By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal
Starting their 58th season as the newly renamed Philadelphia Ballet, Angel Corella called the company’s run at The Performance Garage a “soft opening.” Corella, Philadelphia Ballet’s Artistic Director, was also one of the three choreographers presenting work in Spark. Corella, Juliano Nunes, and Matthew Neenan crafted a program brilliantly showcasing the company after 18 months away from live performances. The Sunday, October 24, 2021 show was a triumphant return to the stage.
Neenan’s Other Half was structured around couples and how we navigate towards and away from others. Kathryn Manger and Peter Weil opened the piece with athleticism and artistry. Weil’s expansive use of his upper body seemed to extend without limit. Interspersed appearances by Nayara Lopes and Sydney Dolan were a particular highlight. It was hard not to be drawn into their interaction with both each other and the audience. Composer Rosie Langabeer provided a musical backdrop infused with everyday sounds such as church bells and wind gusts. Neenan used the changes in time signature to layer different movement qualities. The result was a well-balanced choreographic structure.
Juliano Nunes incorporated ten dancers in the remounting of his 2019 Philadelphia Ballet world premiere of Connection. The women were highlighted and beautifully supported, by the men through an array of intricate partnering work. Control, strength, and astounding flexibility were on full display. Nunes’ use of level changes added dimension, especially in Arian Molina Soca’s solo. Soca executed turns, leaps, and extensions all while transitioning on and off the floor seamlessly. Ensemble work was equally powerful despite some minor timing issues. Bold lighting design accentuated the build-in of both music and choreography. Thays Golz was a stand-out for her interpretation and connection to the music.
The final work, by Corella, was his first fully original creation for the Philadelphia Ballet. In Landscaping the Mist, Corella crafted a stunning production using dramatic lighting, subdued costumes, and vibrant music by American composer Philip Glass. The cast of 21 dancers was well utilized within four movements. Constant changes in tempo and formations kept the work well-paced and engaging. The full ensemble sections filled the stage and showcased the company’s agility and versatility. Demi soloist Etienne Diaz seemed to be in his element dancing Corella’s choreography.
All three of the contemporary ballets were costumed to perfection. Uniquely different from each other; yet all refined and elegantly understated. Credit to Martha Chamberlain and Reid and Harriet Designs for their design and construction.
The program is running through October 30th and features 40 of the company’s 43 members. The venue offers an up-close and personal view that seemed to enhance the audience’s experience. Small nuances that might not translate in a bigger theatre offered a unique and intimate perspective.