Boston Ballet’s Boyko Dossev wears many hats in the studio as company dancer, teacher and choreographer. Recently, he added a boot to the mix.
A fractured fifth metatarsal has forced him to adjust his routine, especially when creating his newest work for Boston Ballet’s second company. Titled “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” it’s set to the music of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel.
“It was a challenge to express with words my ideas and vision since ballet and dance are so physical,” Dossev said. As he was limited in his ability to demonstrate movement, the creation process became a collaborative effort between he and his dancers.
“Ne Me Quitte Pas” will debut in the second program of the intimately staged BB@Home series this weekend (Saturday, Feb. 13 and Sunday, Feb.14) at the Boston Ballet rehearsal studios on Clarendon St. The performances will showcase the nine dancers of Boston Ballet II along with 22 dancers from the school’s trainee program, in a variety of classical and contemporary works.
Included on the program is Arthur Saint-Léon and Fanny Cerrito’s “La Vivandiére,” excerpts from Marius Petipa’s “Don Quixote” and “Le Corsaire,” a male duet from “Flames of Paris,” a character dance and resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s “Over Glow.”
The program was selected to represent a “micro version” of Boston Ballet’s repertoire, said Peter Stark, who assumed his role as Boston Ballet II associate director last July. The position was created for him to fill a gap in the artistic staff, specifically dedicated to Boston Ballet II and the men’s program, he explained.
“He [Stark] has chosen the rep on an individual basis for each dancer,” said Boston Ballet II member Samivel Evans, “not for what would look best on this dancer, but as a challenge for what this dancer needs to grow in, what we need in our final stages of training to really push to the next level.”
Through his career, Stark has built a strong reputation as a ballet teacher and coach. His students have excelled in prestigious ballet competitions and have gone on to dance in world-renowned companies, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet and National Ballet of Canada.
But teaching was not always his plan. A professional dancer first, Stark performed with New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet and the Washington Ballet. He began teaching while pursuing a degree in business administration. “I needed a way to pay the bills,” he said, but he became fascinated by the exploration of ballet training.
In the last decade, Stark has served as a guest teacher for Boston Ballet a few times, but his history with the company goes back to when he joined the troupe as a dancer in 1991.
While recovering from an injury, he met the late Fernando Bujones, who was then a principal dancer in the company. Bujones became artistic director of Ballet Mississippi two years later and hired Stark to be his assistant.
“He taught me the big male steps when I was in my 20s,” Stark said, “so I am able to impart that information to my male students. He was generous to a fault and didn’t hold back any information.”
In 2000, Bujones recruited Stark again to serve as the director of the Orlando Ballet School, where he remained for the next decade before founding Next Generation Ballet, a pre-professional company in Tampa.
In his new role with Boston Ballet, Stark aims to more readily prepare the Boston Ballet II dancers to transition from students into professionals. This performance in particular contributes to this goal by exposing the dancers to diverse choreography and providing them with the opportunity to work with a variety of choreographers, including company member Dossev.
Born in Bulgaria, Dossev grew up in Mozambique, where he was first exposed to the arts. When he returned to Bulgaria, his mother enrolled him in ballet classes to gain coordination and musicality.
He has danced with Jeune Ballet de France, Hamburg Ballet and Semperoper Dresden before joining Boston Ballet in 2006. “Ne Me Quitte Pas” is the second work he has choreographed for the company. In 2007, he choreographed “Crane” for dancer Misa Kuranaga, who performed it at the season’s opening gala.
“I was lucky to dance and work in some of the most prestigious theaters and with some of the greatest choreographers and companies in the world,” Dossev said. “As a dancer, teacher and a choreographer, I am influenced by those experiences very much.”
He also acknowledges the influence of his travels and of his exposure to different cultures, from Europe to African to the United States.
Outside of the studio, Dossev carries yet another title. He is a student, pursuing a master’s degree in corporate and organizational communication through Boston Ballet’s partnership with Northeastern University. He already has a bachelor's degree in ballet teaching and a master's degree in choreography, which he received from the National Academy of Music in Sofia, Bulgaria.
All of these experiences, he explained, have contributed to his voice as a choreographer. “I can see how my voice grows stronger and stronger and how the influences start to fade out. I try to shape them in a way, through my own point of view, in which they can be also an inspiration for the next generations just as it was for me,” he said.
Although his injury has made the choreographic process more difficult for all involved, Dossev said the challenge allowed him to learn more about his dancers, as well as himself. “In the end,” he said, “that’s how we grow as artists and human beings.”
Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, a recent graduate of Boston University, is a freelance photojournalist in Birmingham, Alabama. Prior to attending college, she was a professional ballet dancer with Tulsa Ballet. Her work may be viewed at lawrenceknoxphotography.com. She may be contacted at email@example.com.