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Pennsylvania Ballet Showcases Contemporary Choreography in February Program

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PA Ballet Classic InnovationsBillowy fog, a red unitard and sneakers might invoke imagery of someone taking an early morning jog along Boathouse Row. In actuality, these elements will appear on stage in the Pennsylvania Ballet’s upcoming Classic Innovations, a showcase of contemporary ballets performed February 3-6 at the Merriam Theater.

Classic Innovations unites three of today’s strongest choreographers — William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon and Twyla Tharp — in one inventive, high-energy program. The featured ballets are The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude (Forsythe, Company premiere), Polyphonia (Wheeldon, Company premiere) and In the Upper Room (Tharp).

“The three works on Classic Innovations are all relatively modern ballets in that they were created in the past 25 years, but they’ve already earned their place in dance history,” said Pennsylvania Ballet’s Artistic Director Roy Kaiser. “Forsythe, Wheeldon and Tharp each put the athleticism and artistry of our dancers at center stage in their own ways. Ballet novices and loyal patrons alike can appreciate this program.”

Set to the final movement of Franz Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude will test the limits of five Company dancers, as it moves quickly with precision and intensity. Forsythe’s choreography, manipulates classical ballet technique to create modern movements. The progressive steps are reflected in the vibrant costumes that include futuristic, plate-like tutus and unitards — hallmarks of this singular work.

Polyphonia, the second part of Classic Innovations, 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. Overhead horizontal lifts, rolls and pushes off the floor contrast with classical ballet steps in this piece, and imaginative partnering highlights this abstract performance.

Tharp’s theatrical In the Upper Room contrasts the power and energy of modern dance with the technical precision and dexterity of classical ballet. Set to a pulsating score by Philip Glass, this signature work drives athletic choreography. Two groups of dancers will shift through a smoky stage wearing either running shoes or ballet slippers while showcasing classical and unconventional steps.

Performances of Classic Innovations at the Merriam Theater:

7:30 p.m., February 3

7:30 p.m, February 4

2 p.m. and 8 p.m., February 5

2 p.m., February 6

 

Tickets to Classic Innovations are on sale now. Purchase tickets online at www.paballet.org, by phone at (215) 893-1999 and in person at the Kimmel Center Box Office.

 

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