Boston Ballet

"A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Choreography by Bruce Wells
Music by Felix Mendelssohn

"Suite Saint-SaŽns"
Choreography by Gerald Arpino
Music by Camille Saint-SaŽns

Wang Theatre, Boston, MA

September 24, 2001
By S. E. Arnold

The Midsummer Night's Dream program that opened the 2001-2002 season of the Boston Ballet featured two works that banished gloom.

Runs, leaps, tours, great aerial beatings of the legs or feet, bodies busy in counterpoint, airy lifts, and the swift tempo of entrances and exits drove the four movements of Suite Saint-SaŽns, choreographed by Gerald Arpino. In fact, the energy of the dancers transformed the lightweight music of Saint-SaŽns into a soaring hosanna for life and abundance. Moreover, the surge and break of the Suite's textural qualities, the frisk and flitter of Arpino's souped - up ballet and the ever-changing mix of dancers, suggested the buzz of the fairy-world invisible but present in every meadow. In this sense, Suite Saint-SaŽns anticipates the eventful forest world of A Midsummer's Night's Dream.

Where Suite Saint-SaŽns encourages with its openness, A Midsummer Night's Dream abandons us in the forest. Abridged and compressed into two acts, A Midsummer Night's Dream, choreographed by Bruce Wells, locates all of the action in the night and mists of Oberon's forest. A night and mist that nearly obscured the motivations of the characters. Although the mime provides clues, just who, and, hence, ultimately why any character does what he or she does depends to heavily on knowledge of the play. Additionally, any sense of rhetorical point or narrative purpose goes deep in debt to bankrupt fogginess as Wells deletes the marriage between the Duke of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. The excision of this sub-plot takes with it an important reference and model for social, if not metaphysical, order as well as the lesson that marriage weds equals and accommodates opposites. (The Oberon of Wells, for example, appears to bully rather than reconcile with Titania.) On a more practical level, however, that editorial act removes the reason, the motivation for the rustics to enter the forest. On the other hand, perhaps, the lack of clear motivation for the action means to support the dream-like atmosphere of the ballet. If this so, then the rhetorical intent, the point of this weak and idle ballet is no more yielding than a dream. Entertaining, but what does it mean?

The lexical and theatrical conventions of ballet, however, mold this dream of a dream into a familiar coherence. The division of the ballet into pas de deux, (many of them), quartets, trios, solos, dances for the female attendants to Titania, dances for the male attendants for Oberon, a flashy solo for Oberon, corps work, etc offer structural if not narrative intelligibility. Additionally, the long tutus, the fairy world subject matter, the importance of mime, and the use of borrowed music (Mendelssohn originally scored Midsummer Night's Dream for theatre) link this Midsummer to the Age of Giselle.

In the end, the prominence Wells places on Puck, joyfully and exuberantly danced by Paul Thrussell on opening night, might change the title to read "A Midsummer Adventure of Robin Goodfellow." Additionally, one happily identifies the entire opening night cast as the singular source of pleasure in this Midsummer Night's Dream. In fact, that performance offers evidence to support the idea that persons attend the Boston Ballet to see the dancers rather than the choreography. Bright with energy, sharp in technique and committed the dancers of the Boston Ballet ware what ever is set on them with more than a fairy's grace. In short, the Boston Ballet made this Midsummer Night's Dream more appealing than it deserves.


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Edited by Marie.

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