September 10, 2012

From Boston to Helsinki, with Love

Misa Kuranaga in William Forsythe's The Second Detail.
Photo by Liza Voll-Photography

Mind-blowing, breathtaking and beyond awesome - Boston Ballet came and brought the house down in Helsinki! For real, it was so good I wanted to cry. Jorma Elo is a genius, his Plan to B possibly the best contemporary piece I've ever seen. The choreography is as hard as it gets, and then some - but his dancers deliver - and then some! I'm now officially a fan of the gorgeous Whitney Jensen, and of both Cirios (Jeffrey and Lia). Heck, everyone who came to Finland and danced blew me away. The men were dazzling and strong, crazy with the jumps and turns. The women were powerful, limber and elegant - and equally crazy with the jumps and turns. What also impressed me was how well they all danced together. Such a fantastic ensemble!

The evening started when the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Ballet, Kenneth Greve, stepped in front of the curtain and introduced Mikko Nissinen of Boston Ballet. And here's a curious fact from my life: I have once been in the same ballet class as Greve and in the same class as Nissinen! I kid you not. The latter came to my old school's morning class sometime in the nineties (can't remember the exact year). It was summer, and Nissinen on vacation (he's Finnish, you know). Our 10 am morning classes used to attract a myriad of professional dancers who at the time didn't have access to company class. Anyway, I was fairly new to dance and blissfully ignorant. But I could tell the pro from the amateur, and when Mikko Nissinen took to the floor, you just knew. He was still turning when everybody else had already finished. Amazing control, and handsome too. ;) As for Greve, he once came to our advanced class at my current school. Usually you wouldn't expect the AD of the National Ballet to venture out of his company for class, but his wife Marie-Pierre happens to be our teacher. I have to say, for someone supposedly retired, K. Greve has serious skill! It was a bit distracting to be in the same class, but in a cool way. And he was very unassuming and friendly. Looking at the two directors on stage, it made me wonder how ballet is such a small world that even I could be connected by less than six degrees!

Still have all my old DMs. Should have gotten this signed!

I can only imagine how proud Mikko Nissinen must have felt yesterday. It was the first time that he presented his company Boston Ballet in Finland. You know, Mr. Nissinen was once considered for the AD's position at the Finnish National Ballet. In the end, I think that his management style and strategy came across as bit too tough for local likings. I don't know/remember for sure, except that company dancers have a say in the manner. But I'm glad he found his place in Boston, and he sure has made a success of it. As a fellow Finn, I admit to being a bit proud of his achievements! But there's no company without dancers and no dances without choreographers. And Boston Ballet's program delivered real treats.

First we got to see Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia, which struck me as an exciting hommage to Balanchine - whilst coming across as new and inventive. There were acrobatic elements which demanded extreme flexibility and strength, and instantly recognizable classical vocabulary. Both came together like they had never been seperate before. The music by Ligeti was challenging, but the various moods were beautifully illustraded in the dancing. Especially one pas de deux with blue back-light was so intense it made my arm hair stand up. Elo's Plan to B was next, and I already gushed about that. Let me say it again: wow.

Whitney Jensen and Jeffrey Cirio in Jorma Elo's Plan to B.
Photo by Liza Voll-Photography

Among the ensemble pieces we got to see a sole pas de deux choreographed by Helen Pickett, called Tsukiyo. The music was one of my favorite pieces: Spiegel im Spiegel from Arvo Pärt. Coincidentally, Wheeldon has choreographed his ballet After Rain to the same music. It was a lovely and delicate number, but somewhat overshadowed by the rest. The final piece was from Forsythe: Second Detail. Again, very powerful dancing and superb ensemble work, but the music was a bit taxing. Even so, it was one of the best dance nights I have ever experienced. It lifted my spirits and made me want to soar with those amazing dancers on the stage. This is why I love dance so much.

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To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...