Tyson Clark, Lia Cirio, Tigran Mkrtchyan by Erin Baiano

Boston Ballet's 'Offers Fashion-Conscious 'Carmen'

Sue Katz READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Jorma Elo's "Carmen" is paired with Florence Clerc's "Kingdom of the Shades," at the Citizens Opera House until May 5.

The dramatic opening of "Kingdom of the Shades" presents 24 women, lit from above, regally descending a long ramp, single file on a darkened stage. The repetition of the unhurried music and the unison movement is mesmerizing in its grandiose staging.

When the trio of soloists joins the group, the mood becomes more playful. Kudos to Lia Cirio, Chisako Oga, and Ji Young Chae for their work together and individually. They bring a charming lightness that changes the mood. Viktorina Kapitonova and Yue Shi perform a scarf duet and solos in which she demonstrates a steely delicacy, and he is both powerful and graceful. Shi is a good partner in handling Kapitonova's fluidity. His breathtaking leaps are matched by her whirling spins.

In fact, this is a half-hour excerpt from the full-length ballet "La Bayadère," last seen performed by the Boston Ballet in 2010 to Clerc choreography. The Company made a decision just to feature this remarkable piece of 19th Century (1877) classic dance and not the whole ballet "because we recognize its problematic storyline and strongly disagree with its appropriation of South Asian culture." In other words, they extracted the jewels and discarded the fake representations and distortions of South Asian culture.

Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo's "Carmen" returns to the stage after being cancelled during the pandemic. Based on a 19th Century novella by French writer Prosper Mérimée, Elo now places it in a fashion-conscious present. Throughout the ballet, the dancers strip off layer after layer of their costumes, presenting themselves in fresh outfits for each scene. As for plot, one should not anticipate a linear, accessible story, although each subsequent choreographer has tried their best to stitch one together.

Carmen, danced beautifully by Ji Young Chae, is considered an antihero, probably because she is not very romantic and not very monogamous. Jeffrey Cirio as Don José also shines. The piece is infused throughout with ambivalence when it comes to attraction, with frequent yes/no dynamics. Mikaela, danced by Seo Hye Han, wants Don José, who has turned sweet on Carmen, who flirts with all the men. A pattern of bullying of Don José by his boss Zuniga (danced by Angel Garcia Molinero) is disturbing, as are the unexpected bursts of violence which shred the mood of seduction. Women fight over a man; men fight over a woman. No one is certain and firm in their feelings. No one gets what they want.

Finally, major kudos to Mikki Kunttu for the lighting design, often employing powerful white lights from above at strong angles. And as always, Mischa Santora's music direction is superb and provides a creative anchor for the night.

For more information of Boston Ballet's "Carmen," follow this link.

by Sue Katz

Sue Katz is a "wordsmith and rebel" who has been widely published on the three continents where she has lived. She used to be proudest of her 20-year martial arts career, her world travel, and her edgy blog Consenting Adult (suekatz.typepad.com), but now she's all about her collection of short stories about the love lives of older people, Lillian's Last Affair.

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