Boston Ballet: Are You Elo Experienced?
Boston Ballet regulars know that resident choreographer Jorma Elo makes the company the hardest working dance corps in the business. Any of his dance pieces features no narrative, stark scenery, and constant motion. The viewer can only watch the dancers closely as they combine surreal contortions, ethereal grace, and speed, speed, speed. A dance of his may last only ten minutes, but the viewer is bedazzled and breathless, eager to see it again. That’s why he gets commissions all over the world when he’s not living in Boston, his artistic home.
So it was a thrill last week to catch the world premiere of the Boston Ballet’s Elo Experience which featured two hourlong halves of non-stop action. The concept was basic, but the execution complex: take excerpts of his dances created over the years and create a (ahem) dance remix of them. Indeed, the performance was so seamless and moved so quickly that there was no point in reading the program. Astute observers may have recognized parts of Elo’s previous pieces for the Boston Ballet, such as Plan to B and In on Blue, but in the end, one didn’t care. When faced with such breathtaking motion after breathtaking motion, you need only sit back and enjoy the near-ecstatic rush.
The device that linked all the elements was a pair of narrators who danced and recited abstract cut-up dialogue. These roles were played by the Ballet’s most venerable member, Larissa Ponomarenko, and its most exciting young dancer, Jeffrey Cirio. Ponomarenko was in a black tutu and tiara, while Cirio was in a sleek pantsuit — the contrast which illustrated the tension between tradition and modernism that makes so much of Elo’s work exciting. This contrast was also reflected in the music that ranged from Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi to minimalist Philip Glass and film composer Bernard Herrmann.
There’s always a lovely buzz when a premiere goes well, and indeed Elo and company received a hearty standing O. But after the curtain dropped for the final time and as the audience filed out, you could hear the dancers themselves cheering on their fearless choreographer. Having interviewed him, I can vouch that he’s a friendly but reserved guy, true to his Finnish upbringing.
And indeed I said hi to him at intermission where he seemed nervous, understandably — he still had another half of a premiere to go. Let’s hope he can breathe easy after last night’s success.
If you have any interest in modern dance, buy a ticket now. If you don’t go, buy me a ticket because I want to go again. I’m afraid I missed something; the evening went by so fast.
“Elo Experience” is performed by the Boston Ballet at the Boston Opera House until April 3. Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, 617-695-6955, bostonballet.org.