Members of Rebecca Rice’s Advanced Dance Theatre Workshop had the opportunity to attend a dress rehearsal of Boston Ballet’s “All Kylián
,” a program of thee works by choreographer Jirí Kylián. Following is a review of the production by student Emma Chin ’14.
Having previously studied great choreographers of the 21st Century during dance theory classes, Kylián’s name rang with unquestionable familiarity in my head. I remember discussing his movement style, concepts and ideology during these classes, often making reference to the available footage of his works. However, I was not immediately attracted to Kylián’s works two years ago—perhaps those videos did not draw out the same awe that I experienced when watching the live dress rehearsal of All Kylián—an evening of three of Kylián’s most celebrated works.
The performance began with Wings of Wax—an intriguing blend of modern and ballet set to the classical music of JS Bach and Phillip Glass, contrasted with the profound set design: an inverted bush hanging from the ceiling, with a dangling white light rotating around the bush. The choreography was pleasing to the eye; it first appeared to be mostly classical ballet-based movements with balletic extensions and jumps, however the grounded and weightiness of these same movements were obviously derived from Graham modern. Each step was choreographed to be perfectly in sync with the varying tones of the music score, and thus a great deal of coordination was required for the duets and trios to perform identical movement sequences to the precise tones of the score. This was truly the most impressive part—the collective look of the choreography was fresh, clean and organic, further accentuated by the simple costumes: black unitards with no adornments. The bright white light seemed to contrast this organic look, however, and struck me as a profound statement that I believe similarly served to intrigue the audience.
The evening continued with Tar and Feathers, what I would classify as an avant-garde modern piece set to an almost eerie classical score by Mozart, with a live accompanist on an elevated piano contributing several phrases to the music. There was much less physical movement across the space; the choreography was largely focused on the contorting of the limbs and face, and the usage of an interesting prop: a mount of illuminated bubble wrap placed on the far left of the stage, contrasted against the glossy black surface of the right of the stage. The result was a work even more profound than Wings of Wax with regard to concept and design; it gave off a chilling vibe that gave rise to the dark and sinister theme of this piece, which kept my mind racing throughout the entire evening. I could easily say that I have never been as deeply affected by any other ‘avant-garde’ piece, watching Tar and Feathers live compelled me to contemplate on its symbolism more than any other work of this sort.
The triple-bill concluded with Symphony of Psalms, another intriguing blend of modern and ballet set to a Stravinsky score, but with a powerful religious sense to the whole piece. Set against a beautiful backdrop of Persian carpets, Kylián also incorporated wooden chairs into the choreography, though the dancers moved around or on the chairs, never removing them from the original places. Duets were particularly prominent in this piece, along with an obvious use of linear shapes and use of space; for example, the dancers would often gather and travel in a single line perpendicular to the audience. I thought this stood out as a powerful symbol—it appeared to be representative of the structure and guidelines of religion present in holy organizations or congregations.
I felt this was especially noticeable with the onset of the religious chants and singing in the music score, it was so distinct to the point of being almost overpowering—giving a captivating spiritual feel to the choreography, which served to be a beautiful element that shaped the entire piece.
All Kylián was quite unlike any other triple-bill I have seen of late; the powerful concepts and ideology behind each work truly made the entire performance stand out as a profound and intense experience. Watching it live, I felt, would be the only way for any audience to experience the true emotional depth of Kylián’s works. This was an unforgettable evening—beautifully profound would be the best way to describe it.