Lovers and newcomers alike of the ballet will be moved by Boston Ballet’s Kylian/Wings of Wax—a diverse three piece program that mixes traditional with contemporary, light with dark, and spoken word with dance.
George Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations—composed of eleven dancers and set to Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti’s final opera Don Sebastian— kicked off the night and was my personal favorite. Originally created in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Italy’s unification, the piece is light-hearted and watching it felt like falling in love during the spring. Everything about it—the dancers, performance, music, and the beautiful pink and baby blue costumes—just worked and put a smile on my face.
The title piece—Jiří Kylián’s Wings of Wax—followed and proved a stark contrast. Wings of Wax plays out beneath a dead tree hanging upside down over the stage with a spotlight in constant revolution around it. Costumes and staging are dark—pitch black. It is meant to invoke the myth of Icarus, whose father built wings of wax feathers to escape imprisonment. And despite warnings, Icarus took his pair and upon becoming too excited flew too close to the sun—resulting in his wings melting and him plunging into the ocean.
Imprisonment and freedom were very easily interpreted from the dancer’s graceful, fluid and really haunting moments. It was very easy to understand why the piece received a standing ovation.
Alexander Ekman’s Cacti rounded out the night—set to music by Joseph Haydn, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Andy Stein, and Gustav Mahler while sometimes accompanied onstage by string quartet performs onstage.
Having the quartet onstage amongst the dancers really added another layer to the performance. They weren’t the only ones making music—the dancers themselves created rhythm and sound effects by drumming on their bodies and on props.
Cacti proved to be the most contemporary and postmodern piece. Keeping to the imprisoned theme, dancers were set on raised platforms and performed almost exclusively on them for most of the piece. In addition, a voice over commentary played in the background talking about satirical nonsense essentially, which was inspired by Ekman dealing with his first reviews.
I most enjoyed the moment in the piece when a pair of dancers (a male and female) came onstage alone and interacted in this almost trial and error dance rehearsal while their internal monologues played for the audience.
I don’t think of humor when thinking about the ballet, but Cacti is humourous bringing out those dark and light laughs. And yes, there are actual cacti involved.
Boston Ballet’s Kylian/Wings is really a perfect night for a dance aficionado or newbie. It is enchanting, haunting, and criminally beautiful. The ballet runs through April, 2nd with tickets starting at $35—and it’s right down the street!