I was invited by the Boston Ballet to attend the dress rehearsal of Thrill of Contact, the company’s latest performance, which you can see now at the Boston Opera House through May 24.
The dress rehearsal, held the night before the show opened to the public, was an impressive behind the scenes peek at the very hard work—and incredible talent—that goes into a ballet performance.
As a ballet novice—a fan, but a novice—witnessing the dress rehearsal was thrilling. I sat a few rows from the stage with other bloggers and media representatives, careful to stay out of the way of the director and production team who needed a clear line of vision to closely watch each lift, jeté, and pirouette in an effort to ensure that opening night would be perfect. After each performance, the director and the team went on stage to give notes, and, sometimes, the dancers ran through a sequence again to address a concern or to try it again with the music at a slightly different tempo.
Most of all, I loved how the dancers, in between performances, laughed and talked with one another or practiced their steps. In fact, by the end of the rehearsal, the edges of the stage were crowded with dancers, dressed in their street clothes with their hair still pulled back in buns, watching their colleagues perform, twirling about en pointe. I loved how they remained, even when their parts were over, to support one another, and I loved how genuinely excited they seemed to be to watch the performance. There was great unity among the members of the company, and that camaraderie comes through in their dancing.
Thrill of Contact includes four separate ballets and runs about two hours. The first ballet, Theme and Variations, features choreography by the great George Balanchine and beautiful music by Pete Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The most traditional in approach and feel of the performances during Thrill of Contact, Theme and Variations was so moving; I’ll admit to getting a little misty-eyed watching the dancers float and glide across the stage! With Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Cirio in lead roles, many members of the corps contributed to this very successful ballet. It’s the kind of dance that makes people fall in love with ballet.
The second dance, fremd, has its world premier during Thrill of Contact. Choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio, a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, fremd is set against music by Chopin, John Field, Byetone, and Aphex Twin. It’s a captivating, modern piece that’s a nice contrast to Theme and Variations.
The third dance, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, was one of my favorites. I loved the acid green tutus designed by Stephen Galloway and the stark backdrop. Choreographed by William Forsythe, the piece uses music by Franz Schubert for this, its Boston Ballet world premiere. The notes I scribbled on my Playbill to describe the piece—which features five dancers: Kathleen Breen Combes, Erica Cornejo, Misa Kuranaga, Bo Busby, and John Lam—were “infectious spirit,” “modern,” and “fresh.”
The final dance, The Concert, was choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with music by Frédéric Chopin. This one was so much fun, and it had those of us at the dress rehearsal laughing and smiling! Combining comedy with ballet is a winner in my book; it’s a twist on the more traditional form of ballet, making this art form accessible to first-time visitors as well as ballet aficionados. The Concert is playful and engaging, and kudos go to Ashley Ellis, Lasha Khozashvili, and Dusty Button who take lead roles in its execution.
Spring is a perfect time to go to the ballet! Truthfully, anytime is the perfect time to go to the ballet, but Thrill of Contact is only going on this spring in Boston. Don’t miss it.
Tickets for Thrill of Contact are on sale now at bostonballet.org. The show runs through May 24.
Disclosure: Thanks to the Boston Ballet for inviting me to this dress rehearsal!