Festival Ballet's Up Close Is One Of Its Best

Oct 30, 2013

Ruth Whitney and Alan Alberto in Boyko Dossev's "Lovers' Song" at Festival Ballet's "Up Close."
Credit A. Cemal Ekin

Widely varied, indeed.

This latest “Up Close” offers dances from the 19th century to world premieres. Topics range from a smartly funny, and goofy, piece called “Tea Time” to a heart-rending vision of the end of life. The music? Well, that goes from Igor Stravinsky and Gustav Mahler to Ray Charles and Jacques Brel.

The dancing by Festival’s best is, generally, at a high level. And, of course, in that rehearsal room the dancers are right there in front of you.

Let’s begin with this Up Close’s finale, a lovely, honest piece by Boyko Dossev, the Bulgarian-born dancer-choreographer who often works at Festival.

This time out Dossev presents “Lover’s Song” in which dancers Alan Alberto and Ruth Whitney manage to find many routes to travel, many emotions to handle. 

To Jacques Brel’s ever-plaintive, ever incisive voice, ”Lover’s Song” concerns two who care much for each other but, at the same time, seem to be looking outward seeking things they may desire but cannot quite achieve. Alberto and Whitney are, at once, together and apart. “Lover’s Song” is one of those memorable dances that gives you the freedom to make up your own story, your own hopes and fears.

That’s also true of the witty “Tea Time.” Victor Plotnikov’s work, new to Festival, zings out a half a dozen girls decked in long and flowing purple dresses. They swirl, fling their arms, fall, and slap the floor. One of them, acutely done by GET, seems to be the outsider But who knows?

“Tea Party” is done dead-pan by the dancers. And maybe the joke is on us. But it sure is amusing.

The same is true of “Heaven Can Wait” where Ray Charles urges all of us to “mess around” and three male dancers do that with speed and humor.

Certainly the most heartfelt, serious dance is “Pieta” to music by Mahler. Lithuanian choreographer Jurijus Smoryginas begins with Michelangelo’s sculpture. He has the couple come alive. They are, perhaps, no longer Mary and Jesus but a couple evoking their lost bond of love. They dance with quiet passion. He lifts her. Her arm rises but her wrist falls. It seems a gesture of privation. The couple’s love is clear, their loss great.

The premiers begin with veteran New England dance maker Mark Harootian’s “The Daily Grind” in which seven dancers, male and female, all wear the same dark blue shirts. They hop, skip and jump to music by Vivaldi. But they also manage a feel for today, for a time when work is hard to get, and keep.

“Tzigani” is another new piece by George Birkadze that uses gypsy music to fine effect with four spirited dancers led by Festival veteran Jennifer Ricci who has all the motion and power needed for the dance.

In a short interview the other day, Festival’s director, Misha Djuric, said that as hard as it to cope with new dances, he just loves doing it.

“Would I, if I can, do new works all the time?“ he asked.

“Yes, I will,” he answered.

This version of “Up Close on Hope” makes you hope that he will continue to do just that.

Want To Go?

“Up Close on Hope” continues at Festival Ballet through November 9th.

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