by Debra Danese for The Dance Journal
PA Ballet’s World Premieres had an interesting creative process before culminating onstage. According to the company, three choreographers- Yin Yue, Juliano Nunes, and Garrett Smith- were invited to create pieces on, and specifically for, the PA Ballet dancers. The choreographers were tasked with getting to know the dancers and showcasing their unique abilities in a shared artistic process. The tailored pieces could only be seen this season during this past weekend at the Merriam Theatre. The Sunday, November 11th performance brought a number of standing ovations throughout.
While watching the program, I had to remind myself that I was watching a ballet company. All three of the works strayed from the classical feel and took a very edgy, contemporary direction instead. The results showed the artist’s versatility with stunning results. Yue’s opening piece, A Trace of Inevitability, had the nine dancers (costumed by Christine Darch) in loose-fitting pants, flowing blouses, and socks. The dance began with three different duets. All three incorporated a sophisticated construction of linking and interweaving between partners. Unique transitions in the work were done with ease, allowing the focus to be on the movement quality. The piece had a strong build bringing in more dancers as the music intensified. The combination of small group and unison composition allowed for an engaging range of choreography.
Juliano Nune’s Connection was just that, an intricate structure of adjoining variations that were underscored by an amazing light design by Michael Mazzola. It seemed as if hyper-flexibility was a casting requirement for the female dancers. Their partnering work had their legs extended to the max in every direction possible. The fluidity in which they made these transitions was a testament to the proficiency of both the women and men. Even Albert Gordon’s brief solo incorporated a floor split between a range of leaps and turns. Amidst all of the partnering, it was refreshing to also see some ensemble work. The men were not quite as exact in their unison as the women but it was a nice opportunity to showcase more of their skill-set.
A beautiful combination of lights, costumes, choreography, and dancing was centered around the theme of the cello in Garrett Smith’s Reverberance. Solo cellist Peter Gregson was seated beside the stage and opened the piece with a work by Bach. The curtain opened to two dancers on stage, amongst a sea of floating cellos. As the choreography progressed, the cellos were raised so that they appeared to hover overhead. The effect, combined with blue-hued lighting and costumes, was ethereal. The performances in this work were top caliber. The company seemed crisper in their unison and effortless in their execution. Numerous dancers were highlighted, including Jack Thomas and Julia Vinez, who both performed with a joyful zest. There were several other dancers who also performed with a sense of carefree delight. It was a nice reminder that all of the long hours of training and rehearsing are done out of absolute devotion and passion for their art.