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BWW Review: Artistic Director Angel Corella Brings PENNSYLVANIA BALLET to NYC with a Vibrant Contemporary Triple Bill

Pennsylvania Ballet returned to New York City for a run at the Joyce from March 29th to April 3rd 2016, the first time the company has been here since Angel Corella took on the role of Artistic Director 18 months ago. Corella, the former American Ballet Theatre Principal who won our hearts with his boyish charm and boundless energy, turns out to be well suited to his second act as a director. Wisely, he eschewed the classics and brought three intimate and innovative contemporary pieces that were perfectly suited to the up-close-and-personal Joyce venue as well as to discerning NYC dancegoers. As Corella himself put it in an endearing program note, "I know that New York audiences are very smart and know good work and good dancing when they see it, which is why I know you are going to love this program."

I, for one, did indeed love the program. The opener was "Keep" by Matthew Neenan, the company's prodigiously talented resident choreographer. Set to the music of two great Russian composers, Alexander Borodin (19th century) and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (19th century and early 20th century), the evocation of timeless human challenges in relationships was performed with 21st century artistry that was both potent and poignant. The three pas de deux in particular were visually arresting as the accomplished company members pulled off Neenan's inventive lifts with deceptive ease, all the while convincingly conveying emotions.

Up next, "Accidental" by internationally celebrated choreographer Trey McIntyre to songs from Patrick Watson's album "Adventures in Your Own Backyard", was performed in tie-dyed leotards for the ladies and tights for the men. All of the dancers were barefoot as opposed to the pointe work for the ladies in the other two ballets on the program. According to Michael O'Reilly on the online culture and entertainment magazine "Friday Arts", the title came from the fact that McIntyre "was making it up as he went along, looking for the unexpected, the things that would surprise him." The work ends with an unforgettable solo by Craig Wasserman, a dancer surely destined to become one of the most important of his generation.

The closer was Nicolo Fonte's "Grace Action", his debut work for Pennsylvania Ballet. Fonte has been the Resident Choreographer for Ballet West in Salt Lake City since the 2012-2013 season and will be the Resident Choreographer of the Oregon Ballet beginning in the fall of 2016. His intent with this ballet to the music of Philip Glass appears simply to be a celebration of the grace of dancers. Of particular note was the superb lighting design by Brad Fields, with spotlights forming columns through which the dancers entered and exited.

My one complaint is that the program was all done to taped music. A New York run deserves at least some live music. Other than that, however, I commend Corella for what he has accomplished in Philadelphia in a mere year and a half. May he continue to help the company evolve and eventually achieve a measure of greatness. To quote once again from his program note, "I trust you will enjoy our New York performances, and I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia!" The trip from NYC to Philadelphia really is an easy one. I hope New York audiences will in fact make a point of trekking to Pennsylvania to watch this worthy troupe develop with Corella's vision and guidance.

Photo by Yi-Chun Wu

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