Boston Ballet has announced that it will kick off its 50th season with a tour to London next summer. Artistic director Mikko Nissinen plans to bring two programs to the London Coliseum for six performances, July 1-7, 2013.
“I hope we make a royal impression and keep the bridge between London and Boston active,” Nissinen says.
The tour — Boston Ballet’s first to London in 30 years — comes on the heels of the company’s Finland tour this year and other trips to Spain, South Korea, and Canada in recent years. The company is looking to make a name for itself internationally.
“London is one of the performing arts capitals in the world, with a hungry dance audience and extremely well-educated and respected dance critics,” says executive director Barry Hughson. “As we think about telling this story of Boston Ballet as a global brand, London seemed the most appropriate to tell that story.”
Starting the 50th-anniversary season abroad was just how the calendar worked out, says Hughson, who adds that the company will also celebrate back in Boston.
The first program for the London tour features George Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “Symphony in Three Movements,” Vaslav Nijinsky’s “Afternoon of a Faun,” and Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s “Plan to B.” The second program, which emphasizes contemporary works, includes Jirí Kylián’s “Bella Figura,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia,” and William Forsythe’s “The Second Detail.”
Nissinen says the first program is the kind that people expect a company to present — with classical and neoclassical works and one of the company’s own — while the second poses Boston Ballet as a “company of the future.”
“It’s not the church, not the museum. We are living theater,” he says.
Hughson says the goal of the tour, which is sponsored by State Street Corporation and British Airways, is to add value to Boston Ballet’s brand for the future.
“Touring is never a profit center for a company of our size,” Hughson says. Instead, it’s about building a name that will attract dancers and excite the troupe’s home base. “External validation brings a sense of greater relevance in your own community. When a company like the Boston Ballet makes a big splash in New York or London or Paris, it inspires interest in Boston.”
To make such a splash, Nissinen says he designed the programs to be both a representation of Boston Ballet and relevant everywhere.
“I’m going there with the mentality that we need to conquer,” says Nissinen. “We need to carve a nice platform for the Boston Ballet for the future; to get attention with the quality of how we dance, and the relevance of our company to today’s people.”