NEW WORKS FOR A NEW WORLD (Philadelphia Ballet): An evocative and uplifting program by three impressive choreographers

Yuka Iseda of Philadelphia Ballet in “Prima Materia”. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.
Yuka Iseda of Philadelphia Ballet in “Prima Materia”. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

It’s a new world with Philadelphia Ballet. Vaccine checks and face masks, a new name (is there any state with less state pride than Pennsylvania?), and a new second home in the Perelman Theater. But if we can trust the auguries of the company’s New Works for a New World, this is a world I’m okay living in. 

The three world premieres each speak to the times we find ourselves in without getting bogged down by metaphor. The choreographers seem to have mined recent experience, acknowledged its difficulties, and found reasons for hope––which they’ve passed on to us. 

Artists of Philadelphia Ballet in the finest moment of Juliano Nunes’s “Alignment”, where Arian Molina Soca seems to be lifted messianically as if by magic. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Set to meditative, piano-heavy music by Luke Howard, Juliano Nunes’s “Alignment” begins with the dozen or so dancers in synchronized, aligned movements. Next, they stand in formation and varied scattered dancers break into swift harmonized motions before returning to their places—sometimes we’re in alignment with those around, sometimes they present obstacles to our movement. Then, the stage is a scattered array of bodies coming and going in individualized dance. This gives way to three successive duets: male-female pairs beautifully in unison, perhaps a nod to the redemptive power of love. 

The evening’s second work, Alba Castillo’s “The Persistence of Memory”, gets its title from Salvador Dali’s surreal meditation on time (it’s the famous one of melted clocks in the MOMA). A metronome ticks in the center of the stage, a constant reminder of time that works well as a metaphor even if it doesn’t always match the music’s rhythm. The costumes (Christine Darch) are muted greens and browns, the movements are beautiful yet understated. Time passes and there’s beauty in the world even if life’s colors are subdued. 

The program ends with Andrew Winghart’s stunning “Prima Materia,” which he composed and choreographed. It’s a gorgeous piece, beautifully lit by Nick Kolin, from the synchronized large-group pointe work to the breathtaking trio dance by Yuka Iseda, Sterling Baca, and Ashton Roxander. The title refers to the alchemical term for the base matter from which everything is constructed. Figures emerge from the smoke and mirrors, find themselves in solo dance and groups large and small. Whatever time has wrought we have the blocks to rebuild something beautiful.

It caps an evocative and uplifting program by three impressive choreographers. 

[Perelman Theater at the Kimmel, 300 S. Broad Street] February 3-13, 2022;

2 Replies to “NEW WORKS FOR A NEW WORLD (Philadelphia Ballet): An evocative and uplifting program by three impressive choreographers”
  1. Thank you for your obvious understanding of what makes good dance. You have recoiled the essence of these thoughtful choreographers in a well stated review. These three pieces are not to be missed! The dancers remind us why live performance and the art connection is so important in our lives!

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