|BalletX presents new works at the Wilma
posted by Ralph Malachowski on Jul 13, 2018 10:30am | comments
BalletX, Philadelphia’s bold and sassy modern dance troupe, presented three world premieres on July 11 at Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater.
BalletX’s vibrant Artistic and Executive Director Christine Cox addressed the audience before the performance. Among other things, she said that the pieces are so new that the order of the program was changed.
The evening began with Andrew McNicol’s Requiem, set to selections from Mozart’s Requiem. We appreciate that BalletX dancer Andrea Yorita was given a page in the program to explain the three works to us. According to Ms. Yorita, “Requiem interprets how one man copes with the loss of a loved one.” What the audience saw was a corps of male and female dancers clad in pastel devices, with one man and one woman in white. Some may wonder if this was meant to recall Orpheus and Eurydice. The busy choreography was non-stop movement, attractively and astutely planned. When we reach the Dies Irae movement we experience a thrilling and majestic duo between two male dancers at breakneck speed. After this truly amazing duet, we return to the already established pattern of loss, featuring the departed woman and the grieving man with dancers. Requiem is a fine first work, with an exceptionally fine Dies Irae duet, by the company’s young Choreographic Fellow.
Next was Situated, by Matthew Neenan, set to selections from Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words for piano. Mr. Neenan is BalletX’s co-founder and choreographer, who usually serves up his trademark choreographic inventiveness with some wry twists. Situated illustrates Mr. Neenan’s genius by having the dancers use chairs as partners for much of the piece. According to Ms. Yorita’s program statement on this work, the choreographer gives “the audience a peek into brief moments in different characters’ stories.” Indeed, among the many stories we see are dancers sitting with vibrating bodies, as if they are commuting on a rumbling train, in a 12-step meeting, and at an art gallery admiring the placement of the chairs. Once again, we have an elegiac duet of great beauty between two men midway in the work. We ask ourselves, did they meet on the commuter train? Have they fallen in love, or are they just seeking companionship for a while? As in Requiem, Situated continues as it began, with the same plot after the beautiful duet. Mr. Neenan’s Situated bursts with with clever invention, humor, pathos, and excellent dancing.
In her notes on the program, Ms. Yorita says of Rock-a Bye that it is an intimate story of a family, with “Fate, personified by a dancer who nudges and affects the choices and actions of each character.” We see a dancer, clad in black, which menacingly prowls the stage like Rilke’s Panther, who often blithely breaks up the human contacts of her victims. For some audience members, the three musicians who provide refreshing electronic, found and ambient sounds in collaboration with the choreographer Penny Saunders are American Midwestern Magi, who create the dreamscape before us. It is they who conjure the Nemesis, in this work which seems to have been inspired by My Antonia, Mourning Becomes Electra, Sappho, and Huckleberry Finn. Without reading the program notes, one may have thought that this dreamscape was a farm populated by strong women and the women they love, with two lads cavorting in a duet in a cornfield, improvised by a large, shag throw rug in Lesbos, Nebraska. One can safely say that you may have never seen anything like it.
For an eclectic, never didactic, life-enhancing evening of dance, see BalletX in their residency at the Wilma until July 22. For more information, visit www.BalletX.org .