids.  This will be Henry’s first ballet and I think he will love it.

Lia Cirio in Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

Don’t worry about getting your Sugar Plum and Snow Queen fix because Medora and Gulnara are just as beautiful and gilded. Medora is the adopted daughter of Lankedem who is the richest merchant in town and Gulnara is Lankedem’s slave.

Irlan Silva and Eris Nezha in rehearsal for Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

As for the Battle scene between the mice and the soldiers, Le Corsaire will raise that up a notch with metal on metal, clanging swords, pirates, and slave traders battling it out across the stage.  Just as Clara saves the day with her ballet shoe in the Nutcracker Medora wields a knife and is not afraid to use it.

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Yes, the snow scene is idyllic and beautiful, but Le Corsaire has a stunning “Jardin Animé” where the garden blooms with dancers of all ages coming together to create a montage less frosty than the snow scene, but no less magical.

In the Nutcracker, the audience really comes alive for the National pride, folk-like, dances of the Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, French Pastoral, and Russian characters.  In Le Corsaire, you have this energy throughout the entire ballet.  The pirates leap through the air, and toss their wenches up in the air.  Even the slow sad dance of the slave girls is exotic and mystical.

Lia Cirio, Irlan Silva, and Roddy Doble in Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

As for the drama, that Drosselmeier provides, Le Corsaire has trickery, there are disguises, there is deception and all kinds of push and pull between the characters.  Moral of the story: never trust a pirate or a slave merchant.

The tree that grows up to the sky in the Nutcracker is impressive, but not quite as impressive as a full blown Pirate’s ship sailing into the storm on the Boston Opera House stage.

Nutcracker kicks off the Holiday season running from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, but Le Corsaire, débuts Boston Ballet’s 2016-2017 season giving you a taste of who’s who and what to expect in the year ahead.

Seo Hye Han and Lasha Khozashvili in Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

I was able to see both Seo Hye Han and Ashley Ellis at Medora.  Both were exceptional.  Seo Hye Han was recently promoted to the role of principal and I am really looking forward to see her step up in that role as she certainly does in Le Corsaire.  Ashley Ellis is a veteran principal and it shows.  She is breathtaking as Medora and has that perfect balance of dancer and actress in her performance.  It is impossible to take your eyes off of Ellis’ Medora and her movement seems so effortless. Ashley Ellis’ ability to make her dancing appear so natural allows the audience to really get sucked into the story.

In ballets there are star roles and then there are dancers who make their role stellar.  Maria Alvarez, one of the corsaire’s girlfriends is one of those stars.  Her smile is infectious and her dancing is strong and full of character.  The children of the Jardin Animé are also little mini stars, performing side by side with the Boston Ballet company members and holding their own night after night. Lasha Khozashvili, as the Said Pasha does an fantastic job of his role with the right balance of bufoonery and stage precense.

Seo Hye Han, Lasha Khozashvili an Irlan Silva in Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire Photo by Liza Voll courtesy of Boston Ballet

The brightest stars were Ashley Ellis, Irlan Silva, and Dusty Button, who danced the role of Gulnara.  Irlan Silva, who danced the role of Ali the slave, was incredible in this performance.  Silva embodies his character with every breath and curl of his finger to has heart as he bows down being the slave that he is.  Irlan Silva was untouchable with his perfect leaps, incredible elan and flexibility.  Silva is a soloist to watch this year.  I cannot wait to see what other roles he will be given, because I now know what he can do with them.  Another surprise was soloist, Junxiong Zhao who danced the part of Conrad, a corsaire (pirate). Junxiong Zhao began the ballet as a good corsaire and dancer but as the story evolved Zhao’s dancing became more and more impressive.  Strong lifts, and pristine, totally airborne leaps put this soloist on my radar for the first time.  Also notable were performances by Sabi Varga as Birbanto, a Corsaire (Pirate), Roddy Doble as Lankedem, a wealthy slave trader, and Lasha Khozashvili as Said Pasha.  The energy is high in the dancing throughout the story as is the drama.  These dancers never lose character, and push the machismo up a notch for each act.

Note that the time and place of this story, is not one that is particularly favourable to women, but then again, with this election there seems to be plenty of opportunities to talk about that with your kids.

Boston Ballet’s performance of Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire runs through Sunday November 6th.  Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit or call 617.695.6955For information on discounted tickets you can click here or .  I can also have 3 $10 Karma Codes for if you are interested please leave a comment below with an email address and I will send to the 1st three). Goldstar has discounted tickets for Wednesday and Saturday matinee.

Remaining performances are:

  • Wednesday, Nov 2 at 7:30 pm
  • Thursday, Nov 3 at 7:30 pm
  • Friday, Nov 4 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, Nov 5 at 1 pm
  • Saturday, Nov 5 at 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, Nov 6 at 1 pm



  1. It so cool Leah that you will get to see a third cast!! Everyone I took with me loved it and a couple of friends are coming back for seconds! Such a celebration of dance! (love your comment about portrayal the women in light of the coming elections! Byron’s original some has additional complexity:)

    • Yes. I found that interesting to note about the changes in the story re: Medora.

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