The beloved resident dance company of the Wilma Theater, BalletX, kicks off their 10th season with the Fall Series 2015. Featured is a world premiere, “Beasts”, by internationally acclaimed choreographer, Nicolo Fonte, who premiered “Beautiful Decay” with BalletX in 2013.
The well debated theme, “nurture and nature” is explored in this full-length 90 minute ballet. On the stage is a big square white board as a background, which symbolizes a blank slate. The dancers crawl out onto the stage from underneath the tilted board, like wild primitive animals coming out of a cave. They stretch their arms and legs irregularly and in unexpected directions. Their unruled moves are intuitive and instinctive like those of wild animals. Through their movements and interactions with other dancers, they learn to react and suit themselves to the environment through more organized movements or duet that requires cooperation with others. While they depict intellectual evolution, their dance here is very raw. They rub their bodies on each other and on the floor as animals would do. Scenic designer Mimi Lien’s stage set is functional and simple, yet allows itself to be anything from a cave to a majestic wild space, working as a background with the projected full moon (or the sun) together with Drew Billiau’s creative lighting design.
The second half starts with well-dressed men and women in a social dance—totally opposite from the world of beasts. Well-mannered couples in sleek tuxedo and elegant long dresses show off their intellect and nurture as modern human beings. Yet Fonte’s smart choreography does not let viewers miss the raw animalistic nature human beings carry in them. In the form of elegant and appropriate dance, the dancers’ passion and desire for intimacy fills the stage. In contrast to the first half, the scene changes rapidly in this stanza. Fonte brings themes such as the femme fatale or gun violence—more sensitive and disturbing topics—that draw attention to the primitive human nature that forms our lives and societies in the modern age. Richard Villaverde’s solo, performed in only a grey tutu skirt, looks comical at first (some viewers were giggling), but soon overwhelms the audience with his powerful and expressive dance. Joined by Andrea Yorita, dancing as a swan in white tutu—a well-known image of classical ballet—Villaverde portrays one who carries sorrow and frustration. As he admires the perfect white swan—the idealized symbol of modern society—he’s not recognizing how beautiful and irreplaceable he has become.
The, always progressive and impressive, dancers at BalletX carry Fonte’s rather challenging theme “nurture and nature” very well from every direction through their breathtaking dance. The standing ovation by stunned and excited audience members should surely let them know what they have achieved.
[The Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad Street] November 18-22, 2015; balletx.org.