New choreography and an old Neenan fave in BalletX’s spring series

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BalletX performs the world premiere of Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “In Between the Passing …”

BalletX is known for producing new choreography, generally from cofounder Matthew Neenan or other well-known dance makers.

But choreographers have to start somewhere. So to give peers a leg up, the company last year established a choreographic fellowship that pairs an emerging artist with a more established choreographer.

This year’s choreographic mentor Cayetano Soto and mentee Tommie-Waheed Evans each presented a work with BalletX on Wednesday night at the Wilma Theater.

Soto’s work, Schachmatt, was a U.S. premiere and truly dreamy. It has the feeling of decades passing in a dance hall, with changing styles of music and dance. Lines of dancers in gray uniforms and black hats repeat patterned steps to mambos and tangos in French and Spanish as they move across a black-and-white checkered stage. The dance is cool, sometimes Fosse-like, with small arm fluctuations and hip action creating all the necessary movement.

Evans, who was chosen from 30 applicants, is not a total newbie. He has a degree in choreography, has staged dances with smaller companies, and currently is an artist in residence at Philadanco. His BalletX premiere In Between the Passing … spans day to night, and a full cycle of life and death.

Set to music by Henryk Górecki, it starts out dark and deep (and will end back there), the music mostly bass and the movement nearly obscured in fog and a dimly lit stage. The movement, music, and lighting all wake up together. The overall effect was interesting, but we've seen these steps and themes before.

Indeed, we see some of them again in Neenan’s 2010 The Last Glass, which closes the program with another awakening. Set to music by the indie band Beirut, Neenan’s scene is more on the extreme, a circus-like look at city life, with its characters, costumes, and activity.

Chloe Felesina and Megan Dickinson dance classical steps on pointe to the point of looking prim in this setting. Andrea Yorita dances with full energy and emotion, almost crazed by the action. But when the curtain comes down behind her and she breaks into a slow smile, we see she also loves it.

Like Philadanco and Koresh Dance Company, BalletX now is acclaimed nationally but only dances at home a few times a year. Its Wilma season has been increased to two weeks. Catch it if you can.


BalletX. Through Sunday and May 3-7. Wilma Theater. 215-546-7824. http://balletx.org/ $25-$45.