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On October 6th, Boston Ballet opened its 2022-2023 season with a beautiful program intended to provoke the audience’s emotions on devotion, obsessions, and idols. In addition to being thought-provoking, the season opener, My Obsession, also serves as a stunning introduction to how varied the art of ballet can be. The program comprises four separate works: George Balanchine’s Apollo and Allegro Brillante, Helen Pickett’s 月夜Tsukiyo, and Stephen Galloway’s DEVIL’S/eye.

My'Kal Stromile and Soo-bin Lee in Helen Pickett's Tsukiyo; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet
My’Kal Stromile and Soo-bin Lee in Helen Pickett’s Tsukiyo; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet Boston Ballet My Obsession

Before we delve into the show, I should mention my now 11-year-old son Vincent was my date to the ballet and usually is. As a boy who is constantly in motion and has an attention span that occasionally requires some form of pyrotechnics to maintain, he provides a fantastic check as to which shows would appeal to most people. But, besides using his opinion as a litmus test, I also firmly believe in instilling an appreciation of the arts in the next generation so that they, too, may cherish and uphold the arts. Without music, dance, and the visual arts, life would be bland, and creativity would die. Creative minds are behind innovation and progress, not just in art but in science. So please, let’s expose our children to all types of art. Even if they protest, they will internalize the benefit and eventually give thanks. Plus, you might be nurturing the next Balanchine, Picasso, Franklin, or Hawking.

Vincent Hennessy

My Obsession creates a palatable balance between Balanchine’s two neoclassical works and Pickett and Galloway’s contemporary pieces. It was like a perfect cheese board, with diverse offerings to please any palate. If you find it offensive that I compare something as revered and gorgeous as ballet to cheese, please don’t. A well-curated cheese plate is one of my biggest obsessions. Imagine a spread with only hard cheeses. It’s cheese, so it’s still good. But, now think of one with a nutty aged English clothbound Cheddar with salty little bits in every bite. Next to that golden cheddar, soft blue cheese with a creamy texture that helps the buttermilk-like tang gloriously stick to your tongue. And, let’s not forget a perfectly aged triple creme with a decadent center slowly melting out of the rind and onto the board. Not only does that sound amazing, but it’s a great way to introduce the cheese novice to all the cheesy goodness in the world. Boston Ballet’s My Obsession is a type of ballet board giving the viewer a sampling of neoclassical and contemporary ballet. The fact that romantic or classical ballet was left on the shelf isn’t a big deal since most are already familiar with the likes of Swan Lake. But seeing ballet dancers whet their athleticism up against the Rolling Stones is pretty eye-opening as to the depth and breadth of ballet.

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The show opened with George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, a neo-classical piece that perfectly exemplifies this ballet style. Helen Pickett’s 月夜Tsukiyo, a contemporary piece with a mesmerizing flow, followed. Dancers Chyrstyn Fentroy and Paul Craig moved in such a unified way that the theme of devotion and unity poured off of them and down into the audience. It was a beautiful performance that elicited exclamations of awe from the crowd during intermission.

My'Kal Stromile and Soo-bin Lee in Helen Pickett's Tsukiyo; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet
My’Kal Stromile and Soo-bin Lee in Helen Pickett’s Tsukiyo; photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet My Obsession

Sandwiched between the two intermissions was another George Balanchine piece – Apollo. Widely acclaimed as the first neoclassical ballet and first performed in the 1920s, the coming-of-age depiction of Apollo has a touch of levity that still engages the audience 100 years later. 

Boston Ballet in George Balanchine's Apollo ©The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet My Obsession George Balanchine’s Apollo ©The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Chyrstyn Fentroy in George Balanchine's Apollo; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Chyrstyn Fentroy in George Balanchine’s Apollo; photo by Brooke Trisolini; courtesy of Boston Ballet

While the entire program was fantastic, Stephen Galloway’s DEVIL’S/eye does stand out from the rest. Of course, the music of the Rolling Stones helps to set it apart, but so does the set design, costumes, and ‘tude exuded by the dancers. In fact, I was obsessed with their fierceness that I contemplated hanging around after the show to ask them to hit up the club with me next weekend. As if 1. My joints could handle that. 2. They would say yes. 3. Dance clubs still even existed. But a girl can dream! Anyhow, you get how cool the performance was. 

Boston Ballet My Obsession  Stephen Galloway's DEVIL'S/eye, photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet My Obsession Stephen Galloway’s DEVIL’S/eye, photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet

For those who prefer to hang at home, pour a glass of scotch, and sit and listen to the Stones while your mind drifts along with the music, I have a suggestion. DEVIL’S/eye is an opportunity to do all that with one exception. Let some of the world’s most talented dancers inspire your wandering thoughts and life contemplations. Maybe you’ll end up searching for a dance club, and perhaps you might also develop a ballet obsession. 

John Lam in Stephen Galloway's DEVIL'S/eye, photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet
John Lam in Stephen Galloway’s DEVIL’S/eye, photo by Liza Voll; courtesy of Boston Ballet Boston Ballet My Obsession

And for those of you who are familiar with Vincent’s ballet journey, he enjoyed the show. His two favorite pieces were 月夜Tsukiyo and DEVIL’S/eye. He was happy to share this with spectators at his Sunday football game. When I asked if he wanted to keep going to the ballet, he eagerly replied, “Of course!”

My Obsession runs for two hours, with two intermissions from October 6th to 16th at the Citizen’s Opera House. Purchase your tickets HERE.

Vincent Hennessy and Jessica Hennessy
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