UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

‘Obsidian Tear’: A Powerful and Unique Ballet

On Nov. 3, Wayne McGregor’s new ballet production, “Obsidian Tear,” opened alongside “Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius” and a classical composition titled “Finlandia.”

The night opened with “Finlandia,” also composed by Jean Sibelius and conducted by their guest conductor Daniel Stewart. The set was simplistic, with only a projection of the word “FINLANDIA” on the stage.

The piece was rousing and turbulent, evoking a majestic tone with an undertone of the protagonist’s struggle. Toward the end, calamity came over the orchestra with a serene hymn. The composition set the expectation of the emotional and powerful dancing of “Obsidian Tear.”

The all-male “Obsidian Tear” is one of McGregor’s breakthrough pieces that was inspired by Esa-Pekka Salonen. This ballet highlights the athleticism of these male dancers, while capturing the emotions and forces exerted. Their physical language was on par and they were full of energy and grace.

The ballet opened with two bare-chested men: one wearing a pair of red pants and the other wearing a black pair. As eerie music began, the two dancers moved seamlessly together, their movement filled with gestures suggesting possible lovers, though there was an invisible force field that wouldn’t let them touch one another. Then, another male dancer entered the stage. He was supposed to resemble a religious or powerful figure.  

With the entrance of every new dancer, the others started to take on traditional gender roles. In a duet with the main characters, the dancer in the red pants was given moves that were associated with women, but yet powerful and authoritative moves when necessary. As other dancers entered, they were dressed in a variety of black garments.

The dancer in red pants gave a remarkable performance. He was ostracized by the group of dancers, attacked with slash of ashes across his chest, and given a partner in a slow, intimate dance. The moment he was slashed was symbolic of a possible gay outsider who was outcast by his peers.

There were suggestions of alliances among peers as they grouped together, then fractioned off into smaller groups. There were moments where the main dancer in black pants was seemingly fighting with the religious-like figure. As the two dancers died off, tension grew for the main dancer in black pants as the light dimmed and a red glow radiated across the stage. Then, the main dancer in red pants entered. The danced fiercely, though the dancer in red pants didn’t put in as much fight as the dancer in black pants did. The dancer in black pants pushed the dancer in red pants into an abyss at the back of the stage, leaving dancer in black pants to jump into the pit himself.

Throughout the piece, the arc mirrored that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, where the two main characters were cast out from their group due to their connection to one another, causing tension with the community and leading to the demise of both dancers.