By Michael Caruso and Brendan Sample
When Christopher Gruits of East Falls took over the reins of the University of Pennsylvanias Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, one of his goals was to once again make the facility in West Philadelphia a center for modern ballet and dance. Along those lines, he invited BalletXs artistic & executive director Christine Cox to offer local audiences a sampler of the companys regular season at the Wilma Theater in Center City.
That summary roster was performed last weekend in the Annenbergs classically modern Zellerbach Theatre. Nearly all of its 936 seats were filled with dance lovers eager to experience three works from the troupes repertoire. The show opened with Gran Partita, with choreography by Jorma Elo; the show continued with Malasangre, with choreography by Cayetano Solo; and it closed with Big Ones, with choreography by Trey McIntyre. The Zellerbachs spacious stage and faultless sightlines provided Friday evenings audience with a splendid example of the companys artistic ingenuity and technical prowess.
Elo set Gran Partita to classical scores by Mozart, Berg and Bach. In each movement the choreography goes beyond mirroring the sound and shape of the music to express its inner motivations through gestures and movements that seem to flow naturally out of its sounds through the bodies of the dancers and then out into the theater.
In Melasangre, Solo employs the quirk of having the men wear skirts and the women wear tights, dancing to Latin-inflected songs. McIntyres Big Ones uses songs by Amy Winehouse to reveal throbbing emotions within the comings and goings of individual and group relationships. In all three works, the dancers of Ballet X performed with mesmerizing energy, incredible precision of ensemble and an exemplary ability to communicate the concepts and feelings behind the choreography. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will grace the Zellerbach stage Friday, Oct. 20, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. Visit www.annenbergcenter.org for more information.