BalletX dances for Spring

It still might be cold outside but BalletX dancers are already burning the floor at the Wilma Theater in an otherwise chilly Philly. Where else but BalletX can you hear the sizzling mambo of Tito Puente, Marvin Gaye’s ultimate 70s dance groove “Got to Give It Up” and the classical fire of live musicians from the Curtis Institute performing onstage with the dancers.

Opening the concert is choreographer Darrell Grande Moultrie ‘Vivir’ scored to Latin jazz and salsa music that he loved hearing growing up in Spanish Harlem. From the driving acoustic guitar of Rodrigo y Gabriela to the sultriest orchestrals by Tito Puente, Grand Moultrie fusion of ballet pointe work and salsa.

(All photos by Bill Hebert)

Gary Jeter 'Vivre'

Gary W. Jeter in Gran Moultrie’s ‘Vivir’

Dancers fly on and offstage, joining each other in pulsing ensemble configurations, trio and duets. Gary Jeter remains onstage and dancing a soul searching solo to Bebo B. Cigala’s bittersweet ballade Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar. Gary Jeter and Francesca Forcella frequent partners lead the sensual, fluid motion duets

Matt Neenan’s premiered ‘Increasing’ in 2014 at Vail International Dance Festival with the company joined by New York City Ballet guest stars Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild. The ballet looks just as good in its Philadelphia premier with the BX roster dancing those solo sections and joined by the stellar musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music on stage with them performing Schubert’s String Quintet C Major.

In flamenco it is called duende and the synergy when dancers are in the direct zone of live musicians, and the ballet is exemplar of the potential of that dynamic as well.  Neenan’s choreography so inspired by the propulsion and introspection of Schubert’s chamber music, more than any implied narrative. The ensemble in quicksilver configurations that flock and scatter. Neenan punctuating with aerial variations and liberated pointe work.

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Jenny Winton & Zachary Kapeluck  Neenan’s ‘Increasing’

Caili Quan’s mach speed pirouette entrance with her arms sculpted close to her sides. Quan and Skyler Lubin in a jaunty balletic unison duet and Richard Walters and Roderick Phifer in their own mirroring duet. The push-pulls of the violin interplays of Eunic Kim and Piotr Filochowski as hypnotic as the dancing. And this is a Neenan signature to keep the music an equal element on the dance stage.

Flash dance partnering spring from the taut string dialogue between the violins, then another dancer may fly on and pick up the undercurrent bassline by cellists Glenn Fischbach and Branson Yeast, or the counterpoint of violist Yoshihika Nakano. Kudos to former Pennsylvania Ballet II and Joffrey dancer Jenny Winton for subbing for company member Chloe Perkes who is recovering from an injury.

Roderick Phifer 'Boogeyman'

Roderick Phifer in McIntyre’s ‘Boogeyman’

Trey McIntire scored a huge hit “Big Ones” set to a song cycle by the late R&B singer Amy Winehouse, but as cleverly idiosyncratic his choreography was, it didn’t emotionally connect to the music in key ways. McIntyre’s “Boogeyman” does. There is an esprit, wit and a floating narrative of a young man expressing himself via the music to 70s pop hits. Roderick Phifer is alone in his bedroom plugged into his bulky headphones (I know, who would have guessed that they would be back) that turns into a witty, joyous, bittersweet drama of a breakup between enacted by dancers Roderick Phifer and Andrea Yorka.
Phifer has period headphones on hunched over and start some unhooked moves to one of the club megahits starting with Gaye’s ‘Got to Give it Up.

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‘Boogeyman’ BXers

Phifer explodes into full on funk moves punctuated with vaults and somersaults over his bed. A quartet of partiers saunter on, they are dressed in 70s show drag and McIntyre revives Soul Train dance line moves with witty samplings of proto-break, robotic and wave choreo and who can forget those deep plié gyrations. As they funk down the line, Andrea Yorita and Phifer circle a phonebooth that might be the scene of their breakup. off and Andrea Yorita is in a state of catatonia in the bed but starts to express the angst sung out by Leo Sayer’s heartbreaker ‘Alone Again Naturally.’ Later Phifer and Yorita dance their fated lover’s tale to Stevie Wonder’s soul search lovers’ ballade ‘Never Dreamed You’d Leave Me In Summer.’ Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘September’ party on luster  is McIntyre’s liberated dancing that soars in the bodies of this ensemble.