The dancers at the Saturday evening, May 13th, performance of Pennsylvania Ballet’s program titled RE/ACTION were uniformly splendid. One could not say that the season ended on a high note because there were so many high notes throughout the season. The evening was quite simply, a joy.
Christopher Wheeldon’s company premiere, Rush, was first on the program. Rush provided the six principal dancers with lovely, intimate duets. A few of the other dancers did experience some difficulty with some lifts and partnerings.
After the first intermission we had a series of pas de deux, here called Pas de Deux Previews, from celebrated ballets which will join the Pennsylvania Ballet’s repertoire next season. From what was on view, Philadelphia audiences will have many spectacular moments of enjoyment in the months to come. First was Petipa’s Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake thrillingly danced by Lilllian Di Piazza and Alexsey Babayev. Mr. Babayev partnered Ms. Di Piazza with absolute assurance and ease. His thighs were monumental in musculature, which undoubtedly allowed Ms. Di Piazza total security to exercise the coquettish freedom required in this scene. By next year, this couple will be awesome. Next, was the pas de deux from the Sleeping Beauty danced by Oksana Maslova and Arian Molina Soca. It is nearly impossible to convey the astonishing “rightness” of these two dancers for this role. Both seemed to be born to dance their parts. They danced with absolute perfection. One could not find dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet who could outdo Ms. Maslova and Mr. Molina Soca. They absolutely looked the roles and moved as if it were in their DNA. Outstanding is the only word to describe them. Within seconds, Kathryn Manger and Albert Gordon burst onto the stage in George Balanchine’s Tarantella. What could be a cheesy exercise became instead for these gifted artists an exhilarating display of technical prowess of the highest order delivered with nonchalance. Ms. Manger looked to be all of twelve years old, while Mr. Gordon, already well-known for his fiery pyrotechnics, amazingly outdid himself to wild audience acclaim. Speeding along with only time for the audience and orchestra to catch a breath, came Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux danced with grace and elan by Mayara Pineiro and Sterling Baca. Two shakes of a lamb’s tail later, came the Pas de Deux from Rubies. Some may have not seen this danced since Patricia McBride and Edward Villella danced it (could it be forty years ago?) at New York City Ballet. Tonight, Amy Aldridge and Alexander Peters were the stars. Upon their first appearance on the stage, many may have asked, “Is this partnership going to work?” It not only worked out but grew incandescent. How can it be possible to build from strength to strength, and still have room to reach the stars? Ms. Aldridge and Mr. Peters showed us it can be done. Incredible artistry allied with stupendous, idiomatic dancing seared it into our collective corneas. Watching them dance made us young again (if only for a moment). Amy Aldridge is retiring from dance after 23 years on stage. If tonight can be held as evidence, she is leaving her career at the top of her game.
Matthew Neenan’s world premiere, Somnolence, was the concluding piece on tonight’s program. The choreographer allied edgy wit with an insouciant tongue-in-cheek subtle humor and beguiling movement in this accomplished work. Part of the scenery appeared at first to be a giant Hershey’s kiss, but upon closer inspection it became a tear in a mattress covering the stage set, from which pillows and an occasional dancer flowed. The choreography highlighted metaphors of sleep, with pillows as scenery, props, and integral elements of the dance. Somnolence is an exciting and piquant piece from this renowned Philadelphia choreographer.
RE/ACTION was the final program of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2016-2017 season.
The 2017-2018 season looks from all accounts to be a winner. For more information, visit www.paballet.org
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