Juniata Park Academy Students Reflect on The Nutcracker

Mouse
Photo: Dave Moser

My Christmas Holiday

Have you ever wondered why Christmas makes so many people happy?  Well, today I’m going to tell you about my Christmas and how it affects my mood.

My holiday begins in my home in the Juniata Park Area.  My mom and grandmother, sister and I get together and open our gifts.  Then we’ll celebrate by eating good food.  We have rice, beans, chicken and potatoes.  After dinner we make cookies together for dessert.  Afterwards we’ll watch Christmas movies and sing Christmas carols.  I feel so excited for this special day each year!

The Nutcracker stage had tons of people on it.  Everyone looked like family or friends.  Like my family, they were having a good time.  I dance with my family just like I saw the players dancing on stage having lots of fun.  Since we only saw the first act in the Nutcracker, we didn’t actually see any presents being opened.  Also, I didn’t see any games being played on stage.  Sometimes we go outside and play snowball fight and make a snowman.  Once we went as a family to New York City and stood with the Statue of Liberty in the snow and took our picture.  I’ll remember that Christmas most of all.  The Nutcracker felt kind of like that for me too.

So this is why my mood is so happy at this time of the year.  Christmas is filled with presents, dancing, eating and spending time with family and friends.

By,

Amir Coleman, 6th grade

Teacher,

Mr. Heim

Juniata Park Academy

 

Christmas Time

Christmas is my all time favorite holiday.  There are so many things to view, listen to, smell, savor and feel as you come across them.  All these things really get me into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas in my family household brings a lot of warmth to my heart and makes me feel delighted.  As excited as I am already, my excitement doesn’t stop there as my beloved family walks through my white glass door.  I mostly see family members.  Some are sweet and others are only pleasant when you’re there.  But after you leave they start talking all about you.  Passing through the door is mostly my little trouble team, which are basically my dearest cousins.  We sit down and talk and laugh over the crazy lives that we continue and the things we missed.  Oh great, I totally forgot about the next phase of our get together.  My mom tells all my embarrassing moments in life, ugh!  I better prepare myself for the stares and laughs.  By that time it’s dinner.  Heaven is just flowing into air as I put my head up to take a quick shift.  Everyone joins me and all you smell is the tasty ham with a hint of cinnamon and cold juicy pineapples with yellow rice.  Next is smell mouth watering chicken as everyone rushes to the kitchen like it’s a race and it sucks because the food always runs out.  As we eat, we talk and watch movies.  Now a new smell come lagging in but this time it’s brownies with minty crushed candy canes and a beautiful chocolate cake with melted chocolate chips inside, covered in a nice coat of white chocolate.  It’s just to die for!  After we eat we open presents.  Smiles spread across the room.  But don’t give anyone anything expensive or their mom will say, “Let me put this on Facebook”, happens all the time.  But my Christmas in my house makes my heart all warmed up. With my family’s love and laughter it makes me love Christmas even more.  I don’t want Christmas to end and I can’t wait for next Christmas already.

At the ballet, there was always that group of boys that mocks your peace.  Their Christmas was similar to the activities I do at my house.  In one of the scenes, the girls were at peace, but then a group of boys came and disturbed them.  It’s similar to my family because as my girl cousins and I are playing, the boys come and bother us and interrupt our conversations.  In one of the scenes, as everyone walks in through the doors everyone enjoys to see each other.  That’s the same for my family as my parents enjoy when family members come to visit.

The difference between my family and the ballet was everyone was dressed in really stunning, big, poofy dresses and a very fancy hairstyle.  In my family we just go and dress nicely, but not so fancy.  In another scene, they all seem to like one another but in my family, mostly everyone likes each other.

So now you know how I compared the Nutcracker to my family’s Christmas and I hope you understand my feelings for both.

By,

Ninel Espino, 7th grade

Teacher,

Mr. Heim

Juniata Park Academy

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Conwell Students Reflect on The Nutcracker

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Characters from The Nutcracker, Dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet | Photo: Dave Moser

Yasmeen Felton

December 15, 2015

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Grade 6

The Nutcracker

Last Friday, I visited the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA for the very first time.  I also saw a live ballet performance for the very first time.  It was an amazing experience.

First of all, I really enjoyed the live music that was played by an orchestra at the Nutcracker.  I was impressed by the number of people and of all the different instruments that were played such as trumpets, a piano, violins, and flutes.  The sound of the music was loud and powerful and somehow matched the mood as each part of the Nutcracker story unfolded.

My favorite part of the ballet was when the Nutcracker fought the Mouse King.  It was an exciting fight and the music made it even more thrilling.  The fight scene was filled with suspense because I didn’t know who was going to win!!

When we entered the beautiful theater, I was so excited and did not know what to expect. A part of the ballet I specifically enjoyed was when Marie woke up and she was outside in the snow.  Another one of my favorite parts was when the guy with the pirate eye patch took Marie’s Nutcracker while she was sleeping.

In conclusion,I enjoyed the ballet immensely and I hope to see it again next year!

 

Hawa Barry

December 15, 2015

Grade 7

The Nutcracker

Every Christmas is not exactly the same as other families when it come to mine. That’s only because I’m Muslim, and we don’t celebrate Christmas. Or Hannukah. Or Kwanza. So instead of opening presents on Christmas Day or lighting the menorah each day for 8 days, we go to the movies during Winter break every year. The first year we went was 2011, which was when my 3 siblings and I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. In 2012… I believe we didn’t go that year. But the tradition lived on the next year. In 2013, my two brothers, best friend, and I watched the Disney wonder, Frozen. Last year, my brothers watched Big Hero 6 while my sister, best friend, and I watched the Penguins of Madagascar. My sister is already set on watching the 4th installment of Alvin and the Chipmunks this year! While it may not be the most common tradition, it’s definitely one I treasure.

The Nutcracker seemed to have a mix of everything. Drama, romance, and a hint of comedy. The Nutcracker was definitely memorable, especially the Snowflake Dance. I had to say my favorite part had to be when the tree suddenly grew and the Nutcracker came to life.  It was very mystical and it felt magical. At first, I’m just like: This tree is growing and the bed got bigger. Plot Twist! Even though it wasn’t the whole ballet, I still was enjoying every minute of it.

