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Pennsylvania Ballet Presents A 50th Finale: The Ultimate Celebration

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Jermel Johnson in Matthew Neenan’s Penumbra
Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet presents A 50th Finale: The Ultimate Celebration, a mixed bill closing the Company’s 50th Anniversary Season, June 12-15 at the Merriam Theater.

“For the final program of our 50th Anniversary Season, I wanted to highlight the diverse talents of this great company,” Artistic Director Roy Kaiser says. “From the romantic Robbins work to the tour-de-force of Forsythe, plus the singular vision of our own Matthew Neenan, this program is an inspired grand finale to a landmark year in the Company’s history.”

Nuance and depth saturate In the middle, somewhat elevated, William Forsythe’s frenetic experiment in abstract movement, set to Thom Willems pulsating, electronic soundscape.  It’s classical ballet, but with an off-kilter edge: off-balance positions, extreme extensions, and increased hip action.

In contrast, revel in the lush romance of Jerome Robbins’ In the Night. Three couples portray different stages of love in extended pas de deux: tender and young, mature and balanced, and passionately fiery.

Heralded by The New York Times as “one of today’s foremost dance poets,” Choreographer in Residence Matthew Neenan creates two works for this program. Penumbra is an intimate ballet for five dancers. Premiered in 2008, Penumbra quickly became a favorite of the dancers to perform. The piece is set to an Alberto Ginastera score for cello and piano that creates a somber yet sweet atmosphere on stage.

Mr. Neenan’s 15th commission for the Company, La Chasse (French for “The Hunt”) is a duet created for Principal Dancer Lauren Fadeley and Company Member Alexander Peters. Inspired by a 1911 Albert Gleizes painting of the same name, La Chasse aims to capture the painting’s sharp architecture and moody feeling, as well as the steady driving force of its Schubert score.

This series marks the final performances by Company Member Jonathan Stiles. With Pennsylvania Ballet since 1999, Mr. Stiles retires from the stage with Mr. Neenan’s Penumbra on Sunday, June 15 at 2 p.m. Throughout his 15 years with the Company, Mr. Stiles has danced featured and leading roles in several ballets, including Giselle, John Cranko’s Romeo & Juliet, George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, Paul Taylor’s Company B, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, John Butler’s Carmina Burana, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, and Benjamin Millepied’s This Part in Darkness (original cast). Mr. Stiles recently earned a graduate certificate in nonprofit administration from The University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government and looks forward to a career in arts management. His wife is School Instructor and former Principal Dancer Martha Chamberlain, and they have a daughter. To read Mr. Stiles’ full biography, click here.

Tickets to A 50th Finale: The Ultimate Celebration at the Merriam Theater are on sale now, with prices ranging from $30-$125. Tickets are available online at paballet.org, by phone at 215.893.1999, and in person at the Kimmel Center Box Office.

A 50th Finale: The Ultimate Celebration performances at the Merriam Theater:
Thursday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 14 at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 15 at 2 p.m.

For the first time in the series’ history, Artistic Director Roy Kaiser is the guest speaker at Conversations with Pennsylvania Ballet on Monday, June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Philadelphia City Institute Library at 1905 Locust Street. Don’t miss this informal, lively Q&A. Free and open to the public. Complimentary wine and cheese courtesy of The Friends of the PCI Library.

Toast the performances with a FREE Pre-Show Talk on Friday, June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at Broad & Locust Streets, open to all ticket holders. Sip a complimentary cocktail and get behind-the-scenes stories from the rehearsal studio.

Join Pennsylvania Ballet for “Reaching New Heights: 50 and Beyond” an auction and celebration at the University of the Arts on Sunday, June 15 at 6 p.m. Enjoy an evening of fun and surprises with your friends and our dancers, following the final performance of the 50th Anniversary Season. Graze through delicious delicacies, savor custom made cocktails, win terrific auction prizes, and dance with the dancers. Attire is Summer Chic. For tickets starting at $150, please RSVP by June 6 to Barbara Vogdes, Manager of Special Events, at 215.587.6916 or bvogdes@paballet.org.

- Steven Weisz

Founder & Editor
While not a dancer himself, Weisz’s love for the arts and dance started as a child growing up in New York City. With parents, who were strong supporters of the arts and part of a community with an incredible array of notable artists in music, dance, theater and fine arts, Weisz’s access and affinity for the performing arts took root. Upon attending college in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 70’s, Weisz started performing as a puppeteer, magician, juggler and fire eater as a means of supplementing his income. This soon grew in to what became Rainbow Promotions Inc., one of the largest entertainment and special events producers in the region. It was here that he began to promote and book dance for major events throughout the city. Many of the dancers he worked with in the early days of his company are now major choreographers in Philadelphia. At the same time, Weisz’s interest in computers and the early developments of what is now known as the Internet, led him to also start another company, Delaware Valley On Line, which became one of the first regional ISPs. It was this combination of event production, internet development and event marketing that led him to examine the use of the internet as a means to promote the arts. Dance continued to be a major interest for Weisz and in 2005 he founded PhiladelphiaDANCE.org as a major online resource to promote dance in the city. It was soon after that the Dance Journal was also founded as a way to provide an outlet for writing on a range of topics that encompass the ever growing and emerging dance community in the region. Weisz continues to run both PhiladelphiaDANCE and The Dance Journal on purely a voluntary basis with no income derived from any of his projects. He is also the Artistic Director of Graffito Works, a unique platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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