BalletX Summer Series: Farewell, Anitra
Sophisticated funJANET ANDERSON
BalletX did it again, assembling a program rich in musical choices, burnished by exceptionally challenging choreography that kept dancers and audience alike on edge. Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, both fine dancers in their own right, have found a happy new niche as co-directors of this troupe that celebrates the new and experimental.
Choreographer Tobin Del Cuore— who studied at Julliard, as did all the choreographers on this program— put together Beside Myself, a new piece that mixed his choreography with that of the Morris Dance Company, and more. The Xers actually first performed this work in 2010, but it still looks brand new. I doubt anyone in the audience really figured out the complicated combinations of music involved, because they were so smoothly linked by the dancers. Still, this was a complicated dance, with many shifts in direction and partnering.
As always, the Xers’ selection of musical accompaniment to Beside Myself was a musical feast, from Ben Frost’s Theory of Machines to Beats Antique to Johan Johannsson’s Siren Music and more.
Guys on a sofa
From there we went to Adam Hougland’s charming Mashup, with some fellows sitting on a sofa, pushing each other off, leaning on shoulders— just a weird funny little piece about guys trying to be sophisticated but having too much fun to focus on the task.
The program ended with Differences In Direction, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, with a montage of music ranging from Kenji Bunch to Etude. No. 7 Festive, Cookbook II and Cookbook III. As the choreographer explained: “As I sat in yoga trying to calm my mind, it struck me how the mind moves so rapidly to very new and specific colorful thoughts. I wanted this work to reflect those differences with the use of bold colors and choreography.” He did exactly that.
The program marked a farewell to one of the Xers’ best dancers, Anitra Keegan, who for five years consistently made all the unusual BalletX moves look beautiful, even simple— but just try to wrap one of your legs around your neck like a gigantic snake. It’s not so easy, and actually a little dangerous.
Keegan, who is retiring to look into other options— a common practice among dancers— leaves Philadelphia a great favorite for her BalletX work. She’s excellent at perilous pointe work, and at embodying the complicated musical accompaniment. In five years with the Xers she has remained game to try every difficult move or position. She tries ever more difficult choreography while remaining able to hold one leg up behind her head and balance on pointe. Think this is easy? Try it.
Her distinct beauty— the long hair, the composed face and body— was always easy to spot when she performed. When she performed Del Cuore’s choreography in Beside Myself, Keegan all but flew.
At the intermissions, David Cohen played classical guitar and bagpipe, and Pasion y Arte Flamenco provided a wonderfully odd juxtaposition to BalletX’s sophisticated modern choreography. As always, everyone left smiling and laughing after an evening of inspired stuff from a spunky and talented troupe. More, please.