Here in Philadelphia, seeing Christmas sights in Center City is wonderful. In Center City, they set up a Christmas Village full of shops and sorts, even a big Christmas tree in place of the fountain at Love Park! There is plenty of events and plenty of things to see and do this time of year.

The ballet’s experience and mine aren’t really the same. Not only does the Nutcracker takes place in the past, but like I said, I don’t celebrate Christmas. So, in The Nutcracker, they had the tree, the presents, everything that you would typically do on Christmas, while I simply don’t just do all of that, but just the movies. There is some similarities in both, though. Such as the fact that you are close to friends and family you love, and spend some quality time with each other.

 

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Christopher Wu

December 15, 2015

The Nutcracker

My experience while watching the Nutcracker was amazing. I saw that the dancers enjoyed dancing and looked very happy, and this made me feel happy. The live music during the Nutcracker has a big affect on the ballet and it was really cool to see all the musicians below the stage. The music and lighting made me feel excited and successfully set the mood throughout the entire performance.

My favorite part of the ballet was when the Nutcracker was fighting the Mouse King.  It was cool seeing performers live and not on television or in a movie. At first, I thought my first experience at the ballet would be kind of boring and I wouldn’t know what was going on without the use of dialogue, like in a play. On the contrary, I understood the ballet’s story through the dancing, music, scenery, and theatrics.  Surprisingly, the ballet was very interesting to me and I was sad to see it come to an end. I am excited to see what my next ballet experience has in store for me!

The Nutcracker Ballet, compared to my holiday experiences, is way more traditional and fancy. For example, the families in the Nutcracker celebrated the holiday with their families and friends dressed in suits and gowns.  My family dresses very casual during our holiday celebrations.  We also do not have a gigantic tree that can become bigger and grow all the way up to the ceiling like the Nutcracker had. I wish we did!!

 

Christion Bullock

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Grade 7

The Nutcracker

My experience while watching the Nutcracker was a new one. I never really saw a live performance like that up close before. I’ve always seen these kinds of live performances on television.  I honestly just imagined and wished to actually see one in person one day, but never thought it would ever actually happen.  I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

I loved all the different dancing styles and the movements that the dancers did! My favorite part was all of the transitions from scene to scene. They made the walls look like a hologram or something and it was so cool! It was a little slow at first, but when the girl shrunk and the Nutcracker grew into a human sized toy I got really interested in the show and was literally on the edge of my seat.

The Nutcracker’s portrayal of the holidays compared to my personal holiday experiences is somewhat similar.  For example, when all the children danced around the tree when they saw all the presents reminded me of my own excitement when I see my gifts on Christmas morning. Also, the way that the brother and sister fought playfully reminded me of the way my brother and I fight.

Nevertheless, I thought that the music was great! I loved how the composer told all the musicians what to do by just using her hands. That must have taken a long time to learn and they truly did an amazing job.  I can not wait to attend another ballet in February!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Students Review Press Play

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Company Members Alexandra Hughes and Lorin Mathis in Liturgy   Photo: Alexander Iziliaev 

Alexis Cerezo

Alexis Cerezo

Lincoln High School ’17

Response to Press Play

I had the pleasure of attending one of the Pennsylvania’s Ballet performances at the Academy of Music in the heart of Center City Philadelphia. It was a chilly Sunday afternoon and guests were bundled up waiting in line as people entered the double doors that led inside the auditorium. On that day, I was being introduced to live ballet performances, and I was excited for what was to come. This particular performance consisted of four different pieces. Although they were all uniquely good in their own way, there was a specific one that had me paralyzed in awe. Liturgy was being premiered for the first time that day, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon it was a piece I will me sure to remember. The dancers, Elizabeth Wallace and James Idhe were great in connecting with one another. This piece combined intimacy and tension to the best of its potential starting the debut of Liturgy on a positive note which will surely be a reoccurring performance at the Pennsylvania Ballet.

The performance started with a dark lit stage while the orchestra played eerie music. This set a very suspicious mood and captivated me in an instant. As the dancers came into view they started off with hand movements that gave off an Egyptian vibe. It soon escalated to where they were both dancing attached to each other, acting as if they depended on each other for their next move. This gave a vibe which really connected with me and may be talked about amongst young ballet lovers and performers.

The male dance, James Idhe, displayed desperation in his movements as his partner faded in and out of the stage. This helped me develop a story in my head that portrayed devastated lovers. The lighting stayed low as the music increased in pace and volume. At times the orchestra would slow suddenly, creating more tension as the performance progressed. Music composer for Liturgy, Arvo Part, did an exceptional job with providing a soundtrack that would accentuate the dancer’s chemistry to par. All these aspects together created such a captivating performance, the aesthetic with the music and lighting showed the ballet industry as very modern to me.

You can hear the faint buzz in the audience as the dancers showed their flexibility in a series of complex movements. The stage kept the dark vibe as the performance continued, an indistinct glow in the middle of the back being the only exception. Lighting Designer for Liturgy, Mark Stanley, created a shadowy setting for this piece which fits like a missing piece to a puzzle. As the performance came to an end, I felt my self-dreading the ending. For I have become hypnotized to a piece of art in less than twenty minutes. Liturgy made my introduction to ballet a good one. After my pleasant experience with this performance I look forward to more pieces by Christopher Wheeldon and more debuts from the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Antwain Golson

Antwain Golson

Bodine High School ’16

Response to Press Play

It was rather a brisk, early Sunday afternoon, as I walked through the passageway into the concert hall to view four individual pieces consisting of the talents of George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon, produced under the Pennsylvania Ballet. On this day the Pennsylvania Ballet treated us all to a new and fresh face, Angel Corella who is the new Artistic Director of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Aside from this, all the attention and hype was placed directly onto the stage and the magnificent choreography that was presented. As we prepared to watch the performance, there was an ominous chill that pervaded the room and left this alarming stigma among the audience. That same feeling was empowered in a performance choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon entitled Liturgy.

