Boston Ballet’s Our Journey Featuring Works by Justin Peck and Nanine Linning

Boston Ballet’s Our Journey Featuring Works by Justin Peck and Nanine Linning

Boston Ballet’s mixed bill Our Journey is the last contemporary program of the season and one that you will not want to miss. La Mer whose world premiere was on opening night was received with a standing ovation and round of cheers, yelps and bravos because it was exceptional. Often, the contemporary mixed bills are not accompanied by live music. It was a treat for Our Journey to have the music performed live including hauntingly moving choral music for La Mer performed by the Lorelei Ensemble.

Boston Ballet in Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go is a jazzy contemporary piece with all the energy of ships, planes, trains and automobiles. It is fast paced with a few contrasting quiet moments. Everywhere We Go is an easy to watch piece with music that evoked different modes of getting somewhere. The costumes were simple, giving the dance a very Balanchine feel. The women wear striped tops that had a vintage Marseille by the sea-side look. I love how Peck played with an x and y axis on much of the partnering with one partner standing (y) and the other lying (x) at their feet it felt fresh and went with the very architectural aesthetic of the piece. The backdrop was a moving geometric pattern that felt like a cross between when you have an eye exam and they are sliding the lenses back and forth and a kaleidoscope. For those of us old enough to remember the Sesame Street Pinball Number Count animation by Jeff Hale set to the funky soundtrack by The Pointer Sisters, Everywhere We Go evoked that memory for me. You were entranced by the geometry of it all, captivated by the sequences, wanting to know what would come next while also just enjoying the ride.

Boston Ballet in Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

While all the dancers were on their A game for Everywhere We Go there were a few standouts that really caught my attention. Long time Boston Ballet soloist Lawrence Rines Munro really brought Peck’s choreography to life in technicolor. This was a breakthrough performance for Rines Munro. No matter where on the stage he was, my eyes were drawn to him because the movement had an extra dimension or flavor that only Lawrence Rines Munro seemed to carry with him throughout the entire performance. Another pair that caught my attention was the partnership of principal Derek Dunn and soloist Chisako Oga. Both have been with Boston Ballet for a while, but in this performance their partnership brought them to the next level. I could not get enough of Dunn and Oga together. It was almost like a pas de deux while everyone else on stage faded into the background. I hope to see Dunn and Oga in many more duets in both contemporary and story ballets because I don’t think there is a role they would not absolutely rock together. There is something about the dynamic between them and total confidence and comfort with one another that makes you feel something great.

Boston Ballet in Nanine Linning’s La Mer, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

And now for the piece de resistance, La MerLa Mer is a tidal wave of a tour de force created by Nanine Linning.  

The curtain pulls back and you feel as if you are toes in the sand by the seashore, early morning, looking out at the vastness of the ocean. The combination of video, a giant rock-like structure with a cluster of sirens attached like barnacles to its surface and the fog rolling off the edge of the stage is breathtaking. Breathtaking is an interesting word. It is usually a positive experience of awe and bliss, and yet breath is something we need to survive. If someone were to literally take our breath we would die. That’s a bit like this work by Linnings. La Mer is beautiful, the ocean is beautiful, but what we have done to it is tragic. We are sucking the life out of our oceans. La Mer was created with the help of Woods Hole Oceonographic Institution, and if you look at the names alone of each piece you understand the gravity of the situation: Extinction, The Luring Call of Greed, The Great Wave, Deadzone, Oil Spill Song of the Sirens, Turmoil of Mankind. So in every sense of the word La Mer is breathtaking in the meaning of beauty and of representing how we are suffocating our natural environment. While it deals with sadness, loss and destruction the experience of watching it is one of awe and beauty. It is an artistic paradox.

Ji Young Chae, Soobin Lee, and Sage Humphries in Nanine Linning’s La Mer, photo by Brooke Trisolini, courtesy of Boston Balle

In addition to the visuals on stage, the costumes for La Mer really evoked the natural elements of the ocean. I especially loved the way different colors of the ocean were created in many of the costumes with shades of blues, greens, purples, and a black dark shimmer. The fluid, shapeless, genderless costumes make the performance richer. I have been seeing genderless costumes more frequently and they only enrich the dance and somehow elevate the dancer to something beyond the box of their gendered person. Jeffrey Cirio in Oil Spill of the Sirens transcends himself as a male principal dancer and becomes a limitless part of the ocean story he is telling through Linnings work. The same is true for Ji Young Chae in Turmoil of Mankind, while much more human in shape and character for that piece, there is a neutrality representing all human-kind (perhaps a more apt title for the piece). Ji Young Chae shows pain and struggle in the work with quirky movements and the most unballetic sickled foot representing perhaps the complete opposite of beauty (at least in the world of ballet) and the ugliness of humankind.

Jeffrey Cirio in Nanine Linning’s La Mer, photo by Brooke Trisolini, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Every Boston Ballet season, there is at least one work that I think, “I wish everyone could see this.”. Every couple of years there is a piece that I want to see again and I know that I will be counting the years until it is performed again. La Mer is that ballet. It is a work that will stick with me vividly for a very long time. Whenever I get to see it again. I will be celebrating that moment as much as when I wait for a visit to my favorite place on earth, which happens to be on the water in a national park in Canada surrounded by mountains, where I float on the water looking up at the sky and remember how small I am as an individual person but how complete I feel as part of my natural surroundings.

Ji Young Chae in Nanine Linning’s La Mer, photo by Brooke Trisolini, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Our Journey takes place at the Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston and runs through Sunday, April 16th.  Tickets start at $39 and can be purchased here or call 617-695-6955

Our Journey is approximately one hour and 55 minutes including one intermission.

Boston Ballet in Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

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