Thursday, November 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: Pennsylvania Ballet's Pushing Boundaries

Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Riolama Lorenzo's final performance before retiring is Sunday, but it was already a lovefest Thursday night, when the company opened its Pushing Boundaries series at the Merriam Theater.

Review: Pennsylvania Ballet's Pushing Boundaries

Riolama Lorenzo and Zachary Hench in "Keep."
Riolama Lorenzo and Zachary Hench in "Keep."

Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Riolama Lorenzo's final performance before retiring is Sunday, but it was already a lovefest Thursday night, when the company opened its Pushing Boundaries series at the Merriam Theater.

The theater was buzzing with talk of Lorenzo, both before the show and during the two intermissions. And she didn't disappoint, dancing two Matthew Neenan ballets, 11:11, set to six songs by Rufus Wainwright, and in a gorgeous, mature pas de deux with Zachary Hench in Keep.

Created in 2009, Keep is a beautiful ballet, featuring a suite of, mostly, duets about relationships, set to string quartets by Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. But it also could be interpreted as Lorenzo's bittersweet bourrée into the next phase of her life, as fresh-faced dancers in pink eagerly fill the gap. Lorenzo, in a yellow gown, stands in the shadows during a long section, then kneels to lean over a fallen colleague and, with bits of chiffon floating around her, melts into her partner in pirouettes and dramatic ports de bras.

The piece ends with Lorenzo alone on stage, spinning on a stool as the curtain comes down.

Neenan's 2005 11:11 is one of his classic works, a well-paced suite of dances featuring a large cast pulsating as the seconds tick off in the music, and rotating in a Bolero-like circle to Wainwright's "Oh What a World," which includes a nod to the Ravel composition. A man picks up a woman and rotates her clockwise, her legs like hands of the clock.

The evening opened with The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, by William Forsythe, a 1996 ballet of great speed and - ideally - precision, set to the last movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major.

It felt like an audition for future Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancers, and perhaps it was. All the company's principals danced Thursday night, but Vertiginous Thrill featured three female soloists (Lauren Fadeley, Brooke Moore, and Barette Vance Widell) and two men from the corps de ballet (Andrew Daly and Tyler Savoie).

All were up to the task, but few got the exactitude. My audition callback goes to Fadeley, who had the most precise footwork while projecting an air of fun and ease.

 


Additional performances: Pennsylvania Ballet repeats Pushing Boundaries at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Merriam Theater. 215-893-1999.

 

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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