A dead tree hanging upside down overhead, with a spotlight slowly circling it. A piano on stilts on one side of the stage, an ice sculpture's worth of bubble wrap on the other. A backdrop of Persian carpets for a dance that could have been titled "Rite of Appalachian Spring." Yes, it's just another business-as-usual evening of outrageous-looking works by Jiří Kylián. Reaction to the longtime Nederlands Dans Theater director's output typically ranges from "Eureka!" to "Eurotrash!" But in its "All Kylián" program at the Boston Opera House (through March 17), Boston Ballet makes even the trashy aspects transcendent.
>> SLIDESHOW: Boston Ballet's ''All Kylián'' <<
The three pieces — Wings of Wax (1997), Tar and Feathers (2006), and Symphony of Psalms (1978) — span most of Kylián's choreographic career; what they have in common is their sexual politics, as men and women, in duet after duet, try to define their often contentious relationships. Wings of Wax, which opens with the passacaglia from Biber's Mystery Sonatas and closes with the 25th variation from Bach's Goldberg Variations, is low-key, its anguish muted, its eight dancers eventually forming four couples. The significance of the uprooted tree and the Daedalus-and-Icarus title is left to the viewer. On opening night, Kathleen Breen Combes and Bradley Schlagheck gave it a stately elegance at the outset; Whitney Jensen and Robert Kretz shone as the more agitated closing pair.
Tar and Feathers is Kylián in his Bizarre Baroque mode. The stage floor is bisected into black and white halves — black for tar, one presumes, and white for feathers. Towering over the black side is a baby grand piano with Tomoko Mukaiyama improvising (and at one point reaching into the sound board); smack in the middle of the white side is that ominous bubble wrap and, later, a quintet of dancers in black wigs, red lipstick, and transparent white skirts. The piece is, for starters, about crossing the divide. The most striking image, skyscraper piano and the Bubble Wrap Five aside, was Lia Cirio riding on the backs of Kretz and John Lam, but the focal point was Breen Combes's phenomenal performance, from St. Vitus' dance beginning to tiptoeing end.
Set to Stravinsky's 1930 Boston Symphony Orchestra commission (well performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra and the New World Chorale) and backed by those Persian carpets, Symphony of Psalms is a simple, somber, and sometimes spiky hymn of invocation and celebration, its 16 dancers like waves of grain. Erica Cornejo and Yury Yanowsky were emotionally grounding as the first couple. It finished with all eight couples walking into the dark at the back. "All Kylián," however, is full of light.
BOSTON BALLET'S "ALL KYLIÁN" :: Opera House, 539 Washington St, Boston :: Through March 17 :: $29-$137 :: 617.259.3400 or bostonballet.org