Liturgy quickly grasped my attention with its terrifying hush and profound stillness. For a moment, there was no sound, it seemed to even be an incredible amount of secrecy presented by the two performers that stood staunch on stage. Rather than lose interest in their stillness, I was intrigued by a sudden, shrieking of a string instrument, specifically a violin. In an instant, movement began and I could do nothing but feel a profound feeling of confusion being erected from my mind. Oddly, there was a feeling of understanding and comprehension of the message being spread by the messiah. It was almost as if a gordian knot was on the door of the theatre and nothing of reality was allowed as the audience and I sat atop our ivory tower viewing these dancers and their odious act against traditional ballet. My eyes shifted rapidly, almost instantaneously complete stuck on the stage as these dancers participated in their mysterious ritual.

Throughout the entire performance, all I could feel was a wickedness that attached to the heart, which inflicted warmness and love between the dancers and viewers, but also a sense of coldness and detachment from the rest of the world. Throughout the performance, I sensed so many conflicting feelings between, myself, the audience and the dancers. There was nothing but a brew of emotions, uncanniness, unnaturalness, screeching and abstractness that left my eyes and mind completely puzzled of what action was happening before me. I have never been in such wonderment and misunderstanding of a piece of ballet, and at the same time seemed to have a better understanding of what the world was. The only thing melodic about this piece was the movement of the dancers, which consisted of almost supernatural, and ritual-like body gestures that did not fit the ballet norm. Between the most unnatural movements, the strong flare and kicks of legs and the obnoxious rising sound of a screeching violin; the two dancers, and only two dancers for this piece seemingly struck the bottom of the ocean in their quest to understand the abyss. Their quest was almost private, even though hundreds of eyes viewed them. This sense of privacy added to the personal effect the dancers portrayed in their movements. Which consisted of dynamic athleticism that provided support for each body. As the dancers were connected to another. They seemingly floated in the space of an ocean, connected to the environment, with each water molecule and each chemical compound that create a profound substance of melancholic foundation.

The environment was perfect. The world or backdrop seemed to be the unknown ocean. The only thing that seemed to exist was the darkness of the ocean, two dancers, and a blue aura of light. However, all of these things seemed to be connected, as if they were meant to be there and exist in the natural world together. In contrast, as I believe this, I also felt as though these things were extremely out of place, but in the moment they seemed to be the way they should have been. Viewing this, in the moment caused the belief of an uncanny dance that shouldn’t be considered ballet at all. Viewing Liturgy caused a wonderful feeling of joy for its weirdness, but a very somber confusion of it place in the Pennsylvania Ballet. All of a sudden, just as somber and unnaturally-peaceful the peace had begun, it was over. For the moment, all I could think was that this was the greatest piece of dancing I had ever viewed.  In the moment, smiling and applauding their effort, my eyes were opened to a new world, the contemporary but abstract form of dance of the 21st century.

 

 

Matthew Ridley

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Northeast High School ’15

Response to Press Play

In the afternoon of October 19, 2014, I witnessed the beginning of a new era at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia’s Center City. The Pennsylvania Ballet’s new Artistic Director, Angel Corella, made his debut by presenting a collection of four ballets: half of which were company premiers, and each from a different choreographer. As I took my first seat ever in the parquet of the theater, I joined the audience, clueless as to what these performances would bring in terms of enlightenment and satisfaction; but at the end of the showing, I left, feeling a sense of change in my perception of the ballet art form. Being accustomed to primarily dance, often I had took very little in terms of describing the effects that help to make these productions happen. As a result, it was both refreshing and a pleasure to take into account the background and light features in addition to the forms of motion. One of the ballets in particular, Liturgy, caught my eye and kept me glued to the stage. I found that Liturgy exudes control, exemplified through the dancers’ movements and performance in addition to being complemented by the bareness of the background and lighting.

The beginning of the ballet features a woman (Elizabeth Mateer) seemingly alone in the center of the stage. She then does some gentle and firm gliding with her arms, both extended and fluid, unyielding bending as the muscles raised and held themselves with a certain grace that can be observed from a crane lifting concrete. Suddenly, I noticed that a few feet behind her is a male (Lorin Mathis) who, acting as some sort of shadow or phantom limb, follows in her motions about two seconds after she completes one, and occasionally breaks free from this impersonation, opting to rotate his hips at a different angle or deciding to sway opposite to the female lead. Control is evident through the interaction: both dancers appear to be distant from each other, yet it is their synchronized movements that keep the other in balance, and as a symbol of this connection, they embrace, arms encircling around each other, globed, forming their own universe.

In a more intimate moment, the performers and performance relate to the idea of control and convey a sense of structural order. The male lead is Herculean, lifting the female lead up to the fabricated sky, her facial features frozen, her body frozen in time as the male travels with her around the stage, introducing rotating limbs and extended pushes into the air, holding the oxygen in place as if it were falling. The man is a lifter while the woman is a barbell, the latter being elevated and lowered as she leans forward, her body splayed and arrowed in direction as she is lead to and fro. Both had similar attire in the form of black and white, and the male’s physical prowess only served to prove his dominance in leading the female on stage.

The mixture of background and lighting emphasize this characteristic of control; the initial dark gray shade enabled me to focus more on the act itself, watching both the dancers and their second shadows move up and down, both fixated in their spots on the stage, nailed firmly into the laminated flooring. This background manipulates and “strips” its color in order to present a more focused picture of the dancers, allowing the audience to focus intently on the dancers as if they were the only beings in existence, as if the stars and the planets only revolved around them. While immersed, you suddenly realize that the lights start to give off a hue of blue, evoking a more melancholic state in the audience as both dancers come back together and continue the same ABA pattern as done in the beginning, but this time at a closer proximity.

As the elements of the ballet worked in harmony to produce such an engrossing experience, I could not help but wonder the times I have neglected these elements in the previous ballets that I have watched. I had always been aware of a ballet’s special effects; but, interpreting them into the fabric of the ballet was a journey that I had not traveled into. This “journey” altered the dimension of which I was viewing the ballet, as taking into account the dynamics of space enhanced my understanding. Mesmerized by this newfound perception, I joined the long ovation and the congregation of clapping hands to salute the ending ofLiturgy. I then wondered how I could better approach my newfound perceptions in deducting from all aspects of a ballet what I got out of. Just as Angel Corella had a breakthrough in becoming the new director, I had a breakthrough in becoming an attentive and knowledgeable ballet observer.

