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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Dance Review

Boston Ballet’s challenging ‘Close to Chuck’

If anyone doubts Boston Ballet’s serious commitment to contemporary work, look no further than the current “Close to Chuck” program, which opened Thursday night at the Boston Opera House. It sports a newly commissioned world premiere by José Martinez, a work by resident choreographer Jorma Elo newly retooled for six of the company’s stellar dancers, and a reprise of Jirí Kylián’s provocative “Bella Figura,” giving audiences a welcome opportunity for yet another look at a major work by one of the ballet world’s undisputed masters. A challenging, visually striking program, it’s not for sissies.

Artist Chuck Close is all over Elo’s “C. to C. (Close to Chuck) Reborn.” Best known for his massive portraits, the National Medal of Arts winner is represented in the giant bespectacled eyes of the backdrop, and his face appears and disappears as the dancers flash the undersides of their long skirts. The music is Philip Glass’s “A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close” (given a commanding live onstage performance by Bruce Levingston), and Elo was inspired not just by Close’s creativity, but by his resilience and determination — Close continues to paint with a special brush-holding device though partially paralyzed since 1988.

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