Stage Review: Boston Ballet Spins 'Mirrors' off 'Swan Lake'

Dancers converge to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” in one of Boston Ballet’s current productions. 

With music alone, beside the latter’s Tchaikovsky score, the evolving “Mirrors” stretches from classical piano to electronic soundtracks to Miles Davis’ jazz-rock, matching those sounds to stark, largely monochromic sets that draw focus to bodies in motion. It starts with the program’s moody, most three-dimensional piece, “Resonance.” The Jose Martinez-choreographed reprise of a 2014 Boston Ballet premiere brings a constant movement of dancers to the brisk, emotive flourishes of Liszt, traded between two pianists. One’s next to the orchestra pit, the other onstage, revealed within rolling partitions that lend a shifting, angular landscape — and silhouettes.The month of May finds Boston Ballet presenting dual programs that neatly cover opposite ends of the ballet spectrum, with its modern four-piece package “Mirrors” now running through May 28, joining the return of traditional favorite “Swan Lake,” which continues through May 26.

“Belong,” a Boston Ballet premiere, appears modest by comparison. It’s a short pas de deux graced by intimate, lingering embraces and a few impressive leaps, choreographed by Norbert Vesak to music by Canadian electronic group Syrinx. But “Mirrors” continues to deepen with “Smoke and Mirrors,” the first of its two world premieres by the company, highlighted by physical, kinetic ensemble work where female dancers wear corsets with handles for partners to grab for crisper turns. There’s a heightened sense of mystery in this piece choreographed by retired principal dancer Yury Yanowsky, backed by monolithic hanging panels of golden rectangles and odd, foreboding music by Berklee-bred composer Lucas Vidal, whose scoring credits include the action movie Fast & Furious 6. His blend of electronic and acoustic sounds waver and punch, lending percussive accents and strings one minute, then dissolving into conversational static that evokes a broadcast from astronauts.

Yet the second world premiere, “Bitches Brew,” showcases the program’s brashest music in Miles Davis’ brooding title track to that 1969 fusion landmark. One dancer emerges with bold reactions to Davis’ piercing trumpet bursts over bubbling electric piano before the rest of the ensemble joins in with funky sweeps and jagged contortions under Karole Armitage’s choreography. Dancers break the program’s monochromatic streak, with gun-metal bodysuits that reflect stage lighting, plus varied coloring below the dancers’ knees, as if they dipped in paint.

The palette’s obviously richer for “Swan Lake,” one of the jewels in the repertoire of Boston Ballet – and classical ballet in general – and this reprise proves still-splendid with its tale of a prince deceived by a dark sorcerer. As with the “The Nutcracker,” the other famous ballet scored by Tchaikovsky, even-lavish court dancing can seem repetitive after a while. But when ballerina swans rise from the dry-ice fog of the lake (below) and dance in eye-popping synchronized lines and circles, the spell extends to the audience. And on opening night, principal Misa Kuranaga nailed the mirror-flip roles of fragile white swan Odette and devious black imposter Odile with a flutter.

Between its equally complementary productions, Boston Ballet spins something to charm most any dance fan this month – and that extends to one extreme or the other for adventurous neophytes as well as aficionados.

Swans on the lake.


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