Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Dance review: BalletX

BalletX regularly conceives scintillating programs - mysterious, sexy, funny, and surprising. This one, says critic Merilyn Jackson, is no different.

Dance review: BalletX

[/BYLINE][BYCREDIT]FOR THE INQUIRER
[/BYCREDIT][DROP3]Opening night at the intimate Wilma Theater always seems a bit like a family reunion, and never more so than when it involves BalletX<NO1>cq<NO>, the Wilma’s resident dance company. Theater and dance crowds are loyally supportive and talkative, and I don’t doubt that many friendships, even romances, evolve during lobby chats like those that took place Wednesday evening<NO1>11<NO>.
BalletX r[KERN+3]egularly conceives scintillating programs — mysterious, sexy, funny, and surprising. Tobin Del<NO1>cq<NO> Cuore’s [/DROP3][ITALIC]Beside Myself, [/ITALIC]premiered by the company in 2010, looked totally different against Matt Saunders’ talcum powder-white set for the Wilma’s Blanka Ziska-directed [ITALIC]Angels in America[/ITALIC] ([ITALIC]Part One[/ITALIC] closed last week<NO1>7/1<NO>; [ITALIC]Part Two[/ITALIC] opens in September).
[/KERN+3]The set’s doors offered dramatic shafts of light that gave the work the feel of a paperback pulp novel cover. Accenting that feeling were the Ben Frost score’s suspensefully held chords and the spooky, squat-legged entrance of Colby Damon and Jesse Sani, who wore hoodies over Martha Chamberlain’s turquoise leotards. They could have been casing the joint for a robbery — or looking for robbers. Then Anitra N. Keegan and Allison Walsh came on the scene. Walsh was alluring in a duet with Damon, whom I may have underappreciated in the past. Either that or he has developed heightened expressiveness and precision. Their lyrical pas de deux was the crux of this piece.
[KERN+3]Damon excelled in all the works, most especially with self-deprecating nerdiness in the world premiere of Adam Hougland’s comic[/KERN+3][KERN+3][ITALIC] Mashup[/ITALIC]. His antic impishness was a foil for the more deadpan Tara Keating, Adam Hundt, Willy Laury, and Jaime Lennon as they all jammed themselves onto one sofa and then squeezed each other off.
[/KERN+3][KERN+3]Keating took the spotlight when she flung open a door announcing herself as the femme fatale she is. In high-top black platform boots and black bustier and panties, she blithely kicked Hundt and Laury away before tossing them a long-stemmed rose from between her thighs. Lennon was also marvelous as the kinkily clueless librarian-type “virgin” in fishtail glasses. Again, Chamberlain gets the costumes spot-on, matching them to Big Daddy’s spoofs of such ’80s tunes as “Like a Virgin.”
[/KERN+3]Differences in [ITALIC]Sections[/ITALIC], another world premiere, by Darrell Grand Moultrie<NO1>cq<NO>, featured a meltingly beautiful solo by Walsh in a Chamberlain-designed persimmon full-length gown. Walsh, who excited me last spring when I first saw her, wore the same color kneepads for the violent falls she took after some very Martha Graham-inspired contractions.
Color informed the choreography here as much as the gorgeous piano/violin music of Kenji Bunch: deep cherry reds on Keegan, Keating, and Lennon. Moultrie found ways to re-inform the space by working with company lighting designer Drew Billiau to throw shadows of William Cannon, Sani, Damon, and Hundt on the white walls, creating a sculptural, museum feel. Give artists a canvas and they will fill it with beauty.
[SHIRTTAIL][10PTLEAD]Additional performances:[/10PTLEAD] Through Sunday at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $22-$35. 215-546-7824.

By Merilyn Jackson

FOR THE INQUIRER

Oening night at the intimate Wilma Theater always seems a bit like a family reunion, and never more so than when it involves BalletX, the Wilma’s resident dance company. Theater and dance crowds are loyally supportive and talkative, and I don’t doubt that many friendships, even romances, evolve during lobby chats like those that took place Wednesday evening.

BalletX regularly conceives scintillating programs — mysterious, sexy, funny, and surprising. Tobin Del Cuore’s Beside Myself, premiered by the company in 2010, looked totally different against Matt Saunders’ talcum powder-white set for the Wilma’s Blanka Ziska-directed Angels in America. (Part One closed last week; Part Two opens in September).

The set’s doors offered dramatic shafts of light that gave the work the feel of a paperback pulp novel cover. Accenting that feeling were the Ben Frost score’s suspensefully held chords and the spooky, squat-legged entrance of Colby Damon and Jesse Sani, who wore hoodies over Martha Chamberlain’s turquoise leotards. They could have been casing the joint for a robbery — or looking for robbers.

Then Anitra N. Keegan and Allison Walsh came on the scene. Walsh was alluring in a duet with Damon, whom I may have underappreciated in the past. Either that or he has developed heightened expressiveness and precision. Their lyrical pas de deux was the crux of this piece. Damon excelled in all the works, most especially with self-deprecating nerdiness in the world premiere of Adam Hougland’s comic Mashup. His antic impishness was a foil for the more deadpan Tara Keating, Adam Hundt, Willy Laury, and Jaime Lennon as they all jammed themselves onto one sofa and then squeezed each other off

Keating took the spotlight when she flung open a door announcing herself as the femme fatale she is. In high-top black platform boots and black bustier and panties, she blithely kicked Hundt and Laury away before tossing them a long-stemmed rose from between her thighs. Lennon was also marvelous as the kinkily clueless librarian-type “virgin” in fishtail glasses. Again, Chamberlain gets the costumes spot-on, matching them to Big Daddy’s spoofs of such ’80s tunes as “Like a Virgin.”

Differences in Sections, another world premiere, by Darrell Grand Moultrie, featured a meltingly beautiful solo by Walsh in a Chamberlain-designed persimmon full-length gown. Walsh, who excited me last spring when I first saw her, wore the same color kneepads for the violent falls she took after some very Martha Graham-inspired contractions.

Color informed the choreography here as much as the gorgeous piano/violin music of Kenji Bunch: deep cherry reds on Keegan, Keating, and Lennon. Moultrie found ways to re-inform the space by working with company lighting designer Drew Billiau to throw shadows of William Cannon, Sani, Damon, and Hundt on the white walls, creating a sculptural, museum feel. Give artists a canvas and they will fill it with beauty.

Through Sunday at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $22-$35. 215-546-7824.

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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