“Rhapsody”, which opened on May 16 and continues through June 9, is Boston Ballet’s end-of-the-season farewell to its fans and supporters before they return from the summer break.
Appropriately, there is a looking-back quality to the selections from classical ballet as well as a jazzily modern ring to the centerpiece: “ELA, Rhapsody in Blue.”
Leonid Yakobson, a 20th-century Soviet choreographer, who starts off the program, shares both neo-classical and modern qualities with his audience.
His first piece, “Pas de Quatre,” leads off with four dancers who exude grace and stature in a sure-footed threesome that dance the whole short piece without ever unlinking hands which over arch all their movements.
The unshakable grace is supremely classical. One could imagine the Russian Czar and his family watching a ballet such as “Pas de Quatre” and leaving re-affirmed in their belief that the Romanov dynasty would never, ever fall while such grace prevailed.
The only fly-in-the-ointment of their royal satisfaction might be that none of these four dancers could be discerned in their supremely cooperative alliance as “first-among-equals.” Indeed, in the original 1845 piece, which Yakobson transformed in his 1971 re-do, the four ballerinas, according to the explanation in the program, were each superstars competing for the audience’s attention.
No linking hands while the Czar, or even a random royal, might be watching and expecting, nay deserving, a winner-take-all finale!
The next Yakobson piece is titled “Rodin” and with flashing skin-tight costumes in eye-catching hues caressed by dramatic lighting there is no mistaking the modernity of this balletic homage to Rodin’s many tributes to the different aspects of love.
Grace there is, but a rapid, kinetic grace that transforms itself into succeeding postures before the eye has hardly brought its initial pose into focus. One can feel, watching a pair of frenetic dancers in “The Eternal Idol” expressing their passion, uncomfortably like a voyeur ogling the deeply private and personal.
And yet, once again, Yakobson’s vision proves itself to be presciently modern, predicting as it does our 21st century addiction to watching our neighbors in their most intimate activities from kitchen to bedroom without flinching.
The centerpiece of the program, “ELA, Rhapsody in Blue,” was choreographed by the Boston Ballet’s lead dancer, Brazilian-born Paulo Arrais and set to George Gershwin’s music. This ballet features one strong woman’s journey through courtship and family, back-grounded and surrounded by male dancers bare-chested in vests.
It is Arrais’ tribute to her strength and love, both passionate and nurturing, triumphant and despairing as Ela journeys through life.
The audience was mostly riveted to the expressionist tableaux of a life lived and shared to the full. Clapping in rhythm to the dancing took over as the audience resonated to the need to give back some of the vitality emanating from the stage.
The last piece, “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2,” was choreographed in 1971 by George Balanchine to the music of the title. Lively classical music surged from the orchestra pit as Balanchine’s choreography echoed with visual restraint and éclat Tchaikovsky’s varied rhythms.
The ballet was mostly stripped down of the usual costume and scenery that always decorated true romantic ballet so that the dancers’ whirls and spins shone unwrapped as it were, without what modern sensibilities perceive as camouflage. Two lead dancers were alternately tender and nakedly impassioned, as a multitude of ballerinas echoed and expanded on the intricate pathways of their romance.
All in all, an evening honoring the heritage and looking forward to the future of the Boston Ballet’s dancers and their art.
(The Boston Ballet’s presentation of “Rhapsody” continues through June 9 at Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston, Massachusetts. For more information, call (617) 695-6944 or visit bostonballet.org.)