Boston Ballet returns to Hill, wows viewers
Newly married couple Kathleen Breen Combes and Yuri Yanowsky returned a year and a half after their first performance of Pas de Deux.
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A year and a half after their last visit, internationally acclaimed Boston Ballet principal dancers Kathleen Breen Combes and Yury Yanowsky pirouetted their way back to the Hill this past Saturday, Oct. 1. The Goldfarb Center and the Colby Theater and Dance Department presented the ballet performance in Strider Theater, billed as “Pas de Deux2: An Evening with Boston Ballet’s Kathleen Breen Combes and Yury Yanowsky.” Part of the “Arts at Colby” series, students, faculty and many local residents arrived more than an hour early in order to secure a seat in the completely full house.
The program opened with a classical piece, “Spring Waters Pas de Deux,” choreographed by Asaf Messerer. Combes and Yanowsky joyously leaped to the stage with feverish smiles that lasted the entire length of the accompaniment, a Rachmaninoff recording. As she twirled in an immaculate, flowing white skirt, Combes floated up into Yanowsky’s sturdy hands and grinned to the audience’s applause while Yanowsky carried her around the stage.
After the end of the first piece and over resounding applause, Combes immediately stepped to center stage and breathlessly greeted the house, then excused her colleague’s short absence by saying, “He’s gonna put some clothes on now.”
Following the intimate performance, the viewers were lucky to experience a special master class performance that consisted of discussion, documentary film clips and, of course, dance.
Combes and Yanowsky described their program, locating each of the three dances in certain genres with different focuses. The first dance was classical, the next was neo-classical and the last, contemporary. With this diverse program, Combes and Yanowsky conveyed juxtapositions in style and mood through distinct ‘pas de deux’ illustrations of ballet.
After the first dance, a film interlude showcased Combes talking about the art of wearing and tending to pointe shoes, along with the intensive attention, time and care that is required. In the clip, Combes explained how her custom-made pointe shoes cost $60 a pair, and how each lasts only two to three days. In the roughly 40 shows that the Boston Ballet produces yearly, $60,000 is spent on shoes.
In the next piece, “Polyphonia” (choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon), Combes and Yanowsky became much more intertwined through the fluid, collaborative motions of a neo-classical ballet story. Under a deep bluish-tinted light, the duo danced alongside dreamy and sinister sounds of prickling, high-pitched piano keys in a piece by Gyoergy Ligeti. In the end, Combes nimbly maneuvered her way into an upside down extension of Yanowsky’s back. The bound pair then walked off the stage while Combes, still upside down, waved her legs in a way that made it appear as if Yanowsky was an insect with wings.
The other film clips of the night revealed the high standards of dance companies in the United States today, which have intensified from previous times. While in the past students of dance went to conservatory to formally train under classical and perhaps neo-classical conventions, now students must be fluent in contemporary and modern dance in order to be taken seriously. Combes later explained how now there is “so much more cross-over [between genres]” than before.
The last piece Combes and Yanowsky performed was an original contemporary dance duet choreographed by Yanowsky himself entitled “Niris.” During the performance, a backdrop screen displayed a stunning film sequence of vignettes of multi-colored galactic images and dancing molecular fractals. Yanowsky later commented that his piece was “very NASA,” to which the audience chuckled. With angelic choral voices humming over heavy bass blares and dissonant string synths, the dancers jarringly swished their bodies like the twirling particles of the universe spinning behind them. “I like very abstract,” Yanowsky said.
During a Q&A session after their performance, Combes and Yanowsky described how they reached their impressive intensity in passion and performance for dance. Instead of always sticking to the books, the duo made it clear that some of their best ideas were inspired by human error. “You have to just let go and perform it,” Yanowsky said. “The most beautiful things,” he paused, “usually are mistakes.”
At the end of the night, Chair of the Theater and Dance Department and Associate Professor Lynne Connor congratulated the duo for not only their spectacular talent, but their recent marriage. Last time Combes and Yanowsky came to Colby they were engaged, and now they are a married, dancing pair.