Choreographic Workshop (PA Ballet): Dance beginnings from Pennsylvania Ballet

CW_WebIn the midst of a hectic schedule rehearsing for Le Corsaire, the biggest production of Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2016-2017 season, artistic director Angel Corella hosted the company’s first Choreographic Workshop. Let’s hope there are more to come. The one-night-only special event showcased the exciting young talents that Philadelphia, could offer by presenting five short dance pieces choreographed by four young choreographers who have different backgrounds but deep connections to Philadelphia, on young dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet II.

ATARAXIA, presented by Edgar Clausse (Anido), was choreographed on excepts from the beloved classical ballet music, Don Quixote by Ludwig Minkus. Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, Clausse graduated with honors from the National School of Ballet in Havana. He has a colorful and exciting career such as a principal dancer with Central Ballet Theater in Ecuador to dancing with the world-renowned Complexions Contemporary Ballet and BalletX in Philadelphia.

Clausse’s ballet started with male dancers in white dress shirt and nude color tights dancing as the music let them. Female dancers in simple but vivid dress joined them as if they were inspirations that came to the composer’s mind. The crinkled papers scattered on the stage floor showed the struggle to create an art piece.

The iconic ballet music is familiar to dancers and ballet fans, so the steps that were choreographed to the music by legendary predecessors are hard to shake off. However Clausse’s take on the music was totally natural and convincing. It was a short yet complete story about creating something that is fun and simply good.

Ekaterina Pokroskaya graduated from the Kazan Ballet College in Russia with Honors in 2012, then danced at the Russian State Ballet Theater and also at the Russian National Ballet Theater as a principal before she moved to the United States. Currently a member of PA Ballet II, she choreographed two pieces for the Workshop, one to herself and the other for three dancers of PA Ballet II, both to sound tracks by Mindex.

Her pieces had moments of intensity and ignition behind beautiful lines and the smooth and graceful movements of the stoical classical ballet under which she was trained. In her performance of Long Night, she stunned the audiences not only with her amazingly flexible and strong physicality and her precise and impressive techniques, but also with the serene world she created using simple costume and a dark stage. She depicts the restless feeling of long sleepless night with just a small frame of candle as a beacon.

In Quicksilver, she brought the best of her fellow dancers with technically demanding choreography that was sharp and brisk like a silver blade.

Where The Sidewalk Ends was a witty, charming and beautiful piece choreographed by Russell Ducker, who was trained academically at the Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom and is currently a member of the Corps de Ballet at Pennsylvania Ballet. Dancers in costumes like British school uniforms danced the poetry of Shel Silverstein. Mixed with a calming sound of rain, a young voice read the poems about the wonders of life that adolescents may encounter. Ducker’s choreography was simply smart—intuitive and honest to every word being read. At the same time, it did much more than just visualize each word. For the dancers who are adolescents themselves, his choreography came out natural and perfect, letting them explore how to express something as abstract as emotions and feelings through their bodies, faces, and movements.

The last piece of the program, Alexandra Hughes’s ALOHA was choreographed to “Keep In Touch” by Nico Muhly. It challenged the young dancers physically with complicated lifts and steps, demanding that they interact and work with each other. The acceleration and exhilaration of the dancers towards the piece’s climax was impressive considering they had danced for one hour non-stop, after they also performed the full-length ballet The Jungle Book in the morning of the same day.

Not only successful as a forum to provide opportunities and experiences to young choreographers and dancers, the Choreographic Workshop was also very well done as a performance. It presenting highly artistic ballet by the professional young dancers. It is a pleasure to know that those young artists are right here in our community, ready to achieve something beautiful and powerful.

[The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] February 25, 2017; paballet.org/choreographic-workshop

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About the author

Eri Yoneda

Eri Yoneda writes about dance and classical music for Phindie.