Shatiana Wackens

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Bodine High School ’16

Response to Press Play

On the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon of October 19, 2014 my fellow peers and I had the privilege to see four ultimately different piece of ballet under new direction of Angel Corella. The Pennsylvania Ballet did a wonderful job presenting the four pieces: Allegro Brillante, Liturgy, Other Dances and Jeu de Cartes at the Academy of Music. Each piece consisted of its own style but Liturgy had a rawness that stimulated my sense.

Allegro Brillante choreographed by George Balanchine was first to be performed and it had a radiant, upbeat vibe. The music was fast paced and alive; while the dancers movements were powerful in the sense that they were defiant with hard emphasis at particular times. Then the amazing Liturgychoreographed by Christopher Wheeldon was performed and had a completely different feel. AfterLiturgy, Other Dances choreographed by was Jerome Robbins was longer than the first two. The setting was different, with an actual pianist on stage and the dancers signaled the pianist to start when they were ready, which is uncommon. There were plot twists and intense jumps where you were able to hear the clapping of feet as they went into the air. Jeu de Cartes choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky gave me a sense of a fun, playful obstacle course with a variety of colors. The background and dancers’ attire changed many times. It was very energetic and fun but, between all of these pieces Liturgy was my favorite because its rawness which includes unique movement and cultural aspects.

Specifically because of its rawness, Liturgy grabbed at my senses. It was raw due to movement techniques it displayed. I had never seen two people come together like that in a piece. The movement, with or without the music, mesmerized me. The dancers made each unique movement seem as if it just came naturally. Hearing was one sense grabbed throughout this performance. The music for this piece came from violin soloist Luigi Mazzocchi who gave a mellow, repetitive rhythm. The music was as low as a whisper but it was still important to each movement. The performers relied on the music as if the music was feeding them energy which caused the variation in movement. The rawness of the piece came into play when I saw the dancers in unison with one another. Elizabeth Wallace and James Ihde were perfect to present this piece because they moved so well with one another. The dancers seemed very connected and intimate as they were entangled on the floor and up in different positions. They were moving over, under, within and around one another without giving the audience a simple glance of acknowledgement. The dancers did not stay in one place on the stage which made the performance more exhilarant. They used the entire stage as well as the curtains like a piece of the set up because there is a point where they disappear and reappear from behind the curtain. There was a moment in the end and beginning when the dancers did a movement that resembled Egyptian cultural dances, it was eccentric and brilliant. Throughout Liturgy I felt full of excitement and delightfulness. I just loved how poised and calm, yet cultural the piece was. The performers were engaged and the music gave them that guide to give an amazing performance.

Overall the entire Pennsylvania Ballet did an incredible job performing and I want everyone to experience what I did.

Posted 9th December 2014 by PA Ballet

 

Conwell Middle Magnet Students Review The Nutcracker

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Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™,
choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

When I went to see the ballet, I was very excited. When I walked in, I saw sights that were very unexpected. There were red carpets, chandeliers, and gold everywhere!! I was even greeted by a man in a clean, black suit that was very nice. The steps inside were also lined with red carpet.

As we walked to our seats, I paid attention to every detail inside the big building. When we walked through another room, there was a see-through curtain, and a giant crowd! There was also another big, beautiful chandelier. It had gold on it and was decorated by lights that looked like crystals.  From the way this theater looked, I knew I would love the performance.

We sat in the lower level. The lights dimmed and suddenly loud music played. Through the curtain, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree. It was decorated with lights that changed colors quickly, then slowed down. I was so excited to see the ballet that I couldn’t sit still!

One dancer came out, then two, then three, soon the whole stage was covered with people! They pretended to be a bunch of families in a house or school. A little girl with dolls came in. She looked like she had loved it since she was a little girl.

Loud, but graceful music played. Many other kids came to the party. They hugged each other, shook hands and started dancing with each other. They looked like real ballerinas. In another scene, the Nutcracker doll came to life. It was in a small bed that moved. The little girl followed it and grabbed on.

Then my favorite scene came. A boy that looked like a prince appeared. The background was a snowy forest. The two children danced and danced. It looked like the two kids fell in love. As they walked off stage, older dancers came in and danced on the tips of their toes. That looked really painful.

Finally, it was the last scene of the ballet. The ballerinas were still dancing. Another person came and danced gracefully across the stage, when something caught my eye. IT WAS SNOW!! (probably made from confetti) At the end of their dance, the little girl and the prince walked off. This was one of the best experiences of my life. I would love to see the rest of the ballet.

Kalen Davis

5th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

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On Friday, December 5, 2014, I went to see The Nutcracker Dress Rehearsal at the Academy of Music. When I entered, I saw a giant chandelier. It was beautiful. I was excited about having the chance to see The Nutcracker and we had lower level seats!!

During the performance, I noticed how detailed the dancers’ costumes were. I enjoyed the scene when the mice-men came out and I took notice when a director’s voice entered the room and made corrections to the dancers. I believe she made corrections so they could that could be even MORE perfect for the general public. I hope to see the rest of the ballet, because what I saw was beautiful.

Jasmine Donahue

6th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

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On December 5, 2014, the Delphi Writing Club and the PA Ballet went to see the first of The Nutcracker. I loved it. I’d give it five stars! It was just a dress rehearsal, but it was phenomenal. I hope to see more of it. The costumes were great. The music was soft but got louder depending on the scene. The backdrop was interesting and made the scenes seem more real.

I loved all of the dancers, but there was one that stood out to me. The Swans. Their live performance was awesome. The choreographer did a very good job! Maybe one day I can be in the PA Ballet.

Alicia Saunders

6th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Posted 14th January 2015 by PA Ballet

 

Local Students Review Prodigal Son

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Former Principal Dancer Riolama Lorenzo in Prodigal Son, choreography
by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. | Photo: Paul Kolnik

Alexis Cerezo

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Lincoln High School

Class of 2017


Alexis Cerezo

Prodigal Son: The Goons

We arrived at the Merriam Theater on chilly winter Sunday, but it did not affect the hum of excitement and anticipation in the air. Many were already lined up at the door, ready to file into the theater and watch some theatrical events take place.

