Review: Boston Ballet opens their season with ‘Obsidian Tear’

Angelica Potter

  • OnStage Boston Critic

Boston Ballet opens their 2017-2018 season with two exciting premieres by two master choreographers. ‘Obsidian Tear’, by Wayne McGregor, is a co-production between The Royal Ballet and Boston Ballet. The Royal Ballet performed the world premiere in 2016 at the Royal Opera House. The second ballet entitled ‘Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius’ is world premiering right here at the Boston Opera House and was choreographed by their resident choreographer Jorma Elo. While these pieces are both stunning and wonderfully danced by the artists of Boston Ballet, each has its own unique way of captivating the audience’s attention through variations of classical and contemporary ballet. In the case of ‘Obsidian Tear’ its mix of ballet and multiple modern techniques is what caught my attention and kept me fascinated throughout. 

Interestingly, the performance does not start out with one of these aforementioned ballets, but with the beautiful tone poem “Finlandia”, composed by Jean Sibelius and performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra led by guest conductor Daniel Stewart. A smart choice on the part of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, the piece allowed the audience to settle, quiet their racing thoughts and just listen. Musically, it transitioned nicely into Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Lachen verlernt” and “Nyx” which were the melodious foundation for ‘Obsidian Tear’.

‘Obsidian Tear’ begins with two male dancers, one in red pants and one in black pants. At times, they move in unison, other times they shadow each other. They mostly danced individually, contrasting one another’s movements all while each keeping a close eye on the other. It didn’t take long for the audience to start wondering where their relationship would go; would they be friend or foe? Irlan Silva, who danced in the red pants, danced with graceful fluidity. His movements were all connected to one another, whether they were slow and drawn out or quick and distinct. Paulo Arrais, wearing the black pants, moved with intensity and precision. They each exhibited an emotional connection to the music, their characters and each other.

The piece is powerfully rounded out by seven additional male dancers including Paul Craig, Roddy Doble, Lasha Khozashvili, Patric Palkens, Lawrence Rines, Matthew Slattery and Patrick Yocum. They, like Arrais, wore various black garments leading the audience to believe that Silva, in red, was the outsider to their group. The athleticism, seemingly boundless stamina and ferocious strength exhibited by this group was truly incredible to watch and is unlike any other ballet I have seen. They continuously pushed the intensity of their performance while at the same time guiding the audience through an exploration of the darker side of humanity. By the end, the audience seemed to be in a mixed state of awestruck and amazement, taking a few moments after the blackout before they began their applause.

Following the intermission, the mood lightened as the music of Jean Sibelius, “Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82”, filled the theater and thirty-five company members sprang onto the stage. With a desire to honor the centennial of Finland’s independence, Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo created his newest piece based on the music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Elo was inspired by the Finnish landscape and the changing of the seasons. The dancers, separated into pairs and smaller groups, wore pastel colored costumes designed by Yumiko Takeshima. Ashley Ellis, the singular dancer dressed in pale blue, was charming and joyfully portrayed her youthful character. Overall, this ballet was gracefully danced and pleasing to watch. ©

Unfortunately, ‘Obsidian Tear’ only runs from November 3rd to November 12th, but hopefully now that the company has added these two ballets to their repertoire we will see them back on stage sometime in the not so distant future.  For more information about Boston Ballet’s 2017-2018 season visit


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Photo Credit- Boston Ballet in Wayne McGregor's Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet