We don’t do ballet reviews here at Opera Betty because that would make us ballet bettys, which we’re not. However, we can’t get Boston Ballet’s Elo Experience* out of our heads.
Boston Ballet this season has been reminding me of the Red Sox the year they broke the curse and won the World Series. For those of you unfamiliar with the Red Sox Curse, in 1920 the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. As he left town, Babe Ruth said “next season you will prick your finger on a spindle and DIE!” but the Red Sox’ fairy god mother had not yet given the Red Sox their birthday wish and said “you will not die, but you’ll lose for almost a hundred years and perhaps wish you were dead.”
In 2004, they won the World Series and there was much rejoicing.
That season, they were especially fun to watch because they a) didn’t lose and b) were just plain fun to watch. They spoke their own language – like “cowboy up” and “Manny being Manny.” They had goofy little inside jokes and pranks.
I don’t know if Boston Ballet is prone to inside jokes and pranks, but I do think they speak their own language. Characteristic turns of phrase and figures of speech that identify each dancer are the language of a company. This is what Jorma Elo translated into dance in Elo Experience.
Which doesn’t mean I understood what they were saying. Some of these pieces are like poetry – where you read it and feel it but can’t explain what it’s about. There were times when I felt like I was dreaming. There were moments of deja vu where I struggled between recalling previous Elo choreography and wondering if he had tapped into something archetypal. If it’s possible for something visual to hit emotional pressure points, Elo does it.
While the story ballets are classic favorites and heaps of fun to watch, the company is brilliant with more lyrical, contemporary choreography. They dance in silence with sharp stops and undulating gestures. They are subtle and ephemeral. They are technically the tightest and most inspired I’ve seen in years.
At opening night of Elo Experience, there were two things we hadn’t seen before.
1) With intermission house lights still on and no warning, the dancers appeared on stage, nonchalant as anything. It was a surreal peek at the underpinnings.
2) After the final bows were taken we heard a cheer behind the curtain – presumably the company applauding their resident choreographer.
And rightly so. He speaks their language.
*not the band