Pennsylvania Ballet’s Keigwin, Fonte, & Forsythe: A Virtuosic Thrill!

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Principal Dancer Lauren Fadeley in William Forsythe’s The Second Detail
photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

by Gregory King, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Swarthmore College for The Dance Journal

When Angel Corella was named artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, dance aficionados were waiting to see what he would bring to the already thriving company. While his appointment is still pretty new, the program of Keigwin, Fonte, & Forsythe was well executed under his direction. The 2015 – 2016 brochure promises to continue to showcase the versatility of the dancers and I hope Corella will follow the in the footsteps of former director, Roy Kaiser and celebrate all things neo- classical.

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William Forsythe’s The Second Detail
photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

William Forsythe’s The Second Detail led the evening’s programming. Intricate and highly physical, Detail took the traditional ballet structure, de-centered it’s verticality and delivered a nuanced aesthetic that celebrated the ballet body.

Wearing powder blue leotards and tights, twelve dancers perforated the stage that had a sign “THE” placed downstage center. The dancers were all working with similar phrases that were reworked into solos, duets and group pieces.

With his recent promotion to principal dancer, Alexander Peters and Elizabeth Mateer gave into the Forsythe aesthetics by allowing their bodies to breath through every off centered position.

Lauren Fadeley not only danced – she lived. A truly adaptable mover, Fadeley’s flawless technique made it possible for her to abandon the structure of academic ballet and soared in each unpredictable tilt and turn.

With each hip press, lunge and fifth position, the cast of Detail placed themselves in extreme positions by way of complex transitions and tricky movement manipulations to reveal the hard-edged, thrusting, and corporeal aesthetic that is truly Forsythe.

James Ihde and Brooke Moore dazzled in Larry Keigwin’s Canvas. Eleven dancers painted the stage in this playful, pattern-filled escapade but it was the chemistry of Ihde and Moore that was both magnetic and engaging. With the women wearing colorful dresses and the men donning white button down shirts and black trousers, Canvas may have been a gamble for pointe shoes loving ,tutu worshipping ballet goers (I heard a gentleman behind me ask “what is this? I don’t like it), but from bun-less hair to bare feet, the dancers brought to life the careful fusing of Keigwin’s classical and contemporary vocabulary.

Special mention must be made of Oksana Maslova, whose facility and pristine execution of each step made her a stand out in this piece.

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Soloist Mayara Pineiro and Principal Guest Artist Arian Molina Soca
in the preview of next Season’s Don Quixote. photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

A welcome surprise was the preview of Don Quixote danced by Arian Molina Soca and Mayara Pineiro. Introduced by Angel Corella, the technical proficiency of Pineiro and the stately presence of the virtuosic Molina Soca left the audience wowed as they cheered the stunning duo. From fouette turns to double saut de basques, the pairing was nothing short of magical. Kudos to Corella for giving the audience an amuse-bouche of future programming.

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Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Nicolo Fonte’s Grace Action
photo credit: Alexander Iziliaev

While Detail and Canvas were company premieres, Nicolo Fonte’s Grace Action was the only world premier on the program. A shadowy stage had spotlights hanging from upstage, shining in different directions. Special groupings revealed moving bodies as they carved the space around each other. A choreographic giant with a string of credits to his name, Fonte crafted a physically demanding piece that had the dancers in a constant state of “ongoingness”. Although the off-centered, deconstructed ballet idiom, and quirky movement manipulations that were present in Forsythe’s work could be seen in Fonte’s piece, Fonte was extremely successful at choreographing movements for the entire body and his partnering had the dancers traveling in dizzying circles as they executed tricky manipulations and complex weaving. Lillian Dipiazza was a treasure in this delightful feast as she stood out for all the right reasons. From her meek disposition to her acute use of her mobile limbs, she became the perfect vehicle for Fonte’s movement. Whether it was allowing herself to be maneuvered by the other dancers or dancing solo, Dipiazza was superb.

Move over Swan Lake.

Step back Sleeping Beauty.

Contemporary ballet definitely has a place in the repertoire of Pennsylvania Ballet. After watching them tonight, I was giddy with excitement as I await their next neo-classical program. The works of Wayne McGregor, Jiri Kylian, Gustavo Ramírez, and Alonzo King all belong in this company’s arsenal of choreographic offerings. Yes, classical ballets resides in PB’s bag of tricks, but their success in delivering an alternate to what we’ve become accustomed to, is something I hope we can start to expect from Pennsylvania Ballet.

About Gregory King

Gregory King received his MFA in Choreographic Practice and Theory from Southern Methodist University. In addition, he is certified in Elementary Labanotation. His dance training began in Washington DC at the Washington Ballet and later at American University. He went on to participate in the Horton Project in conjunction with the Library of Congress. His training continued at the prestigious institutions such as The Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Alvin Ailey School. Gregory has performed with The Washington Ballet, Rebecca Kelly Ballet, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, New York Theatre Ballet, Donald Byrd /The Group, The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, New York City Opera, and Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway.

His desire to integrate social activism into his choreography began with his graduate thesis, where he used the platform to push the conversation about homophobia and heterosexism. He is a lover of movement exploration and describes his aesthetic as a classical base with a theatrical flair.

He has taught at Boston Ballet, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theatre. Additionally, he has served as a teaching artist in public schools in and around Dallas, as Resident Guest artist at Temple University and Assistant Professor of Dance at Dean College. Recently, Gregory received the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Dance and Consortium on Faculty Diversity Fellow at Swarthmore College where he teaches Modern and continues to use his choreography as a means for social change.

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