Artistry, athleticism, and joy from Pennsylvania Ballet

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

On May 9, Pennsylvania Ballet presented a triple bill of ballets at Philadelphia’s historic, magnificent Academy of Music. This triple bill was presented for only a few days, from May 9 through May 12, and included DVG: Danse a Grande Vitesse (2006), by Christopher Wheeldon, Trigger Touch Fade (World Premiere), by Jorma Elo, and Glass Pieces (1983) by Jerome Robbins.


What is the meaning of the cryptic title DVG: Danse a Grande Vitesse? Mr. Wheeldon used Michael Nyman’s MGV (Musique a Grande Vitesse) written to celebrate the inauguration of the French bullet train, Train a Grande Vitesse (aka TGV).  Percolating through Wheeldon’s mind, he created his own tribute to high-velocity bodies shooting through space, DVG: Danse a Grande Vitesse .  


DVG: Danse a Grande Vitesse begins in primordial mystery. Bacteria are bobbing in the background. Amazingly, these bacteria become commuters on this super train, the DGV. The stage set is littered with curved metallic detritus. A large corps of dancers are led by eight tremendous artists: Dayesi Torriente and Sterling Baca; Ana Calderon and Zecheng Liang; Yuka Iseda and Ian Hussey; and Lillian diPiazza and Arian Molina Soca. Instantly, we are transported to Tsarskoe Selo at lilac time. Intoxicated, we witness a reverie of splendors long lost but somehow, through the magic spell of flesh and blood, we shamanistically connect with the primordial past and enter a Paradise Regained. Swooning , we are helpless. The bodies, the lilacs, the wonder of a superbly conditioned company performing at the height of their powers all create a masterpiece. The dancing was stellar. Bravo to all the artists, to the legendary lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, costume designer Jean-Marc Puissant, and to the regisseurs under Ballet Master Charles Askegard for an unforgettable experience.


After an intermission, Jorma Elo’s Trigger Touch Fad,e a world premiere, took the stage. Mr. Elo had a long and celebrated career as a dancer before becoming the resident choreographer for Boston Ballet. Trigger Touch Fade begins with sober classical music by Haydn and Bach. The movement is equally classical and sober in the first part. As the work progresses, piquant touches of originality and wit shine through, while the dancers are fleet and lovely to behold. Luigi Mazzocchi was the fine violin soloist.


After the second intermission, Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces offered this celebrated work as the first time this company performed it. Incredible to think it, since all the artists shone in their roles. The music for Glass Pieces included Rubric and Facades from Glassworks, and excerpts from Akhnaten. The program listed as soloists Nayara Lopez, Alexandra Hughes, Therese Davis, Alexey Babayev, Zecheng Liang, and Pau Pujol in Rubric. Oksana Maslova and Jermel Johnson in Facades were irresistible. It is such a joy to see the phenomenal Mr. Johnson onstage again both here and in the previous piece. We can hope that both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Maslova will continue their partnership. Aaron Anker also shone as the lead in the corps work.


Conductor Beatrice Jona Affron led the orchestra with energy, artistry and splendor. In all, a thrilling ride through time and space while in our temporal bodies, led by the great artists of Pennsylvania Ballet.


Pennsylvania Ballet and his legion of fans say adieu to Principal Dancer Ian Hussey who is retiring after fifteen years with the company. Next season’s offerings can be found at the Pennsylvania Ballet’s website, .

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