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At PIFA, a sparkling dance premiere

By Merilyn Jackson, FOR THE INQUIRER

The backbone of the month-long Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts has been more local than international, with collaborations among many Philadelphia arts groups.

Some were unlikely matches and few will live on memorably as great works of art, yet many have resulted in surprisingly high-quality works that made for pleasurable evenings in the theater.

One of those occurred Thursday evening in the Kimmel’s Perelman space, with the Philadelphia premier of Igor Stravinsky’s Renard, his Ragtime, and Terry Teachout and Paul Moravec’s Danse Russe.

In Renard, a collaboration among the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Orchestra 2001, and Center City Opera Theater, the orchestra, singers and dancers gave us a sparkling reinterpretation of the 1916 work that Stravinsky called a burlesque for the stage with singing and music.

Was the original just too flimsy to bother remounting as a concert work without set? From my elevated view in the first balcony, I could better see the dance’s choreographic patterns than those on the unraked orchestra section, which had been emptied of seats and filled with cabaret tables and chairs.

The six dancers in masks by Hua Hua Zhang all wore black formal suits by Amy Chmielewski. They danced within a wedge of stage left after the orchestra and male quartet filled the other side – a stage divided, with little interaction between the forces. Dancers fell to their sides on one knee, springing into cartwheels, their arms and hands signaling a strategy to rescue the Hen (played by Olive Prince) that was captured by Scott McPheeters, as Renard.


- Merilyn Jackson

Merilyn is a guest contributor to the Dance Journal. She writes regularly on dance for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1996 and writes on dance, theater, food, travel and Eastern European and Latin American fiction for many publications. More than 800 of her articles have appeared in publications as diverse as The New York Times, The Warsaw Voice, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix New Times, MIT’s Technology Review, and Arizona Highways, Dance, Pointe and Dance Teacher magazines, Broad Street Review and www.exploredance.com.

She was awarded an NEA Critics Fellowship in 2005 and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in 1999 for her novel-in-progress, O Solitary Host. A chapter of that novel, “A Sow of Violence,” appeared in the Massachusetts Review in the Fall 2004 “Food Matters” issue. In 2012 she attended poetry workshops at Colgate University and Sarah Lawrence College, working with poets Peter Balakian and Tom Lux, respectively. Several of her poems appear in Exquisite Corpse, The Rusty Nail and Broad Street Review. She likes to say that dance was her first love, but when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although, she also writes poetry. Much of her writing can be read on her personal blog Prime Glib.

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