PETITE MORT and World Premieres (Pennsylvania Ballet): Lamentation and Revolution

Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Pennsylvania Ballet’s second program of the season featured works by three choreographers.  

The first piece of the program, Petite Mort, is the masterpiece of the iconic Czech choreographer, Jiří Kylián. The music is Mozart’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 23, Adagio and No. 21, Andante. Since its premiere at the Salzburg Festival on the second centenary of Mozart’s death (1991), the ballet has been cherished by top class principal dancers around the world and performed by numerous ballet companies, including Pennsylvania Ballet.

Six male and six female dancers were in minimum nude color costumes, which emphasized their toned and expressive limbs. The choreography is not just a dance. It demands dancers to be genuine and authentic. Only the dancer who knows how to play music with his/her body is truly able to dance Petite Mort. On the opening night, Pennsylvania Ballet dancers awed the audiences with their gracious and poetic Petite Mort.  

The second of the playbill was choreographed by Andrea Miller, who is an acclaimed choreographer and artistic director of a Brooklyn-based company, Gallim. Unlike what may be imagined by the title, Evenings, the ballet was bustling and emotional. The dimmed lighting and smoke gave the stage a somewhat eerie mood like a catacomb. Evenings urged dancers to rip off their skins and to expose their raw emotions of anger, despair, fear and lamentation. Corps de Ballet dancer So Jung Shin, one of the three female and three male dancers for the opening night, showed an extraordinary ability to express intense emotions while restraining herself to remain a controlled performer.

The piece  last of the program was This Divide, choreographed by Russell Ducker, who is also a dancer of Pennsylvania Ballet. The ballet began with dancers in black leotard and a staircase with a white door at the top. Heavy drums functioned as an impulse for the dancers to spin, run and jump. The loud electric sounds reverberate scales repeatedly. Then dancers in white leotard emerged onto the stage.The score, the first movement of Symphony No. 2 ‘The Peak of the Sacred’ by Glenn Branca, went back and forth between unison and chaos. It amplified louder and more aggressive as the dancers jolted the staircase around the stage and danced frantically.

The stairs turned around front and back and the dancers ran up and down, going through the door and appearing on the other side, again and again, to the roaring sound. Everything started to feel undefined and equivocal. Abruptly, a dancer in a bright red leotard rushed into the stage and mingled. One by one, dancers in red occupied the stage until only two dancers remained in their black and white leotard.

Perhaps ‘divide’ is a creation of human mind in chaos. Perhaps there is no this side nor that side. And even among the chaos, there are something that we can all unite under. The exuberant choreography was spectacular, the dancers striking, and the dramatic finale stirred the viewers’ imagination.

[Merriam Theater] November 8-11, 2018;


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