BalletX storm troupers defy nor'easter, dance to a surprisingly large crowd

Thunder snow rumbled and a nor’easter blew through, but the two-thirds-full audience that braved the elements and made it to the Wilma Theater Wednesday for the opening of BalletX’s spring series was treated to a hot evening of dance.

BalletX continues to rise on the national stage, and this spring series makes it clear why.

The series features two world premieres, a Latin-spiced piece by Darrell Grand Moultrie — who choreographed one of Beyoncé’s tours — and a disco dance party from Trey McIntyre. It also sees the return of a 2014 Matthew Neenan ballet set to Schubert.

The evening opened with Vivir, by Grand Moultrie. Set to the soundscape of Spanish Harlem, the choreographer’s home, it’s a delightful, colorful piece of pairings and playfulness, with stylized bourrées, strong pirouettes, and solid, beautiful dancing with few flashy tricks. In one section, a group struts out, looking every bit like the Sharks awaiting the Jets in West Side Story.

Camera icon BILL HEBERT
Francesca Forcella and Gary W. Jeter II in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Vivir.”

The cast shone, particularly in the lovely partnering between Francesca Forcella and Gary W. Jeter II, and in the work of Skyler Lubin, who opened the piece with a striking pose.

McIntyre’s The Boogeyman is pure fun. It opens with Roderick Phifer sitting on the floor in his bedroom listening to disco tunes on a record player through yellow headphones. Soon, he brings to life that old saw about “dancing like no one’s watching,” although of course he had an audience — plus style and swag.

There are so many amusing moments in the piece as Phifer dances on his bed, rolls underneath it, and in a clever audio bit keeps removing his headphones to make sure the music is only going into his ears.

As Phifer is grooving to the music, the cast comes out decked in 1970s splendor to shake its collective booty like the Soul Train dancers that McIntyre, in the program notes, thanks “for saving me.”

Phifer dances with Andrea Yorita, a tiny powerhouse who lit up all three of the evening’s ballets. Then the bed gets turned on its side to double as a phone booth, and what may have started as a dream enters another realm. But it’s cool. The tunes keep spinning, and the dancers get down again.

Camera icon BILL HEBERT
Jenny Winton and Zachary Kapeluck in Matthew Neenan’s “Increasing.”

In between the two dance parties, the audience gets an interlude of Schubert, with a string quintet playing onstage for Neenan’s Increasing. His witty moments and detailed nuances — fluttering fingers, bopping hips, and twisting leaps into a partner’s arms — were as delightful as ever, and a refuge from the storm.


BalletX Spring Series

Through March 18 at Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $15-$55. Information: 215-546-7824 or

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