By Amy Cavanaugh

If you think ballet is boring, think again. The Boston Ballet’s artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, has been creating cutting-edge contemporary, neoclassical, and classical productions for the company over the past decade. Their latest offering is “Play With Fire,” which runs at the Boston Opera House through March 11.

“Play With Fire” features three contemporary ballets. “Sharp Side of Dark,” by Boston Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo, is set against an architectural backdrop to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” The Boston Ballet premiered Jiří Kylián’s “Bella Figura” last April, and it celebrates the human body. The last work, Christopher Bruce’s “Rooster,” is set to music by the Rolling Stones.

Nissinen recently spoke with about the upcoming performance. What made you choose the three works?

Mikko Nissinen: We have had so much success with the works by Jiří Kylián and Jorma Elo in the past. We have an audience that enjoys contemporary programs, and it helps bring a new audience to the shows. We have a three-pronged repertoire: classical/academic, neoclassical like Balanchine, and contemporary. It means we’re inclusive versus exclusive. We offer three doors to ballet and don’t care which entry point people use.

mikkonissinen Boston Ballet Plays With Fire: Interview With Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen Does your audience vary by type of performance?

MN: People are coming for all of the programs. There are people who think they won’t like contemporary because like classical, or vice versa, but they do. That for me spells out a ballet company of the future—something that’s relevant to today’s people. Is there something that connects all three works?

MN: I put them together a little like a chef does a meal at a restaurant. We go from one work to another and create a beautiful flow. Is there a challenge to working with music like the Rolling Stones?

MN: It’s really hard, but if there’s one thing about the talent of the Boston Ballet it’s that they’re so versatile. A huge percentage of them excel in all the styles. It makes it much more interesting for the individual dancers as well. Visually, how will the performances look onstage?

MN: “Bella Figura” is haunting, with big red dresses and black velvet curtains. It’s very sensual. “Sharp Side of Dark” has an architectural, industrial look, with warm white light and cold white light. Then “Rooster,” the last piece, is just a tour de force into The Rolling Stones’ back catalog.
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