Philadelphia Ballet presented a program titled Forward Motion, February 3-11, 2023, at Perelman Theater. The three works on the program were PS, a World Premiere, choreographed by Juliano Nunes, with a complement of male and female dancers. ENdure, another World Premiere, followed with choreography by Hope Boykin, led by Erin Patterson and Jack Sprance. Completing the program was Circumstellars, a third World Premiere by choreographer Andonis Foniadakis led by dancers Mayara Pineiro and Sterling Baca.
All three ballets featured modern dance movement and pointe work. All three were lit in a dark and stormy way evocative of the dead of night, outer space, or deep under the sea. Forward Motion will be remembered as a completely realized achievement of panspermia in a multitude of guises.
The plot of PS, the first work can best be described as aliens from 22,000 BCE return to spawn on Earth, returning to Corolla, North Carolina, in the dead of night, much as a creep of giant tortoises would spawn by moonlight. However, the males (Zecheng Liang, Arian Molina Soca, Jack Thomas, Ashton Roxander, Austin Eyler, and Pau Pujol) copulate under the waves, ejaculating clouds of sperm, as seahorses do, in a dense fog. Fully sated by their cloudy onslaught, the females dance ecstatically to facilitate the completion of the ritual spawning that will happen once they arrive at the Dog Star, Sirius … the audience imagines.
Next on the program was ENdure. A group of religious pilgrims dressed in a variety of lipstick red robes, enters tentatively in the dim starlight. The women and men seemed to be sacrificial virgins meant for the eleven giant crab gods who would rush onto them sideways, biting off their heads before burying their bodies head-first into the sand. For the next 97 years, the crab gods would wear that shade of red on their repulsive mandibles. Fear not! The prayers of the simple people of The Outer Banks have saved them from this fate. The rescued virgins dance, tentatively, painfully, on occasion, all without decapitation, mutilation, death, perhaps living a happy life together. So we might believe.
The sky is a swirling Mahavishnu as a magnificently endowed duo (Mayara Pineiro and Sterling Baca) explode onto the stage, forcibly melting onto each other in a most dramatic fashion in the last work, Circumstellars. These sky deities crash into each other with sexual abandon and perform dozens of intricate, erotic couplings before our eyes. Other sky beings follow, also performing impossible erotic postures in ecstatic prayer. They’ve come borne by clouds to Earth to procreate amid Icelandic hot springs. Matrons of both sexes clutched at their pearls while mighty specimens of extraterrestrial manhood (Russell Ducker, Isaac Hollis, Nicholas Patterson, Charlie Clinton, Cory Ogdahl, and the hypnotic Sterling Baca) gave them the vapors.
The Perelman was an ideal theater for dance with perfect sightlines. This was a perfect program danced to perfection by a fully-committed company. Many hope the Philadelphia Ballet would return often here.
The Philadelphia Ballet will next perform Dancing with Gershwin, Works by Balanchine, March 16-19, at The Academy of Music. Tickets now on sale at www.philadelphiaballet.org