Pennsylvania Ballet - Contemporary Ballet Done Right
|Adrian Molina Soca and Lillain di Piazza in Grace Action|
The program he brought to NYC are all recent pieces -- the oldest (Matthew Neenan's Keep) premiered in 2009. And they're all what I would call pop ballet. They're not masterpieces, nor do they intend to be. And I must say, they chose three pop ballets that, unlike a lot of contemporary ballet pieces, were refreshingly watchable and fun. There was no screeching dissonant music, no agonizing ennui and angst, and best of all, the pieces were SHORT! The whole program was like eating a bag of potato chips and ice cream -- empty calories to be sure, but enjoyable.
The weakest piece of the evening was the opener. Matthew Neenan's Keep is one of those ballets that has a severe disconnect between the music, the choreography, the costumes, and the mood. None of the elements were bad but it never came together. The music was to string quartets by Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov but the costumes looked like flamenco and the choreography was a mix of uh ... contortionist contemporary ballet and Alvin Ailey? I really couldn't keep track. Three couples were in flouncy dresses, with Lillian diPiazza at first looking like that iconic Revelations woman with the flouncing skirt on the stool. But her choreography was mostly of the "woman lifts leg, wraps around man's neck" sort. It was watchable, but there wasn't any cohesion.
Trey McIntyre's The Accidental was much more enjoyable. It was more modern dance than ballet -- actually, you could picture Paul Taylor using this music. It was set to a charming, plaintive set of songs from Patrick Watson's Adventures in Your Own Backyard, and the choreography didn't say much either but sometimes it doesn't need to. In a 20 minute ballet, choreography that is energetic and sets a nice mood for the music is enough. The ballet opens with a sweetly sexy duet between Evelyn Kocak and Craig Wasserman, had a few more duets (Oksana Maslova was lovely in the second duet) and ended with a melancholy solo by Craig Wasserman. I urge people to give this album a listen too. It's very catchy and Watson's melodies are soulful and sweet.
|Evelyn Kocak and Craig Wasserman in The Accidental, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
In his opening letter Angel Corella said "I know that New York audiences are very smart and know good work and good dancing when they see it, which is why I know you are going to love this program." And I think that's why this run at the Joyce has been a success -- he played it smart. He didn't overshoot and program an all-Balanchine bill that would have invited unflattering comparisons to New York City Ballet. (A few months ago, I saw Pacific Northwest Ballet in a Balanchine triple bill. They tried hard but except for James Moore's wonderful Prodigal Son the dancers weren't really memorable and they came across as a regional company that was too ambitious.) He didn't program a gala of "classics" that wouldn't have fit the tiny intimate Joyce Theatre. He programmed three highly digestible but relatively unknown ballets. PABallet is in good hands with Corella.
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