The Boston Ballet’s world premier presentation of “Full on Forsythe” opened on Thursday, March 7 and will run through March 17 at the Boston Opera House. Madeleine, my wife and partner in this critique, sat beside me for the full two hour and 30-minute performance with two intermissions.
Madeleine was restive during the first of the three pieces, which I could sympathize with, since this first work, titled, obscurely, “Pas/Parts 2018,” is packed with so much raw energy, helicoptering dancers, electronic bonging and shearing and vibrating that I too sat back in my seat feeling the ice in my veins from the outside temperature begin to boil and bubble.
And yet, as avant-garde a choreographer as William Forsythe is, he is also a performer, and knows when to slow down, just as the month of March proverbially “roars like a lion and goes out like a lamb.”
The second piece, titled “Blake Works 1,” is both in its musical score and the dancing more a celebration of classical ballet than a deconstruction, or, as it struck Madeleine, a dismembering of all that she loves. Indeed, as we trooped up the aisle to our second intermission, Madeleine’s judgement was kinder.
In “Blake Works 1,” the human voice comes through the instrumentals in an often bluesy, yearning drawl; the dancers linger on the structures of classical ballet before leaping into arabesques we’ve never seen before — movements that seem to owe more to spontaneous inspiration than classical form. Though not familiar, the movements are well-formed and the dancers in control and connected to their fellow dancers — not exactly, to continue the metaphor of March, lambs, but less lionish.
Mountain goats or antelopes bounding across a wide plain seems a more fitting analogy. At its best, Forsythe’s choreography make one forget the limits of the stage and feel as unbounded as the dancers while knowing, intellectually, that they have to at last acknowledge gravity and float to the ground.
The final piece, “Playlist,” is a world premiere especially created by Forsythe for the Boston Ballet, and continues to seduce fans of dance who hover between a love of the “lawlessness” of contemporary dance and the formal structures of ballet.
There were many moments during “Playlist” where music that veered from hip-hop to blues seemed to be not only an aural but a visual phenomenon as the dancers moved lithe limbs to the spirit, or spirits that moved through the music. The lighting and scenery play a subsidiary role to the rhetoric of the dance, never obscuring, always enhancing what the dancers’ bodies and spirits are saying.
Overall, a winning combination that kept us, as audience, more or less comfortably on the edge of our seats.
(Boston Ballet presents “Full on Forsythe from March 7 through 17 at the Boston Opera House, Boston, Massachusetts. For more information, visit bostonballet.org.)