He may have a degree in cellular biology, but these days,
choreographer Daniel Pelzig is more interested in life forms of a
The resident choreographer of Boston Ballet is one of the most
active and versatile working today. He is also one of the most
talented, with a host of impressive accomplishments to his credit,
not the least of which is a choreographic repertory of great
artistic depth and integrity.
His primary role is with Boston Ballet, where he spends 30 weeks
out of the year, sharing an apartment near the studios with his dog
Bette and tailoring first-rate choreography for the 45-member
company. His latest opus, "Nine Lives: Songs of Lyle Lovett"
premiered as part of Boston Ballet's most recent program of
contemporary dance pairing three choreographers - Pelzig, Lila
York, and Danny Buraczeski - with local fashion designers (Nong
Tumsutipong, Tunji Dada, and Pam Graham, respectively). The
program, which opened March 21 and runs through April 7, also uses
popular music in an attempt to reach a wider audience and is
entitled "Hot & Cool."
Pelzig's "Nine Lives" definitely falls on the "hot" side.
"Nine Lives" is ballet with a shimmy, a shrug, and a swagger,
from the down-home country line dance to the sensual, lyric duets
that play off Lovett's soulful blues. The work's imaginative and
dynamic marriage of ballet and jazz vocabularies is immediately
appealing and accessible, yet there are no cheap tricks, no slick
Balletic pyrotechnics sidle naturally yet provocatively next to
colorful, sophisticated jazz moves. It's solidly structured as well
as emotionally compelling. It's also a superb vehicle for
showcasing Boston Ballet's myriad personalities and stylistic
range. Pelzig clearly created the work for these particular
dancers, both playing to their strengths and stretching their
Pelzig has made works for a number of other dance companies as
well, including Joffrey II and the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, and is
much in demand as a choreographer for theater and opera. He
currently is the resident choreographer for the Santa Fe Opera and
has ties to a number of theater companies, including Boston's
Huntington Theatre, where he choreographed the premiere production
of Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" as well as this
season's "Iolanthe." He also choreographed the 50th anniversary
tour of "Oklahoma."
Pelzig describes the three choreographic worlds he inhabits -
ballet, theater, and opera - as being extremely different from one
another. "Nobody seeing a musical I choreographed would think to
ask me to do a ballet," he says.
Yet there is a cross-fertilization between the three styles that
Pelzig considers very important. "When I first started
choreographing, I worked very hard at keeping all three careers
growing in parallel. I enjoyed them all and each fit different
parts of me. But now they really feed each other quite
His first piece for Boston Ballet, last fall's charming hit "The
Princess and the Pea," exhibited a deft command of a variety of
dance and theatrical styles, all put to the service of the familiar
story without sacrificing balletic flair.
In rehearsal, Pelzig's choreographic priorities are clear. "OK,
now, tell the story - play the scene. 'The play's the thing,' " he
Affable yet intense, he cajoles and urges, laughingly taunting
ballerina Polyanna Ribeiro to put more pizazz in her long, slinky
walk across stage.
As with all Pelzig's works, there is an underlying narrative
thread that reveals an innate storyteller, a need for context and
meaning. "Even in abstract ballets, that's where my interest lies,"
Pelzig says. "I want to know who these people are and why they are