Surrounded by the gilded ornamentation of the Boston Opera house, the three minimalist pieces that make up “Close to Chuck” could not be any more of a contrast.
Close to Chuck, Boston Ballet, through March 2nd.
By Rob Ribera
I attended the dress rehearsal for the Boston Ballet’s latest production, Close to Chuck, which is composed of three works, “C. to C. (Close to Chuck) Reborn” by Jorma Elo, “Resonance” by José Martinez, and “Bella Figura” by Jiří Kylián. Surrounded by the gilded ornamentation of the Boston Opera house, these three minimalist pieces could not be any more of a contrast. Still, their isolating beauty, celebrations of the human form and the various relationships between them, was a source of warmth in these last weeks of winter.
Before the rehearsal began, I listened as, behind the stage curtain, feet walked back and forth in anxious preparation. Voices could be heard as well, discussing variations in music and the movement of the dancers. One dancer stopped to take a photo in front of Chuck Close’s enormous face, which, imprinted on the backdrop, loomed over the production. A few strains of Philip Glass’s instantaneously recognizable style music danced off the piano. And then all grew quiet. The curtain fell. The dancers grew silent. It rose again.
The production begins with a new version of “C. to C. (Close to Chuck),” altered to fit the Boston company. Close is quite literally all over the stage. His giant eyes watch over the dancers, his face appearing and reappearing throughout. His face even appears on the costumes they wear. The organizing principle of his work — small dabs of colors creating a larger image — is represented by the dancers coming together across the plane of the stage, each one an important piece of the larger picture.
In the second piece, “Resonance,” a brand new work by José Martinez, there is much to be seen in both the dancers and the shadows they cast against the moving walls on the stage. A figure is always paired with its inky double, an element of darkness following their every movement in the light. Oftentimes, I found myself watching the doppelgangers more than the dancers themselves; the interplay of the shadows and their owners adding depth to the piece.
The night ends with “Bella Figura,” Jirí Kylián’s provocative work that begins and ends with silence. As it begins, two nude mannequins entombed in clear plastic coffins hang over the dancers’ heads. It ends with two figures dancing between two pyres, the sound of the flames serving as the soundtrack. In the middle section, the dancers are repeatedly hidden and revealed, both by the rise and fall of the curtains as well as the shedding of their costumes. It is a provocative work, with the naked bodies of the dancers celebrating the human form, though I am not entirely sure that it needed to go as far as it did to make that point, though it did make for some striking images.
All photos by Rob Ribera. Ribera is a filmmaker and music video director in Boston. He is the co-creator of the music website Sleepovershows.com, and is currently working on his PhD.in American Studies at Boston University.