To open their 46th year this week they dance Balanchine’s ’Theme and Variations’, Agnes de Mille’s ’Rodeo’ and between them premiere Matt Neenan’s ballet ‘At the Border’ scored to Hallelujah Junction by John Adams.
At a rehearsal this week Matt was throwing in a bourrée on two ballerinas, but otherwise just instructing the dancers about Adams’ breakneck tempo. His style has been completely embraced by PABs dancers and he has been part of the new choreographic vision of the company.
“Hallelujah Junction’ refers to a truck stop on the Nevada – California border he said “I was scared of it because it’s really complex, a lot is in there.”
“I was thinking I have to get better overall choreographically, I eventually felt like I was ready to try. It has that Adams punch, so its got to be danced that way to.”
That punch was in the air as the two rehearsal pianist kept going over Adams dense passages on two grands. “A lot of corps de ballet stuff. It’s not like this is dark, it just has some craziness. There’s 20 sections total and it’s only 16minutes…two lead couples, other couples and trios flying in and out.”
The costumes are cobalt blue and magenta cutaway tops and booty shorts that really show the dancers bodies. Neenan hot wires the dense keyboard runs of Adams and there are contrasts of angular and rounded phrases- delicate piques next to women sprinting en Pointe, thrilling jump sequences next to gorgeous bodyscapes- Zachary Hench and Riolama Lorenzo keep returning in a cyclonic duet and Jermel Johnson in razor sharp aerials- just to mention two scenes.
Matt at work with Principal Julie Diana and company member Ian Hussey.