Parts I love & Parts I Don’t: Boston Ballet’s Parts in Suite

Strings and ballet have always been a big part of my life.  I played the violin at home, I played in the school orchestra and just about any time outside of school was spent at the studio dancing.  Maybe that is why I love Bach Cello Suites so much.  I don’t think it’s the only reason though.  I was lucky enough to see the word premiere of Bach Cello Suites in 2015 and I fell in love with it then.  The music is gorgeous and wraps around you like a tender hug and the choreography melds perfectly with the music.  There is no work on the audience’s part in watching or loving Bach Cello Suites. Parts in Suite is a mixed bill that of pieces from William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018 to Jorma Elo’s Bach Cello Suites. I still love Bach Cello Suites as much as ever, but I also liked how Parts in Suite was put together.  It is a series of three pieces each very different from one another but with a common thread.

Boston Ballet Dancers
Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Bach Cello Suites; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Bach Cello Suites

Who should see Bach Cello Suites?  Well aside from everyone, I think anyone who studies music, especially cello would enjoy this performance.  The interaction between music and movement is on display as both musician and dancers share the stage.  You can read more about the piece here.  Be sure to head downstairs on the lower level of the theatre before the show or during intermission.  There is an exhibit of sorts called The Warm-up in the lower lobby with useful information on display and activities from learning ballet positions to sending postcards to family.  I learned, for example, that Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen designed the lattice for Bach Cello Suites, which is one of my favourite pieces of scenery.  I love how it shifts throughout the piece.  Apparently, it was designed for the shadows it creates on stage.

Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo's Bach Cello Suites; photo by Rosalie O'Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet in Jorma Elo’s Bach Cello Suites; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

In Creases

The Boston Ballet Premiere of In Creases choreographed by Justin Peck, NYC Ballet’s resident choreographer, was a nice contrast and companion to Bach Cello Suites.  The movement and music again, were both featured center stage.  This time, two pianos in Philip Glass’ Four Movements for Two Pianos set the stage for Peck’s choreography.  The dancers Lia Cirio, Dawn Atkins, Emily Entigh, Lauren Herfindahl, Roddy Doble, Daniel Durrett, Irlan Silva and Desean Taber wove their way in and out of the music.

Seo Hye Han and Justin Peck rehearsing Justin Peck’s In Creases; photo by Sabi Varga © Varga Images, courtesy of Boston Ballet

The “storyline” of In Creases has a playfulness of numbers.  The stage is set for two pianos always, but the dancers come and go in any number of combinations.  There are beautiful “photo moments” when the dancers hold their poses as if for a photograph and unique lifts and turns throughout the piece.

Kathleen Breen Combes in Justin Peck's In Creases; photo by Rosalie O'Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Kathleen Breen Combes in Justin Peck’s In Creases; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

She Loves Me/She Loves Me Not

Pas/Parts 2018 is harder for me to write about because I’m torn.  I loved the dancing and didn’t love the music.  Thom Willem’s music starts off quite screachy, like a child learning to play the violin, and several audience members had their fingers plugging their ears.  I don’t mind a little music that wakes the audience and perhaps creates discomfort to make a point in the piece or the narrative of the dance.  For me, the discomfort continued and the music became a huge distraction from the dancing.  The best way I can describe it is that I felt like the music scratched my brain. My daughter didn’t have the same reaction though.  She enjoyed the piece through and through, music and all. I’m hoping that my reaction to the music is just an anomaly, because William Forsythe’s pieces are gorgeous.  Pas/Parts 2018 really highlights both new and veteran dancers in the company.  Like In Creases there is an ebb and flow of solos, duets, trios, septets and more.

Hannah Bettes, Patrick Yocum, and Roddy Doble in William Forsythe's Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O'Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Hannah Bettes, Patrick Yocum, and Roddy Doble in William Forsythe’s Pas/Parts 2018; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Parts in Suite

What I love about Boston Ballet’s mixed bills is that they are always so thoughtfully put together.  They have the audience in mind and a theme that carries through the entire performance.  The very simple costumes and lighting throughout each of these pieces lets the audience focus on the purity of the movement.  The lighting as a finishing touch making the scene polished and highlights the dancers and musicians just so.  It makes me think a bit about an exhibit I recently saw at the Museum of Fine Arts.  The exhibit I saw was called Klimt and Schiele. When I think of Klimt, I think of Gustav Klimt’s famous gilded work:  The Kiss.  It is golden and bright and bold.  This exhibit, however has Klimt’s drawings they are black and white, ink or chalk often on brown wrapping paper.  They are so simple and yet so precise and full of detail.

Parts in Suite is that drawing, the careful choice of just one or two colours and the focus on lines and details without layers and layers of colour and design.  The more classical ballets such as Romeo and Juliet have all the costumes and props and sets and “gilding” of The Kiss whereas Parts in Suite is the artist’s pared down work.  It is just as beautiful and skillful but very different and in some ways pure.

Gustav Klimt's drawing of Juliet on exhibit at the MFA in Boston.
Gustav Klimt’s drawing of Juliet on exhibit at the MFA in Boston. This is the one drawing I took a picture of.  It just happens to be Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, which Boston Ballet is also performing concurrently with Parts in Suite.

All performances of Parts In Suite take place at the Boston Opera House (539 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111):

  • Friday, Mar 30 at 7:30 pm
  • Thursday, Apr 5 at 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, Apr 7 at 7:30 pm*

*indicates post-show talk with artists Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit bostonballet.org or call 617.695.6955.

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