Isaac Akiba is a ballet explorer. As the 34-year-old Boston Ballet soloist recently told the Journal, “I’m a dancer who seeks out challenges.”
He started dancing in Boston Ballet’s Citydance program when he was 9 years old. Since 2007 and particularly 2014 (as a soloist), the Boston native has taken on with aplomb the diverse demands of such major works as “La Bayadere,” “Giselle,” and John Cranko’s “Romeo and Juliet.” as well as important repertoire from such choreographers as George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian, and William Forsythe. Now he is demonstrating his remarkable agility, form, and technique in an all-Forsythe program (including a world premiere) entitled “As Anticipated” at the Boston Opera House.
Akiba also spoke about the ongoing challenges of developing his pioneering American-Israeli Ballet Association (AIBA) project.
Forsythe’s choreography – especially in “As Anticipated”– strongly appeals to Akiba. “It’s all based in classical ballet,” he explained. “His main influence is Balanchine.” At the same time, Akiba welcomed Forsythe’s singular approach. “For me, it’s extreme ballet with a twist. He breaks down classical ballet and creates something unexpected but also beautiful. He brings dancers to a whole new level.”
Akiba also championed the personal side of this approach. “It’s like a lab,” he noted. “You’re exploring new sides of yourself and new ways of movement.” As for the significance of Forsythe’s ongoing association with Boston Ballet (since 2016), he added, “It’s really brought our company to a new level. It really takes a unity to reach the highest level.”
Akiba aspires to reach that kind of level with his American-Israeli Ballet Association. The organization’s mission, he stated, is “to develop Israel into a renowned, internationally acclaimed center for classical ballet.” Although this project has been delayed by COVID-19, he has been preparing for its realization by studying at Northeastern, where he will soon receive a Bachelor of Science degree in leadership with a business minor.
As AIBA’s president, Akiba also plans to enter an MBA master’s program for business administration to become an executive arts administrator. His own connection with Israeli dance includes teaching stints from 2018 to 2019 in youth dance programs in Tel Aviv.
If AIBA was delayed by the pandemic, so was “As Anticipated” – Boston Ballet’s first all-Forsythe evening since 2019. Quite simply, the combination of superb individual dancing and first-rate corps synchronization opening night was well worth the wait.
Four pairs of dancers fully captured the stylized movement of the opening pas de deux-centered “Approximate Sonata.” Haley Schwan and Jeffrey Cirio (casts change throughout the run) effectively established a seeming alternation of distance and nearness in some of their moves that the following pairs smoothly sustained. In ‘“Artifact Suite,” “Defile” – ” with an original musical soundscape by Forsythe and Boston Ballet music director Mischa Santora – featured semaphore-like hand movement and punctuating clapping.
There were also Balanchine-recalling stage crossings and intricacies here and in the following Bach-set “Chaconne.” The choreographer’s own lighting included beautiful shadow effects. Quick-moving Maria Alvarez regularly served as a kind of coach-conductor for the ensemble configurations. Isaac Akiba – along with Alvarez, John Lam, Tyson Clark, Madysen Felber and Alec Roberts – displayed strong arm moves and impressive turns in the untitled Part III. With whimsical touches as well as electrifying dancing, “As Anticipated” proved a very satisfying distillation of Forsythe’s formidable repertoire.
Akiba embraced both the unexpected and the formidable as a kind of Forsythe signature. “Right before the show, he will change it. It’s all about what’s best for the audience and the work,” he noted. Θ
“As Anticipated,” runs through Nov. 13 at the Citizen Bank Opera House, 539 Washington St. For tickets, visit bostonballet.org.