“Kaleidoscope” refracts Boston Ballet through four utterly different lenses. This enticing program begins in muted shades with George Balanchine’s “Kammermusik No. 2” and Leonid Yakobson’s “Pas de Quatre” (by choreographers born just a week apart in 1904 St. Petersburg) before turning colorful with William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” and then kicking up its heels with the riotous hues of Léonide Massine’s “Gaîté Parisienne.” It’s fun for the company, and Thursday night at the Opera House it was fun for the audience as well.
“Kammermusik No. 2” is a late (1978) Balanchine work set to the 1924 neo-Baroque composition — in essence a jagged, jazzy piano concerto with chamber orchestra — of the same name by Paul Hindemith. Eight men create a quirky drill-team backdrop while two pony-tailed women — Thursday a stern, sphinxlike Lia Cirio and a giddy, ebullient Dusty Button — prance like cheerleaders. Eventually the ladies find partners — Paulo Arrais and Lasha Khozashvili — and the men get to strut their stuff. Encompassing everything from chaîné turns on heels to, in the finale, jumping jacks and cancan kicks, “Kammermusik No. 2” draws palpably from previous Balanchine works like “The Four Temperaments,” “Rubies,” “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” and even “Concerto Barocco,” The piece adds little to the Balanchine canon, but with Freda Locker’s piano providing inspiration, these performers made it seem new.
“Pas de Quatre” started out life in 1845 as choreographer Jules Perrot’s salute to the four greatest ballerinas of his time. Boston Ballet passed on Anton Dolin’s 1941 re-creation, choosing instead Soviet choreographer Yakobson’s 1971 version, which retains the Romantic tulle tutus but replaces the original score by Cesare Pugni with music from Vincenzo Bellini’s 1831 opera “Norma” and, for the finale, Guglielmo Cottrau’s “Fenesta che lucive.” Dancing the opening section to the aria “Casta diva,” Yakobson’s four ballerinas might be the Druidic priestesses from “Norma”; they hold hands and wreath arms, moving like a single organism. The four solos that follow, delicate hops and jumps and beats, with airy port de bras, have to be light but also precise. The quartet the company sent out Thursday — Maria Baranova, Erica Cornejo, Ashley Ellis, and Cirio — did not seem ideally matched at first, but the solos floated and the finale came together.
“The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” which returns from last season, is a vertiginous 1996 thrill ride that, set to the final movement of Franz Schubert’s “Great” Symphony in C major, demands nothing if not exactitude. The three ladies are on pointe, and their flying-saucer plate tutus take the audience on a tilt-a-whirl. Misa Kuranaga, going every which way at once, provided the most thrills; Seo Hye Han in the pulsing second theme and Ji Young Chae in Schubert’s “Ode to Joy” allusion were not far behind. The two men, Arrais and John Lam, just about kept up.
Massine created “Gaîté Parisienne” for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1938, to music from Jacques Offenbach operas orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal. The action is set at a café in 19th-century Paris, where a Flower Girl, a Glove Seller, a wealthy Peruvian, a Baron, an Officer, a Duke, and the beautiful courtesan La Lionne gather and flirt, playing musical partners to a succession of polkas, mazurkas, and waltzes. Also flitting about: maids, waiters, cocodettes (a kind of 19th-century groupie), billiard players, dandies, and an army platoon; the ballet climaxes, inevitably, with a troupe of cancan girls.
Boston Ballet’s production is the one Lorca Massine, the choreographer’s son, created for American Ballet Theatre in 1988, with an extravagant set from Zack Brown and costumes by Christian Lacroix that are an effusion of stripes and polka dots in primary colors. It’s all a little overwhelming, and at times the dancers get lost in it. You won’t want to miss the antics of the cocodettes, however, or the waiters, or the maids, whose costumes appear to have been inspired by Japanese anime. Going down a line of waiters, the Flower Girl parodies the Rose Adagio from “The Sleeping Beauty,” with a champagne flute replacing the roses. And for their last waltz, the Baron and the Glove Seller pay tribute to the ballroom style of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
On Thursday, Anaïs Chalendard and Eris Nezha were superbly elegant and knowing as the Glove Seller and the Baron, and guest conductor Beatrice Jona Affron, from Pennsylvania Ballet, gave a lush weight to their waltzing. Han’s effusive Flower Girl flirted nonstop; her reward was Bo Busby’s commanding Duke. Brittany Summer’s coquettish La Lionne wound up with Paul Craig’s very correct Officer. Winding up alone was the Peruvian, who discovers that money can’t buy love. All the same, Federico Fresi’s exquisite shimmying and pathetic, Petrouchka-like final pose put the cap on a delightful evening.
Presented by Boston Ballet. At Boston Opera House, through March 26. Tickets $35-$149. 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.org
Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.