of the dance: Peter Boal.
Mae G. Banner
Boal & Company
Pillow, Becket, Mass., Aug. 4
True power lies in creating space for others to show their
gifts. Peter Boal, an Apollo among dancers, knows how to use
his power. He showed his multi-dimensional abilities as a
dancer, producer and impresario last week in the Jacob’s Pillow
debut of his new chamber ballet group, Peter Boal & Company.
It was a transcendent evening.
Boal has danced with the New York City Ballet since 1983,
becoming a principal in 1989. At 38, he has danced the great
roles in ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
Now, like Apollo leading the Muses up Mount Olympus, Boal
has formed a small chamber company of fellow NYCB dancers
for whom he has commissioned works by rising choreographers,
including William Forsythe and Christopher Wheeldon. At the
top of his career, Boal can choose the dancers he wants to
spotlight and the choreographers whose work deserves to be
The dancers, Boal, NYCB principals Wendy Whelan and Benjamin
Millepied, and rising corps member Sean Suozzi, presented
a program of four works. Whelan and Boal opened the program
with Herman Schmerman, a duet by the expatriate American
choreographer William Forsythe. The dance fits Whelan’s hard-edged
glamour like a steel glove. It’s filled with Forsythe’s unexpected
partnering and extreme positions that push the ballet vocabulary
to new locutions.
Whelan and Boal tease each other with flips and flicks of
their arms and legs and with off-kilter pairings, enjoying
the pickles they get into. For a moment, Boal sits on the
floor to watch Whelan as her unbelievably long legs bend at
un-balletic angles. He jerks her leg and she jerks his, as
they move in spirals and twists to the spare electronic score
by Dutch composer Thom Willems. The feeling of a day at the
beach is accentuated by the Gianni Versace costumes.
We’ve admired these dancers at SPAC summer after summer, but
not even front row seats there can fully reveal the play of
finely-trained ballet bodies stretched and pulled off-center
and popped into new shapes. For the first time, I saw Whelan
Sean Suozzi joined the NYCB corps in 2000 and is just beginning
to dance featured roles. Imagine what this young man must
feel as he dances two solos, center stage, at The Pillow to
form the heart of the Boal & Company program.
Suozzi’s first solo, Mopey, is a frenetic piece by
Marco Goecke, a German choreographer. The music is a jarring
juxtaposition of C.P.E. Bach and the punk-rock group, the
Cramps. Suozzi dances in a hooded black jacket, moving in
spasms along a horizontal plane and keeping his back to us
most of the time.
Shaking off his hood, he scratches himself, smacks his face,
flaps his wrists like a snared bird. He wraps one arm around
the back of his neck, the other around his waist and yanks
as if he were trying to pull his head off.
His agitation grows with the violent sounds of the Cramps.
Now, he seems to be trying to slug his way out of a paper
bag. Can’t be done. At last, he faces front, stretches upward,
and with a vocal “whoosh,” blows the light out to end the
a Balanchine ballet classic that’s rarely seen, presented
a vulnerable Suozzi. Set to music of Anton von Webern, Episodes
is formal, coherently constructed, with exquisite repetition
of unusual motifs.
The crest of the evening was Wheeldon’s Mesmerics,
a trio for Whelan, Boal, and Millepied and set to excerpts
from Philip Glass’s string quartets, lush with cello. British
born and trained, his dances combine decorum with a “cheeky
monkey” wit. Mesmerics has both.
It’s also sublimely beautiful, gleaming like polished steel.
The dance begins in silence and shadow, with Boal in the foreground,
Millepied in the deep background. Whelan enters and Boal gently
lifts and lowers her. Her legs jut out, while he remains rooted
to the spot, his torso and arms twisting into extreme shapes.
She explores him, lifting his leg just off the floor or leaning
along his back, so that he takes her weight.
As the dance builds, Boal and Millepied change places or combine
with Whelan in elastic sculptural shapes that gleam under
Millepied has a brief solo of powerful jetes and tours jetes.
Later, the two men dance in tandem, trading weight or spinning
together like Olympic athletes. In an amazing trio section,
the men toss Whelan back and forth, then lift and display
her. Lying on their backs, the men lift her into a horizontal
streak, using all their legs and arms to do it.
The three stand one behind another, arms and legs slicing
outward to the fullness of the cello. It is a harmonic convergence
of the planets.
resolves with a reversal of its initial image. One man stands
downstage, the other in the background, but, this time at
stage left instead of right. The planets have completed their