Seeds | Choreographer: Gary W. Jeter

Photos: Vikki Sloviter 

BalletX Winter Dances & Dreams

BalletX  presented their vibrant Winter series program for a sellout run at their home in the Wilma Theater on Broad St. with premieres by choreographers Amy Seiwert, Gary W. Jeter II, and Jorma Elo. All three dancemakers were onstage before the performance to talk about their work with Philadelphia Dance Journal podcaster Charles Tyson.

The program opened with Jeter’s ‘Seeds’ his first ballet during his choreographic fellowship with the company. He was a member of BX for several years and before that danced with Complexions, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Philadanco.

In a short film about the ballet, Jeter told the audience it was inspired by his experience as a father and husband, with themes of nurturing something unique, the universal idea as expressed choreographically by dancers Eli Alford, Shawn Cusseaux, Francesca Forcella, Savannah Green, Jared Kelly, Annika Kuo, Skyler Lubin, Jerard Palazo, Ben Schwarz, and Ashley Simpson

Jeter composed much jazz piano music with a meditative voiceover about family life for the piece. The cast enters in long hooded earthy tunics, over satin pants by costume designer Martha Chamberlain, the outer layers cast off at key moments during the performance.  

Jeter’s tight ensemble balletics morph into more meditative dance expression. The rigorous ensemble sections of unison jumps and sculpted configurations. Shawn Cusseaux is hypnotic as he moves away from the group in solos that are both spasmodic and lyrically expressive. The ensemble passages may look overpacked with ideas in moments, but throughout display and dynamic ideas.

A Long Night | Choreographer: Amy Seiwert

 Next, Amy Seiwert’s  comedic dance ‘A Long Night’ aka a miniature ballet adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’   It is set to songs The Pied Pipers, Patsy Cline Harry Nillson and other dreamy songs, the first being Pink Marini’s ‘Dream a Little of Me’

 Puck is as rakish as every sprinkling his fairy dust on the double-star-crossed lovers Eli Alford, Shawn Cusseaux, Francesca Forcella, Skyler Lubin, Jerard Palazo costumed in Benjamin Burton’s forest couture, except for Puck who is donning a gold sequin magic-to-do ensemble. And in a breakout role for Alford, his lithe technical artistry and witty performance made him a Puck dreams are made of.  

Seiwert is based on the West Coast, is a former dancer and award-winning choreographer and her  ballets are typically non-narrative, with no characterizations, this ballet has so much wit and dance charm you would ‘A Long Night’ was her first try at a story ballet. 

Scenes View 2 Choreographer: Jorma Elo

Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo’s ‘Scenes View 2’ is an update on  a work he made on BalletX  in 2006  the first year co-artistic directors Matt Neenan and Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, then dancers with Pennsylvania Ballet, formed the company. 

Elo’s ballet looks choreographically dynamic now, on this a completely different BalletX cast 17 years later. Scored to piano music by Bach, Elo’s quick, sharp, ballet architecture scored to Bach  with dance rhythms reflective of Bach’s Partita for Violin’s  rhythmic counterpoint.  Elo’s and the dancers’artistry, proved even more impressive in this revival. This was a thrilling closer to a program that showed range and ensemble esprit. Kudos also to Alyssandra Docherty, for her the atmospheric lighting designs unique to each work.

With over a 100 commissions of new works by dozens of innovative choreogrpahers, artistic & executive director Christine Cox and Tara Keating, the troupe’s associate artistic director continue to craft the company’s the aesthetic template.  

BalletX Winter Series | March 1-5,2023 | The Wilma Theater, Broad & Spruce St. Philadelphia PA