One of the city’s most exciting dance companies, BalletX celebrated its 2017 Annual Premiere Party on March 23. The party was held at Sky Philadelphia, overlooking the beautiful city of the brotherly love, city hall, and the Parkway museums. As the name indicated, the event was not just a regular party. In addition to the cocktail reception and the dinner served in a chic hall, guests were feted with top-class performance art.
This year, in addition to the dancers of BalletX, children who participated the company’s community project—Dance Exchange Program—were the first to present their dance and to warm up the hall with standing ovation and cheers. Two dancers of BalletX presented their choreographies. Chloe Felesina’s Higher Ground was a high-spirited dance that showed the strong bonds that the dancers have. Mas-Soul by Gary W. Jeter II was a jazzy and smoky dance, perfect for the elegant setting of the party.
Lil Buck, the charismatic dancer who specializes in a style of street dance called jookin, danced his signature dance, The Dying Swan to a live music by a cellist, Wendy Sutter. Buck translated the classical ballet Swan Lake in his dynamic and brutally realistic style, expressing the last moment of the wild animal’s life. While depicting the dying swan, his dance let the viewers feel the fire and the intensity of a life at its climax.
The last piece in the spectacular program was I feel Different Today, choreographed by co-founder of the company, Matthew Neenan. Like all of Neenan’s other dance pieces, his choreographies drew the best of the dancers of BalletX. It was filled with lots of colors and senses, and the moment to remember.
This year’s Annual Premiere Party also honored Damian Woetzel, artistic director of Vail International Dance Festival, and Janet and Jim Averill, philanthropists who have been devoted themselves to arts and cultural communities in Philadelphia.
A former principal dancer of New York City Ballet and member of President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities appointed by President Barack Obama, Woetzel has given BalletX a chance to be recognized and to thrive around the U.S. by hosting four of the company’s world premieres on the stage of Vail International Dance Festival. His speech focused on what it means to have diversities in our communities.
The Averills mean much not only for BalletX but for future generations of Philadelphia and the United States, because of their devotion and determination to promote the importance of culture and arts. They are beloved Philadelphians and board members of numerous key foundations such as Pennsylvania Ballet, the Salvation Army and the Free Library Foundation, and their embrace and contribution have nurtured and cultivated our city.
Yes, the party was chic, elegant, black-tie and somewhat snobby. But looking around the each face of the guests, one could see they were all delighted to experience and create something innovative and exciting, something that could make communities brighter and the world better. Perhaps in one corner of the reception hall or at one of the tables, the next thrilling project is blooming, like a legendary collaborations born at a corner of a art salon.
[Sky Philadelphia, 1717 Art Street] March 23, 2017; balletx.org