by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | Photo Credit: Alexander Iziliaev
Pennsylvania Ballet presented a mixed bill program this past weekend to culminate their 2016-2017 season. Yesterday’s repertoire performance of Re/Action included a variety of pieces featuring the work of choreographers Christopher Wheeldon, Matthew Neenan and George Balanchine. The program highlighted the company’s versatility in presenting new work, while still honoring their Balanchine heritage.
The program opened with 16 dancers performing the company premiere of Wheeldon’s Rush. The piece pays homage to the pas de deux and featured principal dancers Oksana Maslova and Ian Hussey. Maslova was lovely with meticulous articulation through her feet and an expansive épaulement that finished each movement with a feeling of lightness. Also noteworthy for their pas de deux solo were Craig Wasserman and Yuka Iseda. The ensemble work was vigorous with sharp lines and angular port de bras. I enjoyed seeing the male dancers featured as prominently as the females in this piece. Often times, I feel the men are overshadowed and utilized primarily for partner work. In Rush, the men were able to showcase their technical prowess and athleticism. Bold colored costumes were accentuated by Mark Stanley’s light design, bringing a complete picture of visual elegance to the stage.
Next, Pennsylvania Ballet’s Choreographer in Residence, Matthew Neenan, presented his world premiere of Somnolence. The curtain opened to the dancers lying on the floor with their heads on a pillow. The backdrop resembled a mattress with an enormous mountain of pillows spilling out of it. The scene was eye-catching and instantly set the theme of the piece-sleep. Neenan delved into the various stages of sleep through changes in dynamics and movement quality. The pillows were a constant prop, which sometimes felt over-used. Amy Aldridge, who previously announced that she was retiring at the end of this season, danced a pas de trois with intensity. She proved she was leaving her profession while still at the top of her game.
The program ended with a Pas de Deux preview. Mayara Pineiro and Sterling Baca had excellent chemistry dancing Black Swan. Pineiro was both flirtatious and enchanting. Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tarantella and Rubies followed with energetic and demanding variations. Amy Aldridge danced the Tarantella with Craig Wasserman. Wasserman was animated and playful both while partnering and dancing solo. Aldridge also danced the final variation, Rubies, with Alexander Peters. It felt fitting to have Aldridge end the program to culminate her 23 year career with the Pennsylvania Ballet. During her well-deserved standing ovation, fellow dancers and colleagues entered the stage one by one to say goodbye and place a rose at Aldridge’s feet. As a longtime ballet patron, it was an honor to share in an emotional and heartfelt farewell to Amy Aldridge.
***PHOTO: Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancers Alexander Peters, Jermel Johnson, and Oksana Maslova in Matthew Neenan’s Somnolence.