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Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

BalletX makes it's center debut at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. This young company, based in Philadelphia, is amazingly together with an eclectic repertoire, presenting a clean, fully executed array of interesting choreography & interpretation.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

For me, an exciting evening in the theater and in the world of Ballet.

The name Ballet"X" connotes a modern term denoting non-gendered, non-binary, and inclusivity. I instantly discerned that this company was on top of the latest consciousness, and has incorporated not only this, but the latest trend of mixing forms of dance together, the latest in staging and technology, and superbly trained young, up-and-coming dancers. The program for the evening consisted of three new works, by three diverse, world-renowned choreographers, all set on the dancers in the company.

This young company, based in Philadelphia, is amazingly together with an eclectic repertoire, presenting a clean, fully executed array of interesting choreography and interpretations.

Celebrating their 15th Anniversary, BalletX has been blazing a path of creativity and innovation across leading stages including The Kennedy Center, The Joyce Theater and Jacob's Pillow.

BalletX performed October 14, 2021 at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA with a similar program and then made their center debut at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA on October 16, 2021, with their cutting-edge brand of contemporary ballet-based works.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts As Philadelphia's premier contemporary ballet, BalletX expands the vocabulary of classical dance. Committed to producing works that cultivate audiences' collective appetite for bold, new dance, BalletX has been hailed as a "place of choreographic innovation" (The New Yorker).

The Company Dancers: Shawn Cusseaux, Jonah

Delgado, Francesca Forcella, Blake Krapels,

Skyler Lubin, Ashley Simpson, Pete Leo Walker, Andrea Yorita, Alexandra Policaro

and Guest Dancer: Eric Trope

The opening piece, entitled "Increasing," Choreographed by Matthew Neenan, (Co-Founder of BalletX) was a delicious musical rendezvous with a live string quartet on stage, upstage right. They beautifully performed Franz Schubert's String Quartet in C Major, Op. 163 and D. 956, Movement I, Allegro ma non troppo as the full company of dancers displayed their masterfully staged, precisely executed dance combinations, deftly weaving solos, trios and duets together, switching formations that flowed wonderfully with the melody and exuded a joy and playfulness throughout. Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

A striking figure on stage, Blake Krapels soloed under a dim spotlight on an otherwise dark stage, with some intricate floorwork to start off, which became a duet, partnering the lovely, engaging Francesca Forcella to the violin's melody. Each dancer stood out individually and during the partnerwork, for different reasons. All the men danced very strongly and commandingly. The women were all lithe and fluid, with underlying strength. Andrea Yorita, from Irvine, Ca. and the most petite dancer, was truly eye-catching in her many sections.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts The strong balletic technique, incorporated with modern movements and lines, such as flexed feet and hands, the extended and angled port de bras, and expressive isolated movements complimented the music just beautifully. Each section of the music was thoroughly brought to life by the dancers, sometimes echoing or mirroring each other on different phrases, or mixing partner genders.

The effortless leaps and creative lifts were performed with ballon; the strong balance, extensions and timing were meticulous and so very clean. A glorious piece of choreography, splendidly performed.

The Schubert Quintet: Yoe Joo Hwang, Violin I; Matthew Fang, Violin II; Remy Fang, Viola; Chang Yue, Cello I; and Inwoo Su, Cello II. Lighting Designer Drew Billiau and Costume Designer Carol Divet complimented the choreography and movement perfectly.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts Second on the program was "Napoleon/Napoleon," Choreographed by Cayetano Soto who also designed the Costumes; Costume Builder: Stephen Smith; Lighting Designer: Mark Stanley.

The Music: "Masquerade Waltz" by Khachaturian, Mandolin Concerto in C major, Allegro by Vivaldi, Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra: VII. Waltz II by Schostakowitsch, "Tengo Una Debilidad" by Antonio Machín; "Macorina" by Chavela Vargas.

An odd, unusual piece, described by the choreographer, "Napoleon/Napoleon" tackles the phenomenon "The Emperors Syndrome," where children mistreat their parents and elders, and which seems to be transferring to adults in today's society. Napoleonish behavior, seeping into the framework of our consciousness. Says Soto: "The starting point of my creation was the question, how many adult emperors/Napoleons do we encounter around us in our daily lives? To answer it, I travel from a dark place to a non-stop fun parade with my own ironic twist."

On a dark stage, we see bodies running on stage into position, with only the bottom of the upstage scrim lit up with tiny lights across from stage left to right. The costumes, once the music begins and the lights brighten a bit, are uniform for all; smartly tailored, skirted, long black military-looking jackets with crinolines underneath, that visually magnify the Napoleonic philosophy and attitude. Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

The dancers begin marching, stepping in unison. Blackout. Different positions and different patterns of marching, in short spurts, between blackouts. As this progresses, it soon becomes silly, sometimes all sitting on the floor, still marching, then marching slowly while all wagging just one finger in unison; clearly childish behavior. Continuing the wacky and off-the-wall attitude, more dancing is seen as they do a kick line, parading around with marching arms exaggerated, strong and full, then some eccentric moves, leaping and disregarding boundaries, stepping on someone's back to do an arabesque, suggesting irreverence and no respect for whomever is in their way. The antics continue with some dancers riding around on tricycles, adding to the absurdity, interspersed with the actions on stage. Everyone continues dancing and interacting with one another whilst becoming more outrageous, as a banjo picks up the tempo. One of the dancers bouree's in and does leaps in a circle, then begins repeating some isolated movements, whittled down to a reaching movement she does repeatedly, in a circle, as the rest of the dancers join in, mimicking her exactly, implying part of the the syndrome that if you repeat something over and over enough, it will catch on and become the norm. (liken this to President Trumps' lies that turned into a whole conspiracy movement.). Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

Wild moments of using the bottom of the jacket and crinolines underneath like a can-can skirt, skipping in unison, and lifts where the legs get flung out in the air at the top of the lift.

