What is it? A three piece performance featuring contemporary, original, and classical ballet.

Why see it? Boston Ballet resident choreographer Jorma Elo is one of the most sought-after creative minds at work in the ballet world. Unless you’re globe-trotting to Switzerland or have a trip to Boston scheduled sometime soon, this will be a rare opportunity to see his Brake the Eyes in action. Creative Director Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake will also be performed, hailed as a “must see” by The Boston Globe.

Who should go? Tiny little girls with toe-shoe aspirations. Plus anyone else with an appreciation for exquisite ballet. For those who’ve never given the genre a chance, now would be a humdinger of a time to introduce yourself to the art.

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $10-$80 • 2 hours 15 min. • May 24 at 7 p.m.; May 25 at 2 and 8 p.m. • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • (843) 579-3100

Beantown Ballet: Finding a Finnish choreographer in Boston


The Boston Ballet’s artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, and resident choreographer, Jorma Elo, are Finnish. They come from a country that worships hockey, supports the scariest death metal music scene in the world, and has dudes who regularly kill bottles of Finlandia faster than Jean Sibelius.

But male ballet dancers from Finland? Unlikely.

I can say that, because I lived for a year in that country quietly tucked away between Sweden and Russia. And while I loved the experience, I will admit it was hard to befriend and break through the frosty exterior of most Finns, especially the elusive Finnish male. So now, just when I think I’ve got ’em pegged, Boston Ballet goes and gives us sensitive Finns.

Sure, go ahead. Screw with my head.

The truth is, Nissinen and Elo are not your average Finns.

They’re internationally known, internationally trained dancers making a splash in the ballet world.

Nissinen, for his part, took control of the Boston Ballet company in 2001. The retired principal dancer held the artistic director position at Alberta Ballet before joining Boston Ballet. Since his arrival, the creative track of the company has continued to thrive with classical pieces, but Nissinen has also pushed their repertoire forward with more contemporary works, specifically those of friend and colleague Elo.

Elo is currently one of the most in-demand choreographers in the world. Jetting between Singapore and Switzerland, he managed to find a moment to e-mail City Paper about his contribution to the company performance at the Spoleto Festival, a piece titled Brake the Eyes.

“I think the intentions of the piece were to work on two very different worlds and see how those contrasting worlds would be when put together in one piece,” Elo says.

The ballet has received mixed reviews. The Boston Globe critic Karen Campbell called it “like stepping into someone else’s strange dream.” On the other hand, Claudia La Rocco of The New York Times said the ballet was debilitated by a “fussy, overwrought movement sensibility” and a “silly score.”

Elo takes the mixed reviews in stride.

“Interesting that people love or hate the stuff. Why is that? I don’t know,” he says. “I’m just happy some people like the stuff, and we can go on and continue making new things. I’m not trying to be controversial.”

A fascinating statement from a man whose career has essentially been built on controversy.

Elo’s signature moves are a surprising and fast fusion of traditional ballet mixed with almost robotic elements. His dancers pulse and twitch, thrust and sink. His delivery is abstract. Like foie gras, it’s an acquired taste.

“When making the piece, we live very much in the moment with the dancers that I have chosen for that particular project,” he says. “What we can come up with? That I find is interesting.”

What Elo produces is definitely that — interesting.

For those more inclined to see exquisite unorthodox dance, Boston Ballet should not disappoint. Elo’s Brake the Eyes is bookended by Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco set to Bach’s Concerto in D Major and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. A little something for everyone.

As far as Finnish stereotypes, Elo took up dance to get more fit for hockey.

As long as he doesn’t choreograph a ballet to death metal, he’s OK by me.