Boston Ballet’s current program “Shades of Sound” is all about striking contrasts, from minimalist white-to-black stage sets to music that ranges from Tchaikovsky to the White Stripes. There’s no other way you’d hear the melody of Jack White’s “The Hardest Button to Button” played on tuned cowbells in a percussion section spread through the side boxes of the Opera House, heightening a sense of stereo in opening piece “Chroma” as part of the Boston Ballet’s largest-ever orchestra.
Of course the music by Jody Talbot and White — iced by that satellite menagerie of drums and mallet instruments – complements the facile, fluid movement of the dancers, briskly stretching and dipping in graceful contortions choreographed by Wayne McGregor and staged within a white box. George Balanchine’s “Episodes,” evolving to a grey backdrop for dancers in black-and-white, came off more static (by comparison) yet playful in a pas de deux by Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in the Saturday matinee of the program’s first weekend.
Finally, in its Boston Ballet debut, the closing Hans van Manen-choreographed “Black Box” cast its title’s shade in both its backdrop and costuming. The women sported party dresses with high heels rather than pointe shoes and paired off in frisky ballroom and tango steps to a range of classical pieces. Later, with champagne flutes in hand, the couples devolved into movements of drunken frivolity, complete with staggering toward a waiter for hopeful refills – and a toast to the audience. A dash of humor to top off the occasionally rocking attitude and music of a ballet program well suited to a general audience with spring in its step.
“Shades of Sound” closes out with performances this Thursday through Sunday. Tickets at Boston Ballet.