After two amazing pieces, Polyphonia by Christopher Wheeldon and Shift to Minor by Matthew Neenan, the curtain reopened to reveal the first backdrop to Prodigal Son, by George Balanchine. Pennsylvania Ballet was honest and loyal to The George Balanchine Trust, keeping everything similar, if not the exactly same as the 1929 version.

This popular ballet first premiered on May 21 in 1929 at the theater of Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris. It was first premiered at Pennsylvania Ballet’s Merriam Theater on April 26 in 1989. This ballet follows the biblical parable of a young man who is blinded by the indulgence of his father’s inheritance which leads to a series of events that involve manipulation from the Siren and her goons, betrayal from his best friends, loss of his luxury and absolution from his father. Now in 2015, I, among the rest of the Philadelphia Futures Writing the Experience Club, had the chance to watch this tradition happen again.

My main focus of attention was on the Siren’s goons. They used the one prop to the best of their abilities whilst making their message and emotions clear through their movements and expressions. They were scary, creepy and spider-like due to their bald heads, green-blue costumes and savage movements. The goons reflected to me as a cult, all of them being submissive and working together to support one thing – the Siren. Many compared the characters to acts of Cirque de Soleil because of their eccentric ways of bending and using their bodies.

Their role in Prodigal Son was to befriend and manipulate the Prodigal Son. They appeared to be thieves or beggars in the beginning, sabotaging people for their goods. These goons seemed to win at the end when the Prodigal Son decided to make “a deal with the Devil,” being the Devil’s spawns of some sort, the Siren’s children. Observing the ballet, I pieced together that the goons were the main reason to why everything turned out the way it did.

Their obedience to the Siren and their “gold digging” nature seemed to reflect on their drunk and wild personas. The drunk companions of the Siren were played by these members of Pennsylvania Ballet; Edward Barnes, Alexander Hyman, Etienne Diaz, Michael Holden, Lorin Mathis, Alex Ratcliffe-Lee, Durabte Verzika, Alejandro Ocasio and Andrew Daly. Big congratulations and appreciation sent to them from me for their great reenactment of the goons. They are the reason why Prodigal Son has become one of my “must see” ballets.

Overall, Pennsylvania Ballet stayed true to the nature and origin of Prodigal Son and they did not disappoint the Philadelphia Futures Ballet Writing the Experience Club with their performance.

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Antwain Golson

Antwain Golson

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Bodine High School

Class of 2016

Prodigal Son’s Essential Representation

It was a bitterly cold afternoon, the air itself was intriguing. I had entered Merriam Theater, with a ticket to behold a magnificent form of storytelling through dance. With my eyes, I witnessed the work of Christopher Wheeldon, Matthew Neenan and the world-renowned George Balanchine. After careful consideration, I devoted myself to telling the story of a representation discovered in George Balanchine’sProdigal Son.

Firstly, it is important to note that without prior knowledge of the biblical context surroundingProdigal Son, these themes and essential representations will be challenging to understand. In very lament terms, the story follows the actions of a very naive boy who leaves the safety of home to embark on a journey of manhood. He is then exposed to the underbelly of the world and essentially sin itself. Lost, helpless and abused, he returns to the safety of home where he leaves behind sin and is given grace and love, a feeling he had lost. In this performance, Jermel Johnson plays the role of the son. Jermel Johnson as the son represents ignorance and innocence in this performance.

To begin, the son’s actions should be noted. He is wildly energetic. His leaps are surrounding and surreal. The moment the son steps on stage, he is a flaming ball of energy, waiting to escape the chains of boredom, obedience and ordnance. His excitement is contagious as he quickly entices his two friends who are waiting for him to join them as he exits the house, as they too join in his frolic. The leaps, the smile, the enthusiasm and the extremely joyous dancing – which includes jumping a gate, dancing with friends and zealously, delightful music – all lead to one truth: the son is an innocent and excited boy, who only seeks new adventure and happiness outside of home. His youth and innocence is proven further as he is halted by a very large, tall man who walks with dignity and the greatest amount of wisdom. Every movement he makes is calculated meticulously as each step is met with the grandiose sound of a horn, which adds to the greatness of his pride and age. It is concluded that this man is the father of the Prodigal Son and has some authority of the son. As the son nearly secretes humbleness and respect, he lowers to his knees to honor the man’s presence. This man, in a very meager form of concern, asks the son to stay, but the son refuses and returns to his leaps of excitement and continues on his new adventure.

Throughout the next few scenes, the son’s ignorance is displayed through his actions. He dances with sin itself, in a mystic woman called the Siren. His hesitation is proof of his confusion, and instead of taking greater caution, he does what he is asked by the Siren. He is completely engulfed in her atmosphere as she drags him around as if he is under some form of a spell, allowing her the greatest amount of control. He seems to be useless and focused; his gaze never leaves her eyes and his legs and arms are rather limp. He only moves in the direction she walks. When she lifts her legs to arouse him or catch his attention through her body movements, it is his only focus and he is completely oblivious to her motives. It is as if he has never seen a woman before, which is probably his circumstance. Earlier, in the son’s interaction with the goons, he ends up giving away all he owns and is eventually betrayed by his two friends. In this scene, he give away pots happily, which is all he carried on his trip, just to find peace and to fit in with the group, the goons. After he gives away all he has, his clothes are stolen and he is forced to literally crawl back to where he came from. He only has rags since all he had was stolen.

In one scene, the son is posted to the only movable prop, which resembles a crucifix. This silently says that his ignorance has led to the ultimate sacrifice, as the son is near death. He crawls home, his crawl lasting over the course of two scenes to add to the longevity of his pain and suffering. It also adds to the consequences of his ignorance. The son returns home badly weakened and battered, so much that he can no longer walk and drags himself to the feet of the Prodigal. The son seems to be ashamed and begs for forgiveness as he lifts his head in such a rained state that is pathetic. There is a feeling of sorrowfulness found within the atmosphere. The father then lifts the son who cannot walk and carries him into the home where he is nurtured. These last few scenes added to the danger of being ignorant as seen in this performance.

