Boston Ballet is turning 50, and its 2013-14 season will begin with a bang: the company’s return to London, July 3-7, after 30 years. The season will also end with a bang, as the ballet tours to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., then to Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater in New York.
In between, offerings will include the annual “Night of Stars” gala, usually a hot-ticket indoor affair, but this year taken onto Boston Common as a free event Sept. 21; a pair of classics, “La Bayadère” and Frederick Ashton’s “Cinderella”; a world premiere by Spanish National Dance Company artistic director José Carlos Martínez; company premieres by Petr Zuska and Alexander Ekman; and resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s “Close to Chuck.” The Boston season will conclude with one of George Balanchine’s greatest works, his evening-length “Jewels.”
That’s a more ambitious schedule than usual, but Boston Ballet executive director Barry Hughson said the company has already raised, from corporations and individuals, about $4.1 million of the roughly $5.7 million the special events will cost. He put the company’s operating budget for the current season, 2012-13, at $31 million.
Hughson described the free “Night of Stars” gala as “a gift to the city of Boston for 50 years of support. It’s very important to us that we have a public opportunity to share what we do with the broadest possible audience. We’re going to build an outdoor theater on the Common, with three large screens that will project a live edit of the performance for those who are a little farther back.”
How broad an audience do he and artistic director Mikko Nissinen anticipate? “The mayor’s office suggested 40,000 people,” Hughson said. “Mikko expects 80,000. Somewhere between those two numbers is probably where we’ll land.”
Of programming for British audiences, Nissinen said that he made “a conscious choice not to bring a full-length ballet to London. How many ‘Swan Lake’s have they seen?” Instead, he said, he wanted to showcase the company’s versatility, and to showcase Boston Ballet as an American company. So the first program will open with Balanchine’s “Serenade” and close with his “Symphony in Three Movements,” which, Nissinen said, “London has hardly ever seen.” They’ll sandwich Vaslav Nijinsky’s “Afternoon of a Faun” and Jorma Elo’s “Plan to B.”
The second program, which Nissinen described as representing “the more aggressive side of Boston Ballet,” will comprise William Forsythe’s “The Second Detail,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “Polyphonia,” and Jirí Kylián’s “Bella Figura.” Both the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet have done “Polyphonia,” he said, but he’s “not afraid of comparison.”
As for the Boston season’s premieres, Nissinen sounded enthusiastic about the choreographers he’s introducing to America. He described Martínez, a longtime étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet, as “an incredible classical dancer. He choreographs in the neoclassical realm, and whenever you see that kind of talent, you want to do it. He’s the single most promising thing I can find out there.” Zuska, the artistic director of the National Theatre in Prague, he called “an incredibly exciting choreographer.” And the young Swede Ekman, Nissinen said, “looks at dance differently from anybody else.”
Then there’s “Close to Chuck,” which, as “C. to C.,” Elo originally did for American Ballet Theatre, with scenic designs by artist Chuck Close and a commissioned score by Philip Glass. “I asked Jorma if he would be interested in looking at it again,” Nissinen said, “and he said he wanted to change it a little bit.”
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.