Jorma Elo, Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer, returns to the stage with a world premiere inspired by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. The 35-minute ensemble piece will feature simple costumes and set elements as well as lighting designed to replicate the four seasons in Finland. We caught up with Elo before his piece chasses to the Boston Opera House alongside Obsidian Tear on Nov. 3-12.
What was the choreographic process for this piece? [The dancers] know me well, and we create a lot of the movements together in the studio. I have structures of different groups and I plan ahead, but a lot of the material is kind of being made in the moment here in the studio and will in the end fit the music perfectly.
This piece uses all Finnish composers; how was it creating a piece that pays tribute to your heritage? You’re used to the music that you heard as a child in your surroundings so much, but here I am in Boston presenting this music to the dancers who have never heard it. So that collaboration of somebody knowing the music really well and somebody being introduced to it for the first time when we start working in the studio, I think it’s an interesting clash of our minds connected to the music. I think there’s beauty in it.
What do you hope the audience will learn from the performance? I actually don’t think of the audience very much in the creative process; it’s not the starting point for me. I want to go deep into the world of the music and then go even deeper with the dancers with my ideas and their ideas. And then I think if those ideas are really rich and we create a world that is fascinating for us, we’ll take the audience into our magical journey that we have built for them and that intimate thought process that we have had with our dancers to take that journey will blow the audience away.
During your childhood you wanted to be an ice hockey player. What got you interested in becoming a choreographer? Yes, in Finland the winters were long. … Ice hockey was a big way to spend our youth and it was my first love for movement, so I did everything to be the best mover I could become. My sisters were in dance classes so I thought, “Hey, that would make me a better ice hockey play if I go to a dance class.” … When I went to the dance class, there was music playing, so the dance class gave me a similar kind of physicality … but it was connected to the music. So that kind of took me over and I wanted to become a dancer… I transitioned from dancing to being a choreographer.
16 square feet of stage space is available to choreographers for Tiny and Short: A Drop in the Bucket, coming to the Dance Complex on Oct. 13-15. And the performance series also challenges choreographers to create a piece crunched for time—dancers have only three minutes on stage.
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