Ballet is a living art. Unlike paintings or sculptures, it will never remain in the same form. Rather than communicating to the viewers directly, ballet uses dancers to depict the creator’s intentions. And from time to time, viewers may be lucky enough to encounter a perfect, or a better than perfect performance.
Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2018/19 season finale consisted of three ballet pieces. DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse was choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon in 2006 to the music, MGV: Musique à Grande Vitesse by Michael Nyman. This piece of music was composed to commemorate the inauguration of the TGV high-speed train line in France in 1993 and the rhythmic and melodic orchestration transports the audience to a journey on a train. Jean-Marc Puissant’s set and costumes are modern and dynamic enough to leave space for audiences to imagine their own scenery of travel. Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography takes the journey above and beyond the ground. The ballet is a journey in space and time. And the dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet depict superbly the exhilarating sensation of traveling.
Trigger Touch Fade, a world premiere choreographed by Jorma Elo, embraces the most beautiful movements of the classical ballet. Haydn and Bach’s violin concertos are played beautifully by violin soloist Luisi Mazzocchi and the strings of the orchestra of Pennsylvania Ballet. Brad Fields’s lighting makes the choreography difficult to see at times, but Fade is immersed and captivating piece.
Choreographed by the legendary Jerome Robbins and premiered in 1983, Glass Pieces is the oldest of the three ballet pieces of the program, though it feels like the most versatile and avant-garde. The ballet is like Pantone color chart. In 1. Rubic, the dancers in leotard of various colors scatter and move swiftly across the stage. The focus goes back and forth between a soloist in unitard and the corps de ballet. In 2. Facades, Oksana Maslova and Jermel Johnson dance a dreamlike duet. It reminds me of the feeling of being alone and separated from the reality in the middle of crowded city, lost in time and space for a moment. In 3. Akhnaten, an introduction danced by six male dancers leads to an energetic finale joined by other dancers.
The three ballet pieces vary in style from classic to contemporary, but are technically and artistically demanding. However, the dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet seem to breath freely as they danced and make each ballet their own.
The season finale was also the finale for Ian Hussey, who retires after 2018-2019 season. The beloved principal dancer was the face of the company for more than a decades and surely be missed. Read my interview with the departing dancer.
[Pennsylvania Ballet at the Academy of Music, 240 S Broad Street] May 9-12, 2019; paballet.org