Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Elo Experience"

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note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth

"“The Elo Experience”"

A Review by Sheila Barth

Don’t expect to see classical ballet on pointe at “The Elo Experience”. Acclaimed Boston Ballet resident choreographer, Jorma Elo, has created a marvelous fusion of modern ballet that’s quirky yet fluid, robotic yet graceful, aerobic and energetic, with quicksilver speed and complexity.

He fused works he created for the Boston Ballet, including: “Brake the Eyes,” “Plan to B,” “In On Blue,” a world premiere work, with “Double Evil,” created for the San Francisco Ballet; “Lost on SLOW,” created for the Royal Danish Ballet; “Lost by Last,” created for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and “Slice to Sharp,” created for the New York City Ballet.

This innovative production is a reflection of the dynamic, iconoclastic Finnish dancer-choreographer’s work this past decade and his work with the Boston Ballet. There’s a youthful, spontaneous synergy among the dancers that bursts with a buoyant sense of joy and unabashed energy.

Elo opens both acts of the ballet with the house lights on, while unaware patrons chat before getting seated, melding audience members who are settling down with performers on stage, as they rev up.

Although the program uses a wide variety of canned music, from Baroque to 20th century, including works by composers Peter Tchaikovsky, Heinrich Biber, Eugene Ysaye and Philip Glass, the Elo Experience is a showcase for Elo’s signature, creative moves that are quirky yet fluid, springy, coiling. He accents his stunning choreography with unusual sounds and modern lighting design.

Charles Heightchew’s blue, black, white, gold and dark silver costumes complement and contrast designer Benjamin Phillips’ large, modern wall panels that change hue from white or black, brilliant blue, green, red or orange. They scale up and down at times, while large, illuminated boxlike structures slide across the stage, as dancers perch atop the roof or frolic around them, and John Cuff’s moody lights add metaphoric sunlight, moonglow, and darkness.

Elo also phases in primary male and female dancers’ Jeffrey Cirio and Larissa Ponomarenko’s repetitive, seemingly nonsensical narration, in which she murmurs chirpy gibberish - phrases about how she likes moonlight and why is he always five minutes late, while he wonders if she likes him, if he made her angry, and why he can’t get “there” on time.

The sequence of dances don’t hang together narratively. They perhaps aren’t meant to. Instead, they showcase primary dancers’ and the corps de ballet’s magnificent moves.

Their soaring leaps, pirouettes, grand jetes, pas de deux, split-second precision, from robotic to mime movements and mercurial speed are stunning. Like large birds, they flutter and extend their wingless limbs, their heads darting back and forth, their backs arched. Other times, couples intertwine, their limbs and bodies floating and fused together, fluidly unfurling, sliding like satin.

“The Elo Experience” isn’t your grandmother’s ballet. It’s an awakening of something fresh and new, like springtime, with promises of more to come.

BOX INFO: World premiere of two-hour, two-act ballet by Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer, Jorma Elo, appearing now through April 3 at the Opera House, Washington Street, Boston. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m., also Saturday, April 2. Tickets, $25-$132. Call 617-695-6955 or visit

"The Elo Experience" (till 3 April)
@ the Opera House, Washington Street, , BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide