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Ballet Review

Boston Ballet’s ‘My Obsession’ is worth obsessing over

Lia Cirio and Patrick Yocum in George Balanchine's "Apollo."photo by Rosalie O'Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet/©The George Balanchine Trust

It’s easy to obsess over the genius of George Balanchine, who redefined ballet in the 20th century. That thought aside, the title of Boston Ballet’s 59th-season opener, “My Obsession,” is a bit of a puzzle. But the program itself — Balanchine’s “Apollo” and “Allegro Brillante,” Helen Pickett’s “Tsukiyo,” and Stephen Galloway’s “DEVIL’S/eye” — is a winner, and so was the execution Thursday at the Citizens Bank Opera House.

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 Igor Stravinsky’s “Apollon Musagète,” the piece depicts the birth of dance. Apollo, his curiosity piqued by the syncopated four-note motif Stravinsky has given him, passes on Muses Calliope (epic poetry and its rhythm) and Polyhymnia (mime) to partner with Terpsichore (the muse of dance and song, who surpasses what her sisters offered) before ascending to Mount Parnassus.

The tone was set Thursday by the Boston Ballet Orchestra’s sensitive reading of the score under music director Mischa Santora. Patrick Yocum began as a child and, full of wonder and amplitude, tentatively grew into the role of god. Lia Cirio (Terpsichore), Chyrstyn Fentroy (Polyhymnia), and Viktorina Kapitonova (Calliope) formed a well-matched trio of Muses with outstanding ensemble. Kapitonova was heroic and knowing, Fentroy playful and flirtatious. Cirio balanced precision and poetry in a Terpsichore that was remarkable for her nuanced engagement with Apollo.


Balanchine choreographed “Allegro Brillante” on short notice in 1956 after a Jerome Robbins revival failed to materialize. The music Balanchine chose — the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s uncompleted Third Piano Concerto — is not as inspired as what he had for “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2,” and though he famously said that “Allegro Brillante” “contains everything I know about classical ballet — in 13 minutes,” he didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. His lead couple and four supporting couples serve up an exuberant abundance of cabrioles, arabesques, entrechats, chaîné turns, pirouettes, and movement in canon.


Boston Ballet hadn’t presented “Allegro Brillante” here since 1992, and its return was welcome. Jeffrey Cirio was an attentive and accomplished partner, confident in his beats and jumps, but this is the lady’s show, not least in her dramatic and demanding solo cadenza. Ji Young Chae made her pirouettes springing from deep fourth position look natural, her chaîné turns stopped on a dime, and she found a degree of adagio amid the allegro brilliance. The four supporting couples provided an elegant backdrop. As the piano soloist, Alex Foaksman gave a straightforward interpretation that didn’t linger.

The Pickett piece, which Boston Ballet premiered in 2009, was on the company’s March 2020 “Carmen” program before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened. “Tsukiyo” — “moonlit night” in Japanese — is a 10-minute duet inspired by the 10th-century Japanese tale “The Story of the Bamboo Cutter,” in which an infant girl found inside a stalk of bamboo turns out to be an otherworldly being from the moon. It’s set to Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel,” in which a hypnotic violin cantilena (concertmaster Christine Vitale) plays over repeating piano arpeggios (Foaksman).

On Thursday, Fentroy was the moon goddess emerging from the mists and Paul Craig the young man who encounters her. She was effusive, almost agonized, in her dance of self-exploration; he was a calming presence, but there wasn’t the sense of mutual discovery this piece had when Misa Kuranaga and Yury Yanowsky did it in 2009.


If “Apollo” and “Allegro Brillante” are all sunshine and “Tsukiyo” is all moonlight, “DEVIL’S/eye” is pure neon. Commissioned by Boston Ballet and premiered by the company on its “DREAMstate” program this past March, the piece is set to five Rolling Stones songs (“Paint It Black,” “Wild Horses,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Midnight Rambler”) and danced against an industrial light bank that’s half laundromat and half discotheque. One moment the movement is all flash; the next, nine men are doing unison tours à la seconde. At 30 minutes, “DEVIL’S/eye” runs out of ideas, if not steam. But it’s hard to argue with the dancers’ freewheeling energy.


Presented by Boston Ballet. At Citizens Bank Opera House, through Oct. 16. $39-$174. 617-695-6955,

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at

Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at