by Jane Fries for The Dance Journal
BalletX is out and about in Philadelphia this spring, popping up in a variety of locations to offer free performances. In two separate appearances this past weekend, the company shared several admirable recent works with appreciative audiences who may not have had the opportunity to see them at their Wilma Theater home.
On Friday evening, BalletX appeared in a collaboration with Artistas y Musicos Latinoamericanos (AMLA) at the Teatro Esperanza. The Teatro is a project of the Esperanza Arts Center for Latino arts and culture in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Representing AMLA, the excellent Suzzette Ortiz trio opened the show with several musical numbers. BalletX joined in on their last selection, and the dancers took turns improvising – showing off their Latin flair with fancy footwork and seductive hip movements.
Next, all ten dancers of BalletX took the stage for Increasing, a sumptuous piece set to Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major. Choreographed by Matthew Neenan in 2014, the dance is both solemn and playful, capturing musical details through its kinetic development. The dance showcases not only male/female couples but also lovely duets for two women or two men. Caili Quan’s infectious personality stood out in Increasing as well as the rest of BalletX’s repertoire.
The concert concluded with Vivir, choreographed for BalletX in 2018 by Darrell Grand Moultrie. Set to music by Tito Puente, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Bebo & Cigala, the piece was inspired by Moultrie’s formative years growing up in Spanish Harlem. The dancers accentuated the syncopated Latin rhythms as if they were in a conversation with the music. A few members of BalletX had visited the Esperanza Arts Center earlier in the week to work with young dance students, and a highlight of the evening occurred when these students exuberantly danced along in their seats.
I was able to catch BalletX popping up again on Saturday afternoon in front of the Franklin Institute as part of the Philadelphia Science Festival. I anticipated that the company might perform Colby Damon’s On the Mysterious Properties of Light, from 2017, to go along with the science theme. That would have been fun, however, BalletX made a good choice with the street-friendly Express, a 2018 piece choreographed by Lil Buck. The dancers wore casual t-shirts and tennis shoes and glided through Lil Buck’s Memphis jookin style steps set to a score Jon Batiste. Their cool moves delighted the hundreds of spectators gathered around on all four sides.
There are several more free opportunities to see BalletX this spring in their Pop-Up series:
May 8 at Love Park
May 15 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
June 8 at Grumblethorpe
June 21 at The Woodlands
More information at www.balletx.org/pop-ups/