Pointe shoes were conspicuously absent at the premiere of BalletX’s summer series

It's Not a Cry (by Amy Seiwert)Barry Kerollis and Chloe Horne

By Kat Richter for The Dance Journal

Pointe shoes were conspicuously absent at the premiere of BalletX’s summer series but no matter—there was drama in high supply.  The evening began with A Soliloquy Among Many, a new work by Roger C. Jeffrey.  Stark and initially reminiscent of Balanchine’s Serenade in its staging, the piece gradually builds into a bleary meditation on man against society—or in this case a woman wrapped in bandages against of sea of dancers wearing brown.  Although the partnering is innovative, with a suspended four-person dive ending in a somber flat-footed arabesque, Jeffrey’s metaphor is almost too obvious.  Yes, the moment when the “naysayers” stripped down to reveal their own mummified leotards is indeed telling but better is the final tableau, in which one dancer curls herself on top of another with origami-like dexterity.

Bare (by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa): Laura Feig and Adam Hundt

The two duets of the evening, Bare choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and It’s Not a Cry by Amy Seiwert, left me wondering if there had been a sale on men’s briefs—or perhaps just a desire on the part of the choreographers to push movement to forefront of their works?  The first paints a Marlo Brandon-ish portrait of a couple of in bed but this is not your typical pas de duex; dancer Laura Feig appears to bounce partner Adam Hundt off of her butt and hooks her leg around the back of his head while simultaneously projected an eerie sense of detachment.

In Seiwert’s piece, there is a suit in addition to the briefs, although it is split between dancers Chloe Horne and Barry Kerollis who twist and tangle to a Jeff Buckley cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  Horne pirouettes into a perfect arabesque but then slices her leg over her Kerollis’s head in a rond de jamb en l’air that means business.

Castrati (by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa): L to R: Colby Damon, Jesse Sani, Adam Hundt (back), Chloe Horne, back: Laura Feig and Anitra Keegan

The comic relief of the evening comes in the form of a dance film created by Gabrielle Lamb, En Dedans.  Combining voiceovers and rehearsal footage, the film gives audience members a glimpse into the world of the professional dancer, providing the perfect introduction for the themes addressed in Ochoa’s ambitious Castrati.

“Sometimes I just wish I worked at Whole Foods” confesses dancer Colby Damon, and in the final work of the evening, we see why.  Drawing inspiration from the European operatic tradition, Castrati presents the company as the “last seven” living castrati, confined to a scientific laboratory like birds in a cage.  Like all things baroque, the work veers on the edge of the grotesque—it’s part commedia del arte, part Rocky Horror, complete with fluorescent lights and brilliantly bizarre costumes designed by Aviad Arik Herman.

Distilling the essence of the eighteenth century is never an easy task, but Herman nails it with an array of gold capes and zany corsets.  Furthermore, it is in Castrati that the dancers’ individual talents finally start to shine; Damon dips into an exaggerated reverence, a metaphor for the demands of performance, then lip syncs to the operatic score and punctuates the phrase with a flurry of petit battements.  The others half-limp, half-vogue their way through the piece, convulsing but thankfully never completely descending into the senseless flailing that’s become so common in modern dance.

Photos are by Alexander Iziliaev

About Kat Richter

Kat Richter is a freelance writer and professor of both dance and cultural anthropology. She is also the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, Philadelphia's premiere all-female tap company. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher and The Journal of Research in Dance Education.

As a professional dancer, Richter began her apprenticeship with the New Jersey Tap Ensemble at the age of 9 and was promoted to Principal Dancer while still in high school. In 2005, she received a scholarship to Oxford University and returned to the UK in 2009. She holds a BA in Dance and History from Goucher College and an MA in Dance Anthropology from Roehampton University. A proud Philadelphia transplant, she blogs at www.fieldworkinstilettos.com

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  1. ‘never completely descending into the senseless flailing that’s become so common in modern dance’??? Seriously? Thanks ever so much for keeping an open mind as a reviewer.

  2. A beautiful and moving performance! Such incredible talents working together to produce amazing moods and images.

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