Needless to say, the son is the perfect representation of ignorance in Prodigal Son. He is a boy oblivious to the outside world who is warned by an elder and refuses to heed to ruling. He is then abused, literally beaten methodically by the goons and robbed by the Siren, which leaves him to crawl to home, where he had been told to stay the entire time.

Jermel Johnson was the perfect cast member as he truly stood out among the cast by his skin color and enthusiasm – and it was necessary for the son to stand out. All in all, this performance represented all the pieces necessary to complete the tale of Prodigal Son and was a legendary mimicry of the story told so long ago.
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Mack, Kwadir

Kwadir Mack

Philadelphia Futures: College Connection

Roman Catholic High School

Class of 2016


Prodigal Son was one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen live. I didn’t think watching a performance, a ballet performance to be specific, could be that emotional. After leaving the performance this past Sunday, I started to do numerous amounts of research on ballet – not only what ballet is, but what it means to people who invented it and things of that sort. This is something I would have never seen myself getting into, but it has motivated me to try new things.

At the performance we went to on February 8, 2015 at the Merriam Theater, we watched three very inspirational dances. During these dances, the many dancers wore some very simple and some very fancy costumes. The performance of Prodigal Son had three scenes. The first one was when the Prodigal Son got into a confrontation with his father and into something with two so-called friends of his. In the second scene, the son met a numerous amount of people where he engaged with them and eventually got into a little trouble. The third scene was the one that really caught my attention and made me emotional. In this scene the Prodigal Son returned home.

I feel as though the most important part and the part that caught me the most this past Sunday was the third scene where the son returned home after a long journey and begged for forgiveness from his father. During the whole third scene, I watched the son struggle. He threw himself on stage and his body language and look on his face was helpless. The whole last scene made me think he wasn’t going to make it out and get where he was headed. But then eventually, he made it back home to his father and his father forgave him. But as I sat down and watched it, I thought in my head, this whole play is based off of forgiveness. I just felt like he felt pain in all of his movements. When I walk around and feel pain, it’s because I have something I don’t want to bring out, like the son did at the end with his dad. It was amazing because in life, especially in mine, I feel that sometimes you just need to forgive and forget and carry on with life to be successful and have good relationships.

To me, the son represented someone who’s sorry and knows that he’s wrong at the end, but it takes a man to admit when you’re wrong.  In relation to the whole story, I think he learned a lesson, and life is all about learning lessons from experiences. It was obvious he experienced and went through a lot on his journey. After the whole performance and watching the last scene, it honestly made me forget about the other two scenes because it was just really good. Prodigal Son was my first performance, and although I didn’t really know what to expect, it was a great show.

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Matthew Ridley

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Northeast High School

Class of 2015

Matthew Ridley.jpg


Response to Prodigal Son

Despite the winter cold gaining admission through the front doors, the Merriam Theater kept its halls warm and glistening with the exuberance of spectators on the Sunday afternoon of February 8, 2015. Some of this radiating heat may have been a result of the anticipation many felt toward the performances that were going to be presented that day. Pennsylvania Ballet showcased a total of three ballets: Polyphonia (choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon), Shift to Minor (its world premiere, choreographed by Matthew Neenan), and Prodigal Son (choreographed by George Balanchine). The first two groomed the audience in both wonder and amusement as evidenced by their laughter in Polyphonia’smultiple acts and Shift to Minor’s abstract backgrounds and comical moments of movement. With Prodigal Son, however, it was more of a straightforward performance, with storytelling and pantomime as the main features. This may have been a result of its relationship with a biblical parable of St. Luke, which would be necessary to convey about the ballet as it builds upon that story. Both the ballet and the story revolve around the idea of forgiveness and redemption, as the Prodigal Son (played by Jermel Johnson) is a sheltered, young man who goes out into the world, only to be seduced and tricked due to his gullible personality. In the end, he finds himself crawling back to his village, groveling at his father’s feet for forgiveness. Throughout the performance, each character group represented a theme that is presented clearly when interacting with the others. One such character, known as the Siren (played by Amy Holihan), is a representation of desire. Due to her attire, specific movements, and juxtaposition with the background, the Siren embodies this trait of desire and demonstrates it well primarily by seizing people’s attention.

The Siren employs a series of courageous, rather revealing movements in order to bring attention to herself. For example, in the scene where she first appears (in which the son, his servants, and the drinking companions goof around after the son bribes them to be friends with him), she makes a daunting entrance, tiptoeing with slow, paused steps onto the stage, striding right in front of the other characters, capturing both their attention and the audience’s. From there, she essentially takes control of the stage. She does eccentric crab walks, wrapping her cape around her legs as she paces across the floor in no rush. She also seduces the son with her movements, placing his hands on her waist and holding them there, and having him lie onto her chest with her head raised, exercising power over him. The way she moves and forces herself on him is an act of both having desire and giving desire (the Siren gets closer to the son to get what she wants, while the son reciprocates in kind). This is successful depending on how convinced one is by this show of passion. I was, as those moments with the Siren felt worthy to be lauded due to the rawness of the moment; how a boy is getting his first taste of a love, and how lost he gets into it to the point where he loses his sense of identity. For those moments, the movements reveal much of the ballet’s method in terms of making the audience pay close attention to details, and work efficiently.

The Siren’s clothing choices add further speculation to her nature, as the color of her clothing in particular helps to state her as the symbol of desire. When she first appears on stage, she wears a jeweled crown with a matching necklace and matching tank top, with lattice stockings and a long, velvet purple cape. The red in her jewels and tank top are often associated with love and intense passion, while the purple of her cape represents royalty. Furthermore, the black stripes of her white stockings can be perceived as the loss of innocence; the pure white (which is considered holy, heavenly) of the stockings are now marked by black (which is seen as evil, filth). As such, the Siren’s clothes describe what power she holds and what she is capable of.  Having such an attire only rivaled by the son (who wears a necklace and a tunic), the Siren easily overtakes him in terms of luxury (with the amount of material possessions she has), helping her be defined as an arguably more alluring character than the son. Thus, the Siren’s attire is both appropriate and well-suited to the role of seducer, as her flashing jewelry and interesting use of colors helps her to attain the attention of both the audience and the other characters.

