Philadelphia Futures Students Review Revolution

Raphael Keele

Northeast High School Class of 2018


Photo Credit: Alexander Iziliaev

Raphael Keele

Northeast High School Class of 2018


“They picked my brain like a chicken bone, and I think I’m half-insane.” That’s a line from one of the acts within the ballet Revolution, as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on November 13th, that caught my attention right away. Revolution is an experiment that attempts to change the way we view ballet. The three separate parts of the performance were developed and created by different choreographers and directors.

The first ballet was called the Third Light, which premiered in 2010, and used three different variations of light as its setting, and it focused on the original form of ballet. The Third Light was unique, but in the end it was hard for me to distill its message. The dancers all wore the same color tights, which were a dark purple. The purpose of the color choice was hard to see. It fell apart to me because its meaning wasn’t conveyed as well as it could have been, and it seemed very abstract. The Third Light made a smooth transition into Square Dance, which was originally performed in 1957. The performance was  more reflective of the societal standards of the time, formulating square dances with ballet moves. This form of ballet is different from the traditional ballet moves seen in the Third Light because the performers use much more of their body.

The final piece was Chicken Bone Brain, a title which tells the audience to expect something very unusual. Chicken Bone Brain was a fresh twist from the expected, and was much more experimental than the others. In Chicken Bone Brain, the ballet dancers used not just their legs, but also their upper body strength. The three lead dancers were suspended in air with chicken bones, using their strength to align themselves with the bones. The music that was incorporated with the ballet was also much more modern. Normally in ballet, there is classical music going along with the ballet; however this ballet had tribal music, classical, as well as country lyrics playing, all which came in during unexpected times. Unlike a traditional ballet performance, there were many different technicolor lights, all of which added a unique tone to the ballet, emphasizing the dark colors of drained meat. Chicken Bone Brain was certainly a revolution from normal ballet and it was much more upbeat, lively, and in tune with today. I give credit to the director, Brian Sanders, because in my opinion, Chicken Bone Brain is certainly the future of ballet.


Amanie Washaha
Northeast High School

Class of 2018

Of each of the acts within Revolution, the one that pulled me in from the very start was Chicken Bone Brain. And at the end, I felt that the most effective way of understanding another person’s perspective is through a medium such as this revolutionary ballet. The choreographer and director, Brian Sanders, is known to approach ideas through different mediums to express different ideologies. Through the art of dance Sanders’ developed Chicken Bone Brain which was said by him to be quite “personal”. From this, we can decipher the true meaning and purpose Sanders’ was trying to convey. It may be difficult to see at first because he approached ballet in such an unconventional way, but isn’t that the whole reason why he was selected to create this piece for the Pennsylvania Ballet?

Art allows us to develop ideas that we cannot obtain by just purely reading a book, for example. This is important because it argues that experience will be the precursor of an open mind. This is because experience itself, and what we take from it, determines the way we will view ideas in the future.This ballet in particular, the emotions and thoughts that cross our mind challenged our expectation of this performance.

At one point, I overheard a duo of two older women say, “This is not ballet!” But my peers and I held a different view. Traditional ballet does not speak to us in the same way as it did for earlier generations. I found that this ballet could really spark an interest in younger generations and millennials. Younger people tend to be more open-minded, and are willing to be accepting of individuality or difference. Sanders challenges the idea of how we accept uniqueness and incorporates that into his production. All this makes me wonder if this performance is a perfect candidate for an uprising in the idea of what a ballet performance should be. I hope that other directors and choreographers will challenge traditional notions of what ballet can be.  For our generation, and for the  future of ballet more broadly, there should be more performances that uproot our expectations and play with our imagination.


Suleiny Cordero
Bodine High School
Class of 2018

Revolution, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on November 13, 2016, left me at times confused, but also quite intrigued. My classmate commented that this wasn’t his picture of what a ballet performance was supposed to be, to which I replied that all I could think of was how it was a revolution. Revolution: a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system. Revolution: a procedure or course, as if in a circuit, back to a starting point.What if this ballet held true to all those definitions of a revolution? This was a change in the way ballet is suppose to be done and performed. The three radically different types of choreography represent different aspects of what the creators believe ballet is suppose to be. Seemly, everyone wants to know the story behind Third Light, Square Dance and Chicken Bone Brain, but what if the dances represent the choreographer’s own story and the audience needs to look deeper in the creation of the dance than the dance itself.

The director of Third Light, David Dawson, started out young in his love for ballet, and it became a way for him tell his own story in a modern art form. “I’m presenting my view of dance, of how ballet can be used as a modern art form,” says Dawson. “When I started to choreograph, I wasn’t getting what I wanted to see from anybody. The classical form is very limited but over the years I have developed a language for myself.”  To me the Third Light seemed to represent the lives of those in the audience who are dancers in their own world, and in this way Dawson shines the light of the world audiences never see.

George Balanchine was the director for Square Dance. He is known as one of the fathers of ballet. His choreography is marked by its strange background, and he interpreted ballet with a twist of his own. In Square Dance, the male ballet dancers were more of background for the female, showing how Balanchine believed that women were the real masterpieces of all choreography. Balanchine said Square Dance was, “The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet.” Growing up in Russia during the Russian Revolution, Balanchine used ballet as of way of getting food to stay alive and entertain his audience with something different to appeal to them more than other artists. Balanchine wanted to put his soul into his work, while twisting it with classical ballet.


Chicken Bone Brain was my favorite of the ballet Revolution. Even though many of the audience commented on how it was not ballet or even a good piece of distinct art, I believed that it described a personal story from the director. Brian Sanders, the director of Chicken Bone Brain says this piece is related to his life. In my interpretation, I believed Chicken Bone Brain was related to region and how the bones, representing sin, people always need to carry and can only try to balance upon themselves. To me, the woman who came out in the white dress was like a goddess, and so the dancer was unable to reach her in any part of the act. Chicken Bone Brain might be people going insane because of their sins and how impossible it is to reach their gods or idols. Perhaps Brian Sanders went through a time where he questioned his meaning in the world and if his life would be disappointing to the gods.

In the end, Revolution seemed to be a revolution in each director’s life because as I see it, the art explained the story of a never ending cycle. With David Dawson, I believe he’ll keep trying to make classical ballet into a modern artform. George Balanchine’s revolution involves him changing his life and using it to entertain others while separating himself from other choreographers. Brian Sander’s Chicken Bone Brain seems to tackle his revolution involving god and the endless struggle to carry that sin, and his art can speak to audience members, religious or not, as they try to live up to their full potential while carrying their sins. Revolution seems to portray the revolution of the directors, while at the same time these creations are a revolution within the notion of what ballet should be and the stereotypes that come with that notion.


Kymble Clark
Central High School
Class of 2018

The Pennsylvania Ballet performed Revolution that showcased the avid innovation that is constantly transpiring within this art form. There were three segments of Revolution, each with its own story