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Boston Ballet’s BB@home Series gives a peek at the future of the corps

The ballet’s three-part winter series is set in its intimate South End rehearsal studios.
Abigail Merlis and Graham Johns of Boston Ballet II in George Balanchine's Haeiff DivIgor Burlak Photography

This winter, the Boston Ballet will open theirrehearsal space in the South End for the exclusive 2017 BB@home Series. Over the intimate three performances — featuringthe main company and Boston Ballet II (BBII), the ballet’s second company — artistic director Mikko Nissinen and world-renowned choreographer William Forsythe willalso take the stage.

The series begins with a program featuring BBII’s performances of George Balanchine’s “Haieff Divertimento”; Jaime Sierra’s all-male ensemble work, “Legión”; Laurie Jones’ “Drigo Divertissements”; and a preview of a new work by Harvard University Dance Director Jill Johnson.

Boston Ballet II features younger, but classically trained dancers in the process of gaining professional experience, but no one should consider them second rate.

“These are future Boston Ballet dancers, or they go to other companies,” says Nissinen. “One-hundred-percentget jobs either with us or elsewhere. The benefit of this two-year program, unlike dance school, is that dancers emerge fully formed. It’s a bridge that allows dancers to develop within the company and they graduate with the experience those coming from school don’t have. Our principle dancers come through this program; you get a peek at the future of the Boston Ballet.”

In February, the main company performs excerpts from Forsythe’s “Artifact,” which will then be unveiled in full at the Boston Opera House later this winter. (TheBoston Ballet will be the first North American company to perform Forsythe’s "Artifact" in full.)Following the BB@home performance, a conversation between Nissinen and Forsythe, who begins a five-year partnership with the ballet, discusses Forsythe’s work and choreographic process.

“He’s one of the most renowned people in dance. Having him is totally cool for Boston Ballet. It’s like signing Michael Jordan for your basketball team,” insists Nissinen. “Working with someone like William changes the dancers; they become much better — not just performing his works, but all the works. This performance and Q&A brings the topper most of the topper most of the ballet. When do you get William Forsythe in this setting?” he adds rhetorically: “The answer is never.”

The BB@Home series began about four years ago after the rehearsal studio’s renovation added a 150-seat black box theater, which is a less formal performance space than traditional theater settings, and it brings performers and audience closer.

“Usually this art form communicates with the tool of illusion,” says Nissinen. “But with this you are so much closer, often as little as two feet away and it puts the audience within the physicality of the dancers. It is very different. It helps get deeper into the choreographer’s process.

“Our goal is to have people experience this,” he adds. "And then want to go and see it in the theater armed with this information.”

If you go:

BB@home with Boston Ballet II
Saturday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 22, 1 p.m.
BB@home: “Focus on Forsythe”
Friday, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.
19 Clarendon Street, Boston
Tickets start at $55, bostonballet.org/bb-at-home

 
 
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