 

The backgrounds that the ballet displays come off as a bit primitive in order to fit the parable’s time period, although many would instead choose an elegant setting for someone with the Siren’s clothing and style (such as a castle or a garden). Instead, the background she appears on happens to be the exact opposite; it is more like an older painting of a feast taking place near a tent. While this may seem appropriate to the drinking companions and the son, having the Siren appear in this setting seems to be such a large contrast that many people will immediately notice the differences. There is this particular juxtaposition of the antique and the elegant (although the two are not mutually exclusive) that makes the Siren stand out, maybe due to others’ preferences for “clean,” shiny objects (which would mean that the Siren is more appealing than the background and props). For example, the props of the wooden table, clay vases, and trumpets appear unfitting for the Siren, yet she uses them just the same when acting with the drinking companions. Because of this disparity, both the other characters and the audience prefer to watch the Siren, hence desiring her presence more than the objects. As such, the desire is one that arises from the beliefs of others as to what is appealing, and not just the Siren attempting to look better than her surroundings.

Reflecting once again on her movements, her fashion style, and her presence in a setting before the Common Era, the Siren stands out magnificently in her sense to be the concept of desire. The simplification of the ballet’s tools and props makes her attire and movements becoming intensely memorable and meaningful, like the piece of chocolate in a candy bowl with peppermints. This is a crucial part in getting the audience members to involve themselves in Prodigal Son as the dimensions added in terms of character comparisons and differences made for an authentic ballet, one which considers subtle hints as well as the general parable. One question that one could ask him or herself would be: How did this ballet emphasize the way I think about my preferences? Watching Prodigal Son, I could imagine my favoritism over this piece than the other two in the aforementioned aspects, which I believe made the ballet itself stand out in comparison. But, my opinion is just one out of millions, and is still subjective based on my experiences. People will prefer what they prefer.

Posted 23rd March 2015 by PA Ballet

 

Local Students Review Swan Lake

swan_lake_15-2308_by_iziliaev-by_iziliaev

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet
Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

 

Shatiana Wackens

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Bodine High School

Class of 2016

On March 15, 2015 at the Academy of Music Pennsylvania Ballet presented Swan Lake incredibly. Swan Lake is an illusion of fantasy vs. reality. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon each act of Swan Lake portrayed the corrupt love store magnificently. With an amazing assemble that help go from fantasy to reality within this story. I’ve heardSwan Lake to be an amazing piece that is never truly performed well but, it was well performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Swan Lake starts off with the ballerinas in a dance studio as if they are getting ready for a normal rehearsal. They stretch casually, while some tie up their hair. The synchronization of the music has a slow catchy rhythm, leaving me with a feeling of anticipation. Six dancers are dressed in pale pink leotards their movement as if mirroring one another. These six women are currently in reality but they transfer to fantasy as the leading male falls for the beautiful swan. They performed soft turns and low jumps as they dance for the inspectors.

By Act 3 I really noticed how the swans and the fancy dinner guest contrasted one another. There are at least three sets of couple who dance a variety of movement from feisty Latina to elegant encircling. It seems as if the lead male is searching for his love but he his easily tricked when the black Swan appears. She follows the orders of the villain who is a shiesty as they get. The Black Swan is beautiful and enticing with her slow predator-like leaps and swaying of the arms. The music piece gradually added effects to the mood as it rises and falls. I’m nearly amazed at how the assemble of swans manage to reflect the same exact movement at once. They are moving so similarly they remind me of Chinese Origami, that’s the same inside and out. Pennsylvania Ballet always delivers amazingly so, when intermission is over and Act 4 begins I am expecting a phenomenal closing.

The villain is desperately trying to keep the good swan and her lover apart with the help of his other minions. The villain is quick on his feet, with powerful actions. There is a sullen mood as the lights are dim, and the music soft. The Swans all at once swirl and leap their way out of the dance studio as they guy lays as if posing for a pine piece of art on the dance studio floor. The Swans help to bring the drama of this love story with their amazing high swirls, low jumps and firmly poised synchronization.

I found this performance to amazing but it’s a piece you have to see for yourself in order to fully understand why this piece was so amazing.

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Matthew Ridley

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Northeast High School

Class of 2015

I have always heard about Swan Lake through television references and through the opinions of others, but I had never actually seen the production myself. On the Sunday of March 15, 2015, however, I received my long awaited taste of one of Tchaikovsky’s greatest acclaimed ballets. Although this was a reinterpretation by the widely acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Swan Lake grabbed the attention of spectators both new and old into its grand halls at the Pennsylvania Ballet, complete with amphitheater. The audience was subjected to a performance that was drowning in emotion, beginning from the introduction of the ensemble to Prince Siegfried (played by Lorin Mathis) and his grief towards being unable to save his love from being a swan forever. Throughout the performance, the prince is engaged in situations that that seem a bit “off”; to clarify, some of his actions take place not only in reality, but in his imagination. Taking into account the story and plot behind Swan Lake, many of these events that occur have a distinction between fantasy and reality. For example, the reality aspect fits the part of the story that sets Swan Lake as a frame story, while the fantasy aspect focuses on the supernatural, including transformations (the main female lead Odette, played by Lillian Dipiazza, has been turned a “swan” by a magic spell). Despite these contrasts with events, the production seems to fulfill both environments while still being successful in convincing the audience that both parts harmoniously work as one. Swan Lake’s differences in environment function primarily through the use of subtle effects, such as the background, lighting/colors, and costumes worn. Christopher Wheeldon likely intended these effects for Swan Lake in order to create a world in which both reality and fantasy coexist seamlessly.

