Philadelphia Ballet artistic director Angel Corella has restaged a dozen or more classic story ballets since becoming artistic director in 2014, from ‘Swan Lake’ to ‘Cinderella’ and the company is currently in rehearsal for Corella’s lavish production “Sleeping Beauty” opening next month at the Academy of Music.
But Corella is equally invested in commissioning new ballets for the company’s ‘New Works’ series of ballet forward pieces by some of today most dynamic choreographers looking to bring new ideas and styles to the artform.
‘Forward Motion’ ’is the latest in the series in performance at the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center, a more intimate space than the Academy, that provides an up-. close look at the choreography and the dancers in works by Juliano Nunes, Hope Boykin and Adonis Foniadakis. The only similarity between their ballets is that all the dancemakers had 3 weeks to put this dynamic program together and all of the ballerinas danced en pointe in each piece..
The concert opened Nunes’ “PS” which he describes as “A laboratory” The curtain comes up on 16 dancers in powder blue unitards designed by Mikaela Kelly, posed in silhouette, moving in classical ballet positions. The cast of mostly principals, soloists, and a few corps de ballet dancers, The rhythmic score by Alexander McKenzie and Sune Martine, starts to soar with propulsive rhythms and dancers not skipping a beat, Nunes igniting the company’s strong precision and neoclassical technique.
Throughout the ballet, Nunes laces in a series of couples duets packed with intricate lifts patterns and body sculptural phrases that just keep flowing.
Nunes is particularly inventive with two trios, the first danced by Nayara Lopes, Zecheng Liang, and Austin Eyler and another variation with Liang, Arian Molina Soca, and Jack Thomas. In the finale duet Liang and Yuka Iseda’s are hypnotic artistry and chemistry in pas de duex at the end of the ballet. It is no surprise that Nunes is the Philadelphia Ballet’s 2022-23 resident choreographer, he crafts works that show both the ensemble strengths and esprit de corps of the company.
Next is African American choreographer Hope Boykin’s “ENdure” is a movement mosaic of human behavior for a cast of nine, with themes of personal struggle, human connection, and loneliness. It is scored to introspective piano music by Bill Lawrence.
Boykin is an African American dancer-choreographer from Durham, NC. Boykin started her professional career in Philadelphia as a member of Joan Myers Brown’s Philadanco, then joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Boykin . She created pieces for many companies including Philadanco and BalletX.
The dancers dressed in loose fitting red outfits designed by Marc Eric, along with introspective piano music by composer Bill Lawrence instantly sets a mood for Boykin’s thought provoking movement meditation of everyday life. Boykin’s pedestrian movements that glide into arabesques, turns, plies, and maybe a chance partnering- an equally casual dance vocabulary of their everyday language, connecting or not with others, but enduring no matter what they face down the road.
Boykin’s central duet performed by Jack Sprance and Sibohan Howley was danced with lyrical strength and haunting mystery. And kudos to apprentice dancers Vinicius Ferreira Freire and Ashley Lewis making strong debuts in this work.. The minimalism also gives way to expressive solos, episodes of defeat and personal fortitude. Boykin’s repeated motif of flight, with dancers bolting across the stage mid phrase seemingly at any moment symbolizing so much.
The concert closer was Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis’ “Circumstellars” is an atmospheric mosaic of bodies in propulsive galactic flight with four women and five men in second-skin costumes of muted green and purple designed by Anastasios Sofroniou. The dancers dramatically emerging through lighting designer Sakis Birbilis’ a curtain of laser lighted smoke in what
Foniadakis described the scene as “a vortex.” The ballet’s breakneck pace sustained fluidity that never looked overpacked. The cast executing Foniadakis’ mach-speed choreo full of feral jetes, off-angled lift patterns, and hotwired immediacy. The body as exploding dance stars.
The choreographer’s longtime music collaborator Julien Tarride composed the symphonic ‘Musicbox Ballerina’ for the ballet. Principal dancers Mayara Pinero and Sterling Baca partner throughout the piece with increasing speed and thrilling athleticism. This program showed Philadelphia Ballet covering a lot of emerging trends, the choreographers creating potent ballet forward concepts.
Philadelphia Ballet | Forward Motion | Perelman Theater
Kimmel Cultural Campus, Philadelphia PA
February 3-11, 2023