As well as returning to the Citizens Bank Opera House for its 2021–22 live performance season, Boston Ballet is also offering a virtual package of four programs. The second of these will be “The Gift,” which debuted last December; it features a modern take on “The Nutcracker” set to Duke Ellington’s 1960 “Nutcracker Suite” and choreographed by company dancers. The third and fourth, “ChoreograpHER” and “Swan Lake,” will stream the company’s live Opera House productions in March and May of next year.
As for the hourlong opening program, it’s a winner from start to finish. “reSTART” begins with a world premiere by Chinese-American choreographer Yin Yue that was shot this month on Boston Common and in the Public Garden. Set to recordings by Quincy Jones and Alice Coltrane, “A Common Movement” incorporates ballet, jazz, and Broadway as its 39 dancers, in sweats and sneakers, kick up their heels. The opening section is done on the Common, mostly in unison; it’s followed by a slower segment in the Public Garden that features luscious duets from Haley Schwan with My’Kal Stromile and Ji Young Chae with Tyson Clark. The exuberant finale finds everyone back on the Common, on walkways, in the bandstand, strutting their stuff.
Second soloist Soo-bin Lee and corps member Seokjoo Kim are paired in the balcony scene from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” in a performance filmed in Korea in 2020 and presented courtesy of the Korea National University of Arts. They’re innocent and ravishing all at once. Next up is a pas de deux from “Ruth’s Dance,” a new work that resident choreographer Jorma Elo is creating for Boston Ballet’s “MINDscape” program in March. Set to Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson’s transcription and recording of the opening aria from Bach’s Cantata No. 54, “Widerstehe doch der Sünde,” this five-minute excerpt is a neoclassical gem that’s romantic but doesn’t overlook Bach’s sense of humor. Soloist Addie Tapp and principal Lasha Khozashvili are by turns elegant and sprightly as they do it full justice.
The centerpiece of “reSTART” is George Balanchine’s “Apollo,” a seminal work that Boston Ballet last did in 2010. Balanchine was just 24 when he created “Apollo,” in 1928, for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and it’s his earliest surviving ballet. Set to the score of the same name by Igor Stravinsky, the piece depicts the birth of dance, as the god, his curiosity piqued by the syncopated four-note motif Stravinsky has given him, passes on Muses Calliope (poetry and its rhythm) and Polyhymnia (mime) to partner with Terpsichore (who combines what her sisters offered) before ascending to Mount Parnassus.
This performance, like the Elo pas de deux, was filmed at Boston Ballet Studios earlier this month. In the title role, principal Paulo Arrais strums his lute with childlike delight, and he’s full of wonder thereafter as he explores his body and discovers dance. Principal Lia Cirio (Terpsichore), soloist Chyrstyn Fentroy (Polyhymnia), and principal Viktorina Kapitonova (Calliope) are a well-matched trio of Muses with excellent ensemble. Kapitonova is heroic in her solo, Fentroy flirtatious in hers. Cirio’s Terpsichore starts out severe but gradually warms to Apollo in a performance that’s full of nuance.
“reSTART” concludes with a rousing “Grand Défilé” set to the triumphant closing pages of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and inspired by the Paris Opera Ballet season-opening tradition in which the dancers come out on stage, singly and in groups, to the cheers of their fans in a kind of company introduction. This virtual program could hardly be a better advert for the coming live season.
Presented by Boston Ballet at bostonballet.org through Nov. 7. Virtual subscription season $140. 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.org
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.