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Ballet Review | Boston Ballet Fall Program is lively, dynamic

Dancers perform to Bach, The Rolling Stones

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11

As The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” blasted through the theater during Christopher Bruce’s “Rooster” last Friday night, Boston Ballet dancer Jeffrey Cirio spun with enough force to fling his tie over one shoulder. It stayed there, hanging nonchalantly next to Cirio’s impish grin, for one second too long, a subtle indicator of just how much fun the performers were having. After all, dancing to The Rolling Stones isn’t the time for worrying about whether or not your tie is on straight.

“Rooster” is the superb and eye−catching opener of the Boston Ballet’s Fall Program. It’s hard not to feel happy when listening to The Stones groove through classics like “Not Fade Away” and “Ruby Tuesday,” but watching the Boston Ballet rock stars channel their inner Mick Jaggers during the show is the icing on an already delicious cake.

The men, dressed in flashy suit jackets and ties, dominate this piece with swagger that would make the Stones proud. Bradley Schlagheck, positioned at the front for Bruce’s delightfully quirky interpretation of the Stones’ song “Little Red Rooster,” delivers with pecks and head bobs worthy of the cockiest bird. The rest of the company, with more than a few highly entertaining solos, follows him through the remaining seven songs with choreography that draws the appropriate nods to go−go and Stones−era dance moves.

The program’s centerpiece, a world premiere from Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer Jorma Elo, is a thoughtful narrative on the arc of a man’s life. “Awake Only” opens with a touching sequence between Cirio and the young, adorable and brilliant Liam Lurker, a Boston Ballet School student. From there, an emotional and oftentimes baffling narrative unfolds, leading audiences through the story of Cirio as a conflicted son trying to make sense of his life and relationship with his younger self. Elo plays with ideas of what it means to tell a story though movement, and Cirio joins the lively Sabi Varga and a dynamite company in playing along.

“Awake Only” does feel a little melodramatic at times — for example, it ends with the young boy cradling Cirio’s limp head in his arms, and its viewers get the sense that movement isn’t sufficient for the whole range of emotions that Elo wants to convey. But interesting gestures set alongside some sweeping, larger−than−life solos from Cirio and Varga make for a pleasing and thoughtful account of a coming−of−age story set to Bach.

For this program, though, Boston Ballet saves the best for last. The company’s interpretation of William Forsythe’s forceful “The Second Detail” causes the heart to beat faster and makes the legs wish they could escape their seats to join in. The Boston Ballet’s dancers attack this piece with attitude and precision that is thrilling to watch.

Forsythe’s mechanical choreography is a perfectly logical pairing to Thom Willems’ pounding, synthetic music. It’s a combination from which it is nearly impossible to pull your eyes, or ears, away. Each dancer is a cog in a well−oiled, restless machine, but each also has an opportunity to express his or her inner diva — they are selfish actors in a play that requires teamwork. During the performance, quartets or pairs take center stage to make unified statements as a group only to finish dancing and strut away to stand on the side with their hips jutted out, assessing the competition. Forsythe’s dances often take classical technique and turn it on its head and “The Second Detail” is no exception. The dancing is wild, then tightly wound, then explosive, but it is always confident.

Boston Ballet’s Fall Program will continue at the Boston Opera House through Nov. 4.

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