Pennsylvania Ballet announces 2017-18 season with three Corella ballets

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Pennsylvania Ballet performs 'Jewels' in 2013

The Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2017-18 season, announced Tuesday, will feature as many of artistic director Angel Corella’s reimagined story ballets as it will Balanchine classics.

Though the Pennsylvania Ballet has long been considered a Balanchine company, it will perform fewer of his works than usual.  Corella has maintained that he is not a choreographer, but he is creating three new ballets. He has danced the story ballets many times throughout his career, at American Ballet Theatre and as an international star, and he has many ideas about how he wants them to look.

He began reimagining the classic works in 2016 with Don Quixote. This year, he tackles Le Corsaire, opening Thursday at the Academy of Music.

He will take on three ballets next season: Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Paquita.

The choice of Swan Lake is surprising, as the Pennsylvania Ballet commissioned a Degas-inspired version from Christopher Wheeldon in 2004 to mark to company’s 40th anniversary. Corella will create his own version.

Another surprise is that only three Balanchine ballets are planned for next season, an erosion of the Balanchine tradition that many in the dance world worried would happen when Corella was hired in 2014.

The season  opens Oct. 12-22 with Sleeping Beauty, which Corella will  stage after the classic Marius Petipa choreography.

A repertory program called On Edge will follow Nov. 9-13, with two world premieres. Matthew Neenan, who cofounded BalletX, will celebrate 10 years as choreographer-in-residence with a new ballet. And Helen Pickett, one of the more successful female choreographers in the industry, will also create a work. (Pickett has also worked with BalletX.) The program will  include Episode 31 by Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker will return to the Academy of Music Dec. 8-31.

Corella’s new Swan Lake will premiere March 8-18, 2018.

A second repertory program, called Grace and Grandeur, will be performed April 5-8, 2018, and will include Corella’s new Paquita, Wheeldon’s For Four (which the company danced in 2015), and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.

The season will wrap up May 10-13, 2018, with Jewels, a plotless ballet invoking the various places where Balanchine lived and worked: "Emeralds" in France, "Rubies" in the United States, and "Diamonds" in Russia. The Pennsylvania Ballet last danced Jewels in 2013 to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The Pennsylvania Ballet was founded by one of Balanchine’s first students, Barbara Weisberger. Balanchine mentored her in the early years and gave his blessing to stage several of his masterpieces to get the company started.

Corella has said the Balanchine tradition would continue, and he hired former New York City Ballet star Kyra Nichols in 2016 to coach the dancers in those ballets she danced so often in Balanchine’s own company.

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