Boston Ballet

All Balanchine Program: 'Ballo Della Regina,' 'Monumentum Pro Gesualdo,' 'Movements for Piano and Orchestra,' 'The Prodigal Son'

by S.E. Arnold

April 5, 2003 -- Wang Theater, Boston, MA

Like a Roman candle caught in explosive moment, the starburst image of Sarah Lamb captured on the Playbill cover celebrates the art embodied in the Boston Ballet's "All Balanchine" program.

Lamb's rhythmically charged image, the up, out, and forwards motion of her frozen instant pictures the paradoxically ruled but restless sonorities of Stravinsky and the incipient weight change brought by the thrust of her reaching leg marks the pulse, the essence of, Balanchine's choreography.

The All Balanchine program included four works: "Ballo della Regina" set to music from Verdi's opera Don Carlos; two works set to and named for the music of Stravinsky, "Monumentum Pro Gesualdo" and "Movements for Piano and Orchestra;" and "Prodigal Son" set to Prokofiev. Of these four works, however, it was the sparkling "Ballo" that inspired the use of fireworks as a metaphor to describe the artistic ideas that Balanchine shared with Stravinsky as well as the dancing of Lamb and Pollyana Ribeiro.

For example, both Balanchine's and Stravinsky's works hold intrinsic rather than instrumental or affective value -- like the bloom of a bursting Roman candle. And like the explosive power of that candle, the musical cells or tone rows of Stravinsky and the movement choices of Balanchine generate or visualize motion or pulse. However, their promotion of art's intrinsic over its affective value -- Stravinsky more so than Balanchine -- also fits into the fireworks metaphor. For like a fireworks display, their art is bright with interest but distant.

The rigors of Balanchine's use of weight change or beating movements and more to clearly articulate pulse made" Ballo della Regina" look the way the Stravinsky pieces on the program sounded -- bright with interest but distant. In addition, the form of "Ballo," with its rapid-fire sequence of solos danced by the principal couples -- performed by Lamb with Yury Yanowsky at the Saturday matinee, and Ribeiro with Simon Ball on Saturday evening -- and the four female soloists, (Tara Hench, Heather Myers, Shannon Parsley, and Frances Perez-Ball at the Saturday matinee, and Melanie Atkins, Romi Beppu, Hench, and Perez-Ball on Saturday evening) were indeed independent bursts in an overall grand display of balletic fireworks.

In fact, the performance given by Ribeiro on Saturday evening as one of the principal couple went off like a string of firecrackers. No duds. No hang-fires. Rather, she delivered a snapping rush of turns, beats, and jumps. In a neat and complementary contrast, however, Sarah Lamb's performance of the same role like the burst and streaming fire of a Roman candle favored the audience with a thought-provoking luminosity rather than the diversion of a crackling fanfare. In fact, Lamb's subtle muting of the choreography's firecracker pulse informed "Ballo della Regina" with the regality named in its title.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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