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The French Connection: Pennsylvania Ballet’s New Season Draws Inspiration from France


Triple Bill CarmenWhen planning the Pennsylvania Ballet’s upcoming season, Artistic Director Roy Kaiser didn’t intend for most of the Company’s programs to have ties to France. But after stepping back, he realized that French choreographers created two of the ballets, and two other ballets are set in the French countryside. 

“If I had sought to inject a French theme into the season, it probably wouldn’t look much different that it does now!” Kaiser said of the Company’s 47th season. 

The 2010-2011 season includes three eclectic repertory programs and two full-length ballets, as well as the annual production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. The Pennsylvania Ballet will also perform a new version of the classic French ballet Pulcinella at the first Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts in April 2011. The festival’s theme? Paris: 1910-1920. 

For the new season, Kaiser plans to showcase the full range of the Company’s repertoire, along with the dancers’ artistry and technique. 

“When you look at the season, you can see an incredible diversity in the various choreographic styles that dancers of this Company are able to perform at an extremely high level,” Kaiser said. “On each program, audiences will come away with a very different impression of the Company, and when you put them all together, it’s pretty extraordinary.” 

Here is a part one of Philly2Philly.com's preview of the PA Ballet upcoming season. Check back for the rest of the season shortly! 

Carmen Triple Bill

The season opens on Oct. 21 at the Academy of Music and features Concerto Barocco by George Balanchine; a world premiere by the Company’s Choreographer in Residence, Matthew Neenan; and Carmen by Roland Petit. 

Concerto Barocco is the first ballet Balanchine gave to the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Company presented it in its first performance in 1963. The ballet’s loose choreography does not have a story, but it reflects the score composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. 

In his 13th commission for the Company, Neenan has created another new ballet. According to Kaiser, “Matthew hasn’t fallen into the trap of just relying on what works. I think that’s a sign of a good choreographer. He’s always looking for something new and a new way to present dance.” 

French-born choreographer Petit’s Carmen blends sensuality, theatricality and style. Inspired by the opera of the same name, Carmen follows the torrid and tragic affair between Carmen and her lover, Don José. Combined with a score by Frenchman Georges Bizet, the Carmen’s fiery movement usually leaves audience breathless.

The Carmen Triple Bill runs from Oct. 21 to Oct. 24.

Classic Innovations

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

The holiday season in Philadelphia isn’t complete without a trip to see the Company’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Now in its 42nd year, the traditional Christmas ballet continues to boast enchanting characters and dancing, lavish costumes and sets, and the timeless Tschaikovsky score accompanied by the sounds of the Philadelphia Boys Choir. 

Performances of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker runs from Dec. 4 to Dec. 31 at the Academy of Music. 

Classic Innovations

Classic Innovations unites three of today’s strongest choreographers in one inventive program: William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon and Twyla Tharp.

Last season, audiences fell in love with William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. This year, the Pennsylvania Ballet is bringing Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude to the stage. Here, the choreographer manipulates ballet technique in a powerful contemporary piece set to the music of Franz Schubert. 

Polyphonia has helped solidify Wheeldon’s place among the great choreographers of today. The variety of sounds (polyphony) of composer György Ligeti’s score is mirrored by the dancers’ mix of ballet and modern steps. Imaginative partnering highlights this abstract performance that reflects the 21st Century. 

Tharp’s theatrical In the Upper Room is a tour-de-force of energy and finesse. Philip Glass’ thundering score propels an athletic dance, during which dancers wear running shoes or ballet slippers. Two groups of dancers with shift through a smoky stage while showcasing classical and unconventional steps. 

Classic Innovations runs from Feb. 3 to Feb. 6 at the Merriam Theater


For more information or to purchase tickets for the Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2010-2011 season, visit www.paballet.org or call (215) 215-893-1999. Tickets for groups of 10 or more are available by calling (215) 587-6921.

Photos: (Right) Principal Dancers Arantxa Ochoa and Sergio Torrado in Concerto Barocco, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Paul Kolnik. 

(Left) Principal Dancers Amy Aldridge and Sergio Torrado in In the Upper Room. Photo: Paul Kolnik.