Boston Ballet treats public to free performance
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 03:09
Bostonians young and old swarmed Boston Common this past Saturday — some toting blankets and lawn chairs, others preferring to stand in the growing sea of people — to watch the Boston Ballet’s “Night of Stars.” A one-night event celebrating the ballet’s 50th anniversary season, “Night of Stars” was free to the public. Commencing promptly at 7 p.m. and continuing late into the evening, dancers performed 20- to 30-minute “samples” from seven ballets in their repertoire, broken up by one lengthy intermission. The atmosphere was vibrant and alive, almost like that of an outdoor music concert. Yet, despite the estimated 55,000 attendees, the Common remained relatively quiet, an almost conspiratorial hush washing over the crowd at the start of each new number.
Certainly, it is easy to understand how a dedicated supporter of the Boston Ballet and a casual passerby alike might have both been enthralled by the “Night of Stars” performance. Dancers executed complex sequences flawlessly — including a total count of 890 pirouettes — and beautiful partner work fit perfectly into the evening’s intimate setting under the stars. A mostly bare stage, outfitted only with an enormous fabric backdrop, was elegant and adaptable. Rippling in the wind, the seemingly simple sheet was bathed in different shades of red, blue and green light during every new mini-ballet, adding a dynamic element to the set.
The event’s downtown location also contributed spectacularly to its unique atmosphere. From the vantage point of the crowd, the bright lights of the city’s skyline were prominently visible, and sounds of traffic occasionally punctuated the music of the full orchestra which accompanied most dances. Far from distracting, these urban reminders of city life appealed further to the senses of the audience, creating an exciting energy altogether different from a ballet performed inside an elaborate concert hall.
Requiring at least 40 pairs of pointe shoes, 700 bobby pins and 800-plus hours of rehearsal, according to the Boston Ballet’s website, “Night of Stars” was no doubt an exceptional event. The sheer scope of “Night of Stars” was perhaps its only flaw. Thick crowds occasionally became claustrophobic and called for an active police presence; scores of portable toilets lined the green — the antithesis of the grace and refinement of the ballet. Erected near the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets, the stage was the largest the Boston Common has ever seen, and yet it was often impossible to see the event unfolding on the stage itself. In these cases, viewers had to watch the action on one of several giant screens projecting the performance. However, all of these elements were forgivable: certain concessions were necessary to make the event maximally inclusive, reaching thousands of viewers for a live performance that they would otherwise not get to see.
The varied nature of the performance, too, signified to all that this was no ordinary ballet. “Night of Stars” included both classical and contemporary pieces. The 345 yards of tulle adorning dancers during finale piece “Serenade” contrasted sharply with the modern, unembellished leotards worn during the performance of George Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements.” Similarly, the excerpts from Christopher Bruce’s upbeat and unorthodox ballet “Rooster” were set to songs by The Rolling Stones, a departure from the more orchestral music that characterized the rest of the evening.
Of the many shining moments of “Night of Stars,” the highlight was the lavish and imaginative piece, “La Bayad.” Gold and green hues covered the stage as it was transformed into an exotic facsimile of ancient India. A classic romance, Marius Petipa’s ballet — here adapted by Florence Clerc — tells the story of temple dancer Nikiya and soldier Solor, two lovers kept apart by fate. Featuring particularly strong choreography from male dancers, “La Bayad籥” will be performed by the Boston Ballet as part of its 2013-2014 season at the Boston Opera House. Performances will run from Oct. 24th to Nov. 3rd, with tickets currently available for purchase online at www.boxoffice.bostonballet.org.