The stage goes dark once again, and we then see a red neon ticker-tape scroll machine that has been placed along the floor going across the stage, which is scrolling quotes from Napoleon Bonaparte, such as "History is a set of lies agreed upon," "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake," and "Friends must always be treated as if one day they might be enemies." Your typical "build yourself-up-speak" to feel more important, more relevant than everyone else. The shenanigans ensue, making the choreography more like stunts in crazy, awkward positions, with some really wonderful partnerwork, sometimes flexing the feet doing steps normally you would point your feet on, and more of the marching, this time with stiff legs, adding shaking their heads on the accents in the music, with wide port de bras movements building up to what you would imagine, a big finish, but, just the opposite; it ends as unceremoniously as it began... they slowly walk, dribbling off... Curtain.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts "Steep Drop, Euphoric," the closing piece, was a bit more of showcasing the talent of these excellent performers, with outstanding choreography, created by Nicolo Fonte, utilizing their polished dance techniques and giving their personalities room to shine as well.

From a dark stage, a dim spot begins to shine down on three dancers, in soft and flowing pastel wardrobe. Francesca Forcella, featured in this piece is atop two of the men's shoulders, as this piece unfolds to give us a glimpse into the internal feelings and emotions one goes through when delving into your inner consciousness, hoping for an enlightened and attainable journey ahead, but dealing with each drawback as it appears. The dancers, once again are flawless, displaying their range of technical skills, while also emoting the perceived sensations through their bodies. The choreography is very fluid yet intricate, with plenty of double pirouettes into penche's; forming a tight circle upstage and then randomly bursting out of the circle by either leaping up into the air or lunging down low. There are combinations that flow into others, while constantly rearranging positions and switching places with others to keep the energy vibrant and pliable. There is an asymmetrical look to some of the formations and lines hit, giving a jazzier feel to the mood, adding the occasional hand-shaking or head-shaking to mix things up a bit more. The port de bras is very stylized and expressive in this piece, and also adds emphasis to the overall revelations being displayed. Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts More innovative and unique lifts abound throughout the rest of the piece, duos taking turns, upping the ante each time in the thrill factor, all performed very cleanly and controlled. Some of the partnering interactions on stage by Andrea and Erik, or Jonah, are poetry in motion. Also with Skyler and Pete who look beautiful together, Shawn and Ashley, doing a spectacular lift, Ashley lifted overhead by Shawn, and a most "uplifting" moment involving the entire cast of dancers grouped together at music's end, the violin ritards and the legato movements and melody reveal a glorious overhead lift holding Francesca Forcella high in arabesque.

Music: Symphony No. 1 "Oceans": V. Cadenza by Ezio Bosso; Eulogy for Evolution 2017's "3326" by Olafur Arnalds; Six Breaths: I Breath, Draw Breath, and Music for Weather Elements: Thunders and Lightnings by Ezio Bosso

Lighting Designer: Mark Stanley, Costume Designer: Christine Darch, Set Designer: Nicolo Fonte, in collaboration with Mark Stanley.

Review: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts I must say, it is rare to see such a youthful company be so precise and well-defined. Especially since there are four company members who are new to the company as of this year! Not to mention having gone through the pandemic for the past two years, where there was little to no opportunity to rehearse as a group or map out choreography. There's a litheness and simplicity that young dancers' bodies possess that is exciting to see, as they are still identifying their potential. This company has such a bright future!

Founded in 2005 by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, BalletX is led by Cox, whose tenure as Artistic & Executive Director has produced over 100 world premiere ballets by nearly 60 choreographers, a record "few companies can match," according to The New York Times. Under Cox's leadership, BalletX has been hailed as an "epicenter of creation" (Dance Magazine) and a "place of choreographic innovation" (The New Yorker). Quote from another Reviewer: Wonderfully unique - what contemporary ballet can be in the 21st century.
-Damian Woetzel, Vail Dance FestivalReview: BALLETX ~ EXUBERANCE AND EXTRAORDINARY TECHNIQUE at Segerstrom Center For The Arts

BalletX has reached 2000+ Philadelphia public school students through their in-school dance education program, Dance eXchange, and countless patrons through their engagement initiative, The X-Process, featuring open rehearsals and talkbacks with renowned choreographers and guest artists.


Photos Courtesy of Vikki Sloviter, and Bill Hebert for BalletX

For more information on BalletX: Website: https://www.balletx.org/

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/BalletX.Official/

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/balletx?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/balletx.official/

and Segerstrom Center For The Arts: www.SCFTA.ORG



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