Boston Ballet Broadly Entertains with "Thrill of Contact"


The Boston Ballet has a spring in its step – and a mischievous penchant for stylistic juxtapositions in dancing, costuming and music – in recent programs. And that’s especially true in “Thrill of Contact,” which closes the season in crowd-pleasing fashion this Thursday through Sunday.

The company had already kicked into May with “Edge of Vision,” a program with music spanning Ravi Shankar, Bach and the Chieftains’ Paddy Maloney, whose Uilleann pipes flavored “The Celts,” a lively piece that Boston Ballet turned into its own vision of “Riverdance.” It was proof that these professional ballet dancers seemingly have the skills to pull off just about anything.

How about comedy as well to balance the drama? “Thrill of Contact” dashes what the average person might expect from a ballet program, potentially to entertain a wider audience — yet with a challenge to absorb the extremes.

Sure, “Thrill of Contact” begins with the traditional delights of the George Balanchine-choreographed “Theme and Variations,” a classical ballet where dancers elegantly weave in cyclical lines to the music of Tchaikovsky. But then “fremd,” choreographed by company dancer Jeffrey Cirio, takes a fractured modern turn. Starkly dressed dancers mix sweeping contortions and slow-motion movements (with flicked fingers lending subtle details) while the contrasting soundtrack spookily alternates electronic music (led by the sparse twitching of Aphex Twin) and solo classical piano to the largely detached visions.

However, after William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” (visually bright with dancers in contrasting yellow and purple outfits to the brisk sounds of Schubert), the program closes with the Broadway-esque farce of the Jerome Robbins-choreographed “The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody).”

There’s some great dancing amid visual props, including a somberly beautiful passage that involves people raising and lowering umbrellas. But nearly every sequence of the Chopin-scored “The Concert” is sweetly timed to comic effect, from onstage solo accompanist Freda Locker dusting her piano keys to a group of ballerinas falling out of sync to a running, gag-laced storyline with a Groucho Marx-ist husband lured by a free-spirited dancer, before everyone turns into butterflies.

If audiences have open minds to stretch from the traditional to the contemporary, plus humor for good measure, “Thrill of Contact” provides theater-goers with a broad slice of entertainment.

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