The BalletX formula: Compose seriously, dance joyfully

BalletX Summer Series (1st review)

4 minute read
Kerollis, Horne in Seiwert's 'It's Not a Cry': How relationships change. (Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.)
Kerollis, Horne in Seiwert's 'It's Not a Cry': How relationships change. (Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.)
BalletX presented its season finale at Wilma with a dazzling program of new works from young choreographers who came from all over the U.S. and Europe with choreography that was seriously composed and joyfully danced.

This Summer Series program opened with A Soliloquy Among Many for nine dancers, created by Roger C. Jeffrey, a member of the New York Artists Collective, and performed to a music collage ranging from Questo Cazzo Voglio (eight lusty songs) to the Michael Nyman Band with Marie Angel. Dancers wore very little— white pants and what looked like white bandages or cloth wrapped around their bodies, giving them the appearance of abstract beings sailing around the stage.

A mysterious quartet of dancers showed up in long brown skirts and boots, mixing with the white-wrapped ensemble. Chloe Horne stood out in her featured moment, carried around the stage by the men; she managed to be elegantly agile even when she was turned upside down. The musical accompaniment was discordant and filled with odd sounds— perfect for this dance abstraction.

Undulating duet

The mood shifted with Bare, a duet for Laura Feig and Adam Hundt, who wrapped around each other beneath a single light hanging overhead. This was an undulating duet, accompanied by the layered sounds of Tazarine and Deportation/ Igusazu Gustavo Santaolalla. It was also the first of two new works from Belgium's Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who has contributed to the Xers' repertoire in the past as well as to the Pennsylvania Ballet.

After this exquisite beginning, the troupe shifted into a different mode. A film, En Dedans (a ballet term that means "inward"), created by dancer Gabrielle Lamb, explored dreams that percolate through dancers' minds.

This sepia film sequence was clever and funny, with dancers talking about the good and bad aspects of their profession. One guy says that he became interested in ballet after seeing The Karate Kid: "I wanted to kick like that, and I was told to look into ballet." Another dancer explains, "There are so many ways you can use your body in dance; it's a balance between strength and power."

Changing relationships

The San Francisco-based choreographer Amy Seiwert contributed It's Not a Cry, an exploration of the way relationships change with ups and downs. Chloe Horne, again excellent, was partnered by Barry Kerollis, who was equally good while dancing to Hallelujah, Jeffrey Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen.

The program ended with Castrati, a tour de force contribution from Annabelle Lopez Ochoa— a rare blend of theater and dance that explored the Baroque practice of castrating male singers in order to attain the desired soprano voice. The music included works by Handel; and others as well as Castrati, an original composition from the Belgian composer David van Bouwel. The musical accompaniment was assembled in such a way that it became an undercurrent suggesting something was amiss.

Seven dancers wearing gold masks, feathers and shimmery gold costumes performed steps and movements suggesting court dances of the period but performed in a looser 21st-Century manner. Soprano voices vibrated with bars of light hanging overhead. The dancers opened their mouths, but no sounds came out. It was a beautiful yet choreographically simple dance that integrated court dance and rows of interchanging figures with modern moves that seemed elegantly off-kilter. The piece contained moments of unexpected drama, as when the lights overhead dropped down and bathed the stage in light.

Three more years

This program demonstrated just how accomplished BalletX has become over a fairly short time period. This is the outfit that, during this spring's Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, performed Proliferation of the Imagination, with a woman becoming a man and leaving the guy to raise the kids with all its attendant cleverness. Whether the BalletXers create their own work or bring in the most intriguing experimenters from around the world, they rarely produce anything that isn't totally professional and excitingly new.

This program marked the end of this spunky company's contracted three-year residency at the Wilma. Happily, the Wilma has re-upped the BalletXers for another three years.

For now, the company's co-artistic directors, Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, say they're content to showcase the work of other experiments. "Being directors," Cox explains, "our passion is finding new work." Boy, do they find it.♦

To read another review by Jim Rutter, click here.

What, When, Where

BalletX Summer Series: Works by Roger C. Jeffrey, Amy Seiwert and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. July 20-24, 2011 at Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. (at Spruce). (215) 546-7824 or

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