Import/Export: Dances with Stars

 

In the mid-’70s, Jorma Elo and Mikko Nissinen were just "two punks from Finland," teenage dancers who’d scraped together enough cash for a transatlantic trip to see George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet. Within days, they were talking their way into the School of American Ballet, where they shared rehearsal space with Nureyev and Baryshnikov. "It felt oddly normal," Elo remembers. "These were guys we’d seen just in books or dance magazines. Suddenly they’re right there, asking us, ‘Okay, what can you do?’"

Thirty years later, Elo is resident choreographer at Boston Ballet, run by his old pal Nissinen, and he’s still keen on rubbing shoulders with legends. This month, to celebrate the centennial of the Ballets Russes, the local company is re-creating dances made famous by the influential Parisian troupe, with choreography by an all-star roster that includes Balanchine, Nijinsky, Fokine, and…Elo himself, taking on Stravinsky’s notoriously complex Rite of Spring. (Apparently, the cool Finnish chutzpah remains intact.) For his part, Elo says the move is less about inserting himself into such illustrious ranks than finding inspiration in their struggle to create a fresh masterpiece. "Even the great names always have that blank page in front of them," he says. "I think they have been humbled by that page, and then excited by that page. That’s where I feel the connection."

Performances 5/14–5/17, Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston, 617-482-9393, bostonballet.org.

ADVERTISMENT