Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Feelin' Alright

Balletomanes, rejoice! says Jim Rutter - "Feelin'Alright" introduces Christopher Fleming's new classical company, Ballet Fleming, in an evening of works that display its founder's choreographic versatility.

Review: Feelin' Alright

By Jim Rutter

Balletomanes, rejoice — "Feelin’Alright" at the Painted Bride introduces Christopher Fleming's new classical company, Ballet Fleming, in an evening of works that display its founder’s choreographic versatility.

Long Train Running starts with the thunder of bluegrass and bodies raining down on stage in bold leaps, cartwheels and explosive turns. Lively ensemble segments blend ballet and swing before transitioning into Jake Nowicki’s lithe, athletic solo of dustbin masculinity, which shifts to a female trio of delicate pointe work in Time for Three’s riff on the Beatle’s “Blackbird.”

Kaguya Hime’s love triangle depicts a young bride torn between a kimono-clad feudal lord and a peasant. Soft and delicate cradling contrasted with the steady arabesques and powerful elevations.

Fleming’s Four Studies for Orchestra showed dramatic depth. Samantha Barczak and Alex Ratcliffe-Lee latched hands across open space; their eyes locked, the distance threatens a rift at any moment. She tiptoes away, nearly escaping the lone finger that lies in his palm; he swings her back into an arm locked behind her back.

Stravinsky’s somber strings mirror Fleming’s melancholic reflection — the most intense human bonds often prove most fragile. Peter Jakubowski’s lighting emblazons the stage in a pale yet fierce hue as the pair takes delight in lifts and lingering turns. The partnering becomes proud, Barczak’s posture morphs from trepidation, and the piece ends on arms raised high in exhilaration.

The evening concluded with Janis and Joe, a rousing narrative built on Joplin and Cocker songs. Originally set on an expanded ensemble in 2000, it showed the first of the nascent company’s challenges: They need a much larger space in which to perform. Fleming has already secured Drexel’s Mandell Theater for a March world premiere; he’ll also need rehearsal time for the ensemble to perfect their timing.

But "Feelin’ Alright" indicates that if this young company meets these challenges, the rewards for the Philadelphia dance community could prove immense.

$25, 9/15 at 7PM. Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine St.

About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

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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