Penna. Ballet performs 'Tribute to Jerome Robbins' at Academy

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free. (Photo: Alexander Iziliaev)

On the Town was nominated for four Tony Awards last week.

The ballet on which the Broadway show (and Gene Kelly movie) was based opened Thursday night at the Academy of Music as part of Pennsylvania Ballet's "Tribute to Jerome Robbins."

Choreographed in 1944, Fancy Free was Robbins' first ballet and a collaboration with then-on-the-brink-of-success composer Leonard Bernstein. It is the story of three young sailors who dance and show off in unsuccessful but valiant bids to win over two girls. Thursday night's cast featured Arian Molina Soca (principal guest artist and principal dancer at the National Ballet of Cuba), Alexander Peters, and Ian Hussey.

The company men have shown notable improvement under Angel Corella's leadership of not quite a full season, and all three were excellent. Peters, in particular, is beginning to resemble a redheaded Corella, catching air with his jumps.

The evening opened with In G Major, a company premiere set to music by Ravel. Whereas Fancy Free is about sailors, In G Major is a seaside adventure. The six corps couples in Popsicle-colored costumes looked stronger and more in sync than often seen.

The principal dancers, Lauren Fadeley and James Ihde, danced a beautiful pas de deux. Fadeley is especially fun to watch, playful, confident. Her feet looked particularly gorgeous, strongly arched in her pointe shoes.

Pirouettes continue to be a problem among some of the company's dancers, but most have learned to hide the issues better, adding intentional extra steps to the end of not-quite-completed turns.

The evening ended with the ever-amusing The Concert, set to Chopin. Pianist Martha Koeneman, who also played a solo in G Major, donned a large hat and performed the concert in question on stage. It's a ballet about audience behavior and how theatergoers imagine themselves in the music and dance while sitting in a concert hall.

Amy Aldridge was delightful as a music lover who hugged the piano and then fluttered away in a swanlike solo, grabbing any partner she could find. Brooke Moore was a bossy patron who wanted to run the show, and Hussey was her hapless husband.

But The Concert is a group effort, and the corps was the highlight. It's where you, the not-quite-rehearsed audience member, might find yourself trying to keep up with the choreography, hauling a girl on stage in any position possible, or running through rows of dancers, only to wind up flat on the stage - because really, could any regular person survive that?

And this one is all about you.

 


Additional performances: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Academy of Music, Broad and Locust Streets. Tickets: $30-$125. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.academyofmusic.org

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