Boston Ballet announces a dynamic 2016-17 season

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Last week, Boston Ballet announced a dynamic program for its 2016-17 season. The company will open with the North American premiere of Ivan Liška’s Le Corsaire, and will also be the first North American group to perform William Forsythe’s complete Artifact. The catalogue also includes works by Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, Jiří Kylián, and a world premiere by Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Jorma Elo.

The new season “really represents our mission of presenting academic classical ballet and a strong commitment to contemporary dance,” said Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director, Mikko Nissinen, in an interview with the NewBostonPost. “We are looking back and recreating the quality of past catalogues, but also feel the need to be pushing the art form forward.”

In addition to Liška’s Le Corsaire and Forsythe’s Artifact, Boston Ballet will perform Nissinen’s The Nutcracker and Petipa’s famed The Sleeping Beauty. The catalogue includes two showcases: a triple-bill called Kylian/Wings of Wax, which comprises Balanchine’s “Donizetti Variations,” Jiří Kylián’s “Wings of Wax,” and Alexander Ekman’s “Cacti.” The season closes with Robbins/The Concert, featuring Jerome Roberts’ comedic ballet “The Concert,” Elo’s world premiere set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Balanchine-Igor Stravinsky collaboration, “Stravinsky Violin Concerto.”

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker. (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet)

Boston Ballet in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker. (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor, courtesy of Boston Ballet)

Nissinen, who was born in Finland and graduated from the Kirov Ballet School, keeps Boston Ballet — both the company and the audience — on the cutting edge by incorporating a wide range of styles. He employed this philosophy in planning the 2016-17 season, scheduling ballets by choreographers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, France, and Finland.

“I feel like I have one foot on each continent,” Nissinen said. “I look at the dance world globally, not locally. I think it’s wonderful to bring some works here that American audiences don’t know. That makes it so much more interesting.”

Presenting a diverse repertoire keeps the dancers on their toes, in every sense of the term. According to Nissinen, the ability to master classical, neoclassical, and contemporary ballet is extremely difficult. “Challenge is the name of the game here at Boston Ballet,” he said.

Boston Ballet dancers “get a repertoire as if you would work in three specific companies,” Nissinen said. “I was very lucky as a dancer to dance different kinds of ballets and I’m really embracing some of my early childhood idols like Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. They were some of the pioneers who worked all across the genres. Now, of course, I want to expose my dancers to the same kind of mix, and it is challenging.”

Boston Ballet will especially rise to that challenge in Forsythe’s Artifact. The choreographer rarely grants permission for companies to perform the full-length ballet of four acts. It calls for a solo pianist, and features two actors and over 30 dancers, demonstrating various styles of ballet. Forsythe choreographed complicated technique for the 1984 ballet, capturing a stunning marriage between music and movement.

“It’s an honor to do his work and to do such a massive work,” Nissinen said. “Talk about stretching the boundaries! It’s dance at its best, but it’s also a great piece of modern art. It crosses the boundaries of our art form. It’s not just great dance art, it’s great modern art.”

Like Forsythe, Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Jorma Elo, has proved to be a virtuoso of contemporary ballet. Yet his recent endeavor for the company, “Bach Cello Suites,” explored the classical end of the ballet spectrum, while still maintaining some signature Elo edge. Nissinen enjoyed “Bach Cello Suites” so much that he and Elo agreed this forthcoming world premiere piece would delve even deeper into classical ballet.

Boston Ballet will also reprise two of its most celebrated works next season, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty. It will be the company’s fifth year performing Nissinen’s highly-regarded production of The Nutcracker. Similarly, The Sleeping Beauty, another Boston Ballet trademark, is widely praised for Petipa’s choreography (with additional choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton). The ballet beautifully interprets Tchaikovsky’s famous score, and features regal sets and costumes by David Walker.

“I have found the audiences so receptive,” Nissinen said. “We are in a journey together of enriching our lives and discovering new things and having lots of fun in the process.”

Tickets go on sale in mid-July for The Nutcracker, and on Sept. 1 for the rest of the season.