BalletX: Inventive, musical, surreal, not to be missed

In Matthew Neenan's "Identity Without Attribute," performed by BalletX, Gary W. Jeter II leaps and Caili Quan crouches.

Ballet X ends its 10th anniversary season at the Wilma Theater with two world premieres: Matthew Neenan's Identity Without Attribute and Bonzi, by the Colombo-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Both works feature video design by Klip Collective, a Philadelphia-based group known for its large-scale visual projections.

Identity reaffirms Neenan's choreographic inventiveness. Here, he contrasts meditative movements for lead dancer Caili Quan with quick, jittery motions and unexpected segues - from entrechats to jazzy hip circles, plus gloriously quirky duets. There's even a bit of moon-walking. Yet, somehow, it all hangs together.

Reid & Harriet Design's simple, off-white shirts, pants, and dresses work well, but the sometimes cacophonous music (by Julian Grefe and Josh James) can be intrusive, and the videos - mainly pulsating, black-and-white geometric patterns reminiscent of 1960s op art - are mesmerizing, but often distracting.

During a pre-show Q&A session, Neenan said that Identity honors the memory of Antonia Hamilton, a company friend. The piece is so abstract that viewers are unlikely to guess its origin, but the richness of the choreography requires no explanation.

The inspiration for Bonzi (named for one of its musical selections) is obvious. Raised in the same Brussels neighborhood as Surrealist painter René Magritte, Lopez Ochoa has filled her new work with the artist's signature images: bowler hats, floating green apples, fluffy white clouds. Her main character (Edgar Anido) is a hapless salesman, knocking on the doors of potential customers. But the doors roll away, or threaten to crush him.

Witty sight gags and costumes abound, along with references to the nightmarish aspects of Surrealism. But, on a first viewing, Bonzi seems overlong.

Later this summer, BalletX will perform in three prestigious venues: the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires, New York's Joyce Theater, and the Vail International Dance Festival. See them, while they're still in town.

BalletX performs Thursday and July 13-18 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. Tickets: $22-$45. Information: 215-546-7824 or www.balletx.org.

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