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Pennsylvania Ballet presents Grace and Grandeur at the Merriam Theater

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Apr 11, 2018 10:30am | comments


Pennsylvania Ballet continued its 2017-2018 season with a program entitled Grace and Grandeur which was seen April 5-8, 2018, at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia. The three ballets presented under the title Grace and Grandeur were Marius Petipa’s Paquita, Christopher Wheeldon’s For Four, and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.


Artistic Director Angel Corella continues to mix artists from the principal, soloist, and corps ranks, with generally excellent results. In Paquita, we had two principals, Mayara Pineiro and Arian Molina Soca in featured roles. And four ballerinas from all three groups: Nayara Lopes and Yuka Iseda from the corps; Alexandra Hughes, soloist; and Oksana Maslova, principal dancer. Miss Pineiro danced her role wonderfully and with great enthusiasm. Mr. Soca, as her cavalier, cut such a dashing figure that when he first appeared onstage, “OOooohhs!” rose from the audience. Paquita was last danced by the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1987, and its return is welcomed.


After the first intermission, we moved from a classical world of chandeliers and candelabras (set design by the legendary Rouben Ter-Arutunian) to a modern milieu choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon titled For Four for four exceptional dancers. Wheeldon first choreographed this piece for The Kings of the Dance at New York’s City Center in 2006. Interestingly, the original dancers included Artistic Director Angel Corella with Johan Kobborg, Ethan Stiefel, and Nikolai Tsiskaridze. This evening we enjoyed Sterling Baca, Zechang Liang, Peter Weil, and Jermel Johnson dancing the four male roles. Mr. Baca began fiercely, never lagging in impetuosity. He was occasionally joined by the sprightly Mr. Weil, Mr. Liang, and Mr. Johnson. As the ballet progressed, each man had a star turn. Both Sterling Baca and Jermel Johnson were outstanding. Mr. Weil had great energy and style, while Mr. Liang performed to warm audience acclaim. Watching Jermel Johnson in For Four, spectators could not help but wonder just how does he do it? Mr. Johnson was nigh on atomic, defying all laws of reality.


After another intermission, the indomitable Mr. Baca led the ensemble (with an impressive Dayesi Torriente) in leading roles in the Balanchine classic Theme and Variations. The large supporting cast employed just about the entire corps de ballet. Again this evening we were treated to see Alexandra Hughes and Peter Weil in the supporting cast. The beautiful costumes were by Theoni V. Aldredge. All costumes were wonderful except for one Mr. Baca wore. Nevertheless, the dancing was marvelous, thanks in large part to repetiteur Victoria Simon, who was given credit in the program. Once again, we had candelabras and chandeliers of a different sort, no doubt emphasizing the “grandeur” of the Grace and Grandeur program.


The night’s guest conductor was Nathan Fifield, who led the orchestra with a sure baton, and made every note of music, especially Tchaikovsky’s music thrilling in Theme and Variations. We hope to see more of the handsome, young, and talented conductor.


George Balanchine’s classic Jewels will be Pennsylvania Ballet’s next presentation, May 10-13. For information and to purchase tickets, visit .

Don’t forget Shut Up and Dance, the benefit for MANNA, on April 14 at the Forrest Theatre. For information, visit .

NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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