Environments are often accompanied by a background, and in most ballets, the latter is adjusted to fit the scene. The interesting thing with the background of this production of Swan Lake is that there is only one background used for the entire ballet (with its four acts), and yet the setting is versatile enough to be used for both indoors and outdoors. A dance rehearsal studio with a large window and door frame, it is integral to blending both reality and fantasy because the simplicity yet flexibility of the background works to serve the role as being a medium. In the beginning, the ensemble pass one by one through the door frame (from which we can see that the wall is transparent), and because of the presence of a seating bench in the middle of the room (later replaced by a studio), it is clear that the scene is taking place indoors. However, as the ballet progresses, the background inverses as an outdoor setting, especially when the prince is looking for Odette; it can be noted that due to the absence of props on stage (compared to the reality’s setting) and color usage depicting night that the wall can actually look reversible. From this, an indication can be made that reality involves the tangible such as items that we can see and the dancers can interact with, while fantasy focuses on what is intangible and more so how the characters feel (which is why during these moments, the dancers are often unaccompanied by any props). As such, the background helps to keep the idea of reality and fantasy subtle as it brings little attention to itself throughout the ballet aside from these key details. Even so, the fact that there is no breaks or intermissions between reality and fantasy helps the viewer to see both aspects as one whole and not give it much thought, which seems natural for Wheeldon as he often introduces an abstract, dramatic style in his works. Subtle hints such as these help to point out what may be the difference between reality and fantasy, while not making it blatantly obvious to the point of obstructing the ballet. The original story’s plot already clarifies this for the viewers.

In conjunction with the background, the lighting and colors used in the ballet seem to be grand indicators of whether or not a fantasy is being entered. In parts where the plot follows the main points of the story and where events among groups are taking place (such as the reality of making a production in the ballet as a framework), the lights may be merely refined either as a light tan color or no color at all. However, in most of the night scenes (which is the time where Prince Siegfried meets Odette and also attempts to save her while she leaps and extends her arms along with the other females turned swans), there are a mixture of different variations of color on the stage, from reddish-purple to green to blue. The Prince seems to be engulfed in a sepia/tan-like light as he hurriedly moves across the stage in both tiptoe and leap, amid the frenzy of colors that go on their own paths from the protagonist. The times of day and night cannot be defined as reality and fantasy respectively, as the main story of Swan Lake does not take much into account about the concept of time unless it is one of the aforementioned scenes. Although this distinction is made near the beginning, it gets difficult to decipher reality from fantasy as they both merge with the plot, meaning that the lights become successful in throwing off what the viewer may have established as a pattern. Therefore both parts seem to weave a portion of the story into one another.

Finally, as a third and final element to the triad with background and lighting, the attire of the ballet performers adds further distinction of the separation between fantasy and reality, although this is only taken away as the ballet progresses in order for both aspects to appear completely inseparable. At first there seems to be a line between royal and supernatural, as the girls who are dubbed swans wear white ballerina tutus, as the rest of the performers have on a variety of other colors and pieces based on their characters. The cabaret dancers wear bits of green and purple while doing a rushed can-can that the other characters in their straightened suits and light colored dresses seem to disregard. The attires indicate the specific roles of each character, although such characterization proves null as the plot defines the ballet’s duration for us. Choosing a simple design for the swans (such as a lack of flashy jewels or glitter) help them to stand out less and to conceal their identities of who they are to the rest of the dancers, and to an extent the viewer as well. For this reason, the viewer cannot distinguish the two aspects. But why is this so? While we are sure that the event of the reception is occurring, the dancers seem to be more of an illusion based on their colors in conjunction with the aforementioned darkened colors of the stage lighting. In truth, it is the simplicity of style yet complexity of meaning in this area that gives off the idea that both fantasy and reality are merged together; apart from the times in which the appear (the swans hang around together and are only really present with the prince and villain Von Rothbart (played by Francis Veyette) while the others are not present in the face of the swans. Events in the ballet such as when the swans are inside the reception room and when Odile (also played by Lillian Dipiazza) attends as part of Rothbart’s trick to have Siegfried fall in love with the wrong woman exemplify this merge between fantasy and reality; in this case, one is not complete without the other as both are needed in order to advance the story.

As both reality and fantasy weave into each other throughout the ballet, the combination of the background, lighting/colors, and costumes contribute a sense of obliviousness in the viewer’s perspective in the sense that it might not fully understand unless they review the plot beforehand. It may seem throughout the ballet’s duration that it runs on a visual stream of consciousness style, when in fact it is very well organized and structured to appear to bob both in and out of the dream state. This is merely a larger form of the reality and fantasy integration, as the ballet can be seen as both due to how well the viewer interprets its design. Thus, it gives us a question we can use regarding our deepest thoughts and motives: can dreams really be connected to reality? If we understand this in ourselves, we may be able to understand Wheeldon’s Swan Lake with our own interpretations.

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Alexis Cerezo

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar

Bodine High School

Class of 2017

Swan Lake is one of ballet history’s prestigious performances. Its reputation has traveled through the big screen of movie theaters to poems and stories told by 21 century artists. What started as a fable turned to a theatrical phenomenon. Attending Pennsylvania’s Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake was an experience that kept me jittery from the excitement of seeing the enchanting colors and fluffy feathers of the beautiful swans.

The performance was held at the Academy of Music on March 15, 2015. Christopher Wheeldon directed their choreography following the trust of the original choreographers of Swan Lake, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The acoustics of the theater did an amazing job of sending the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky into the hearts of viewers.

From the moment the stage opened to reveal the first scene of the dance studio I felt an automatic compulsion to the fluid movement of the ballerinas and the development of the plot. Intermissions were nail biting torture as I waited to see what would follow in the story of the forbidden love between the swan and prince. I grew a hatred for the magician and found myself wanting to yell across the theater for the prince to notice the intentions of the black swan.

None the less, the story brought tears of joy to my eyes as the beauty of the ensemble of swans moving in unison and displaying patterns between these dances left me in awe. The fluid and graceful flaps of the swans arms made it look like there were floating in air. They were beautiful and elegant with the aura of sensitivity but when synchronized and huddled together with feathers feathering around, it made them intimidating. The swans were the definition of sisterhood, comforting there heartbroken sister with circled protection and gentle movements that signified no harm.

The ending of bittersweet love left the hum of content throughout the theatre as the audience adsorbed the results of this tortured love. I saw the awestruck expression on many as we filed out of the balcony. The Pennsylvania Ballet Company yet again, struck me with another amazing performance and they did not disappoint.

Posted 9th June 2015 by PA Ballet