More than one year has passed since the first lockdown was declared in Philadelphia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has affected everyone’s life in numerous ways, but one of the hardest-hit fields must be the live art industry. Its nature is to interact with people in the real world, yet they were completely deprived of the means to do so.
Since the lockdown, dance companies around the world have been exploring their way to connect with their audiences. Some dancers published movies they shot in their own house on YouTube. Some companies have made their effort to raise some donations to provide the bare minimum to their dancers and musicians by creating new short content or streaming their past performances. Some tried “the bubble” to perform for online viewing. Some completely shut down and went quiet. Some dancers quietly retired without the last performance and applause that they deserve.
Philadelphia Orchestra was one of the active leaders of the performing arts. It has been regularly performing orchestra concerts since right after the lockdown, including Bizet’s Carmen, accompanied by masked dancers of Brian Sanders’ Junk.
Pennsylvania Ballet, on the other hand, had a period of silence except for streaming of the past performance of The Nutcracker and some Facebook posts, until it announced its Digital Spring Season. The season consists of three performances of beloved pieces and world premieres: Strength, Resilience, and Beauty.
The current program, RESILIENCE, features Polyphonia by Christopher Wheeldon, Allegro Brillante by George Balanchine, And So It Is… by Dwight Rhoden, and Raymonda Suite. The dancers are as energetic and magnificent as before in all of the pieces and bring back vivid memories of their passionate performances at the theaters on Broad Street. And with this online presentation, the audiences get to see precision, striking physicality, and expression of the dancers up close. That gives a whole different perspective and experience of ballet.
Set to music by Tchaikovsky, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante has been performed by numerous companies around the world. PA Ballet’s version is led by the vibrant and dazzling dancers Zecheng Liang and Mayara Pineiro. The section with four male dancers, Etienne Diaz, Ashton Roxander, Jack Sprance and Peter Weil, was especially memorable. Even with the camera capturing every detail of their movements, they were completely in sync, dynamic and graceful. Though the ballet is not new, this particular performance was successful in displaying something new and amusing by capturing the dancers from above in one scene.
As many of us endure continuing hardship, this performance provides energy to stay positive and a moment to breathe deeply and enjoy our exhausting lives.
RESILIENCE streamed on paballet.org April 29-May 5, 2021. The final installment, BEAUTY, streams May 27-June 2, 2021.