Most critics and balletomanes credit Balanchine with capturing the American spirit, at least as far as ballet is concerned, but to me it’s Jerome Robbins who deserves the accolades. Whether pitting the Sharks against the Jets in the iconic playgrounds and parking lots of West Side Story, introducing the three hapless but hopeful dancing sailors that would become the Broadway musical On the Town or poking fun at both concert goers and concert makers as he did in the aptly-named ballet The Concert, Robbins presents a form of classical ballet that doesn’t take itself too seriously but is still rife with serious moments and serious dancing.
With is deft canons and romantic pas de deux danced by Lauren Fadeley and James Idhe, In G Major, is perhaps the meatiest piece, dance wise. Also known as En Sol, that ballet opens with six dancers in pastel vintage bathing suits against a bold but abstract backdrop of surf, sand and sun. Fadeley and Idhe make art of walking, a few steps forward and a few steps back, dancing together but not together in Z-shaped floor patterns reminiscent of an elegant eighteenth-century minuet. She is, as always a joy to watch, in part because she appears to be experiencing such joy herself at all times, no matter how difficult the adagio.
Fancy Free, which premiered in 1944, went on to inspire not only the Broadway musical On the Town but also a film by the same name starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Alexander Peters, Ian Hussey and newcomer Arian Molina Soca did these musical theater giants justice in their portrayal Friday night. Peters never breaks character and is the most fun to watch; he also gets the most effervescent solo, chock full of leaps and somersaults. Hussey’s exquisite partnering moves the storyline along by giving the ballet a technical edge that’s as fun as it precise and Soca’s shimmying hips and spot on body percussion make me eager to see him again.
The antics of the three sailors on shore leave are topped only by those of the cast of characters in The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody). It is in this ballet, set to the music of Chopin, that we see Robbins for the comic genius that he is and the dancers of PA Ballet as their most theatrical. Amy Aldridge, who wears at least five or six different hats throughout the work (literally), is hysterical as the overly enthusiastic concertgoer, whose bodily raptures and talent for physical comedy have the entire audience in stitches; her fervor is juxtaposed to Brooke Moore’s stern disapproval and pianist Martha Koeneman’s Rowan Atkinson-esque tone as she sits down at the onstage piano and begins to dusts it keys.
With A Tribute to Jerome Robbins, the company’s new Artistic Director, Angel Corella, has created a delightful romp that’s perfect for spring, perfect for mom and perfect for the whole family. [Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street].May 7-10, 2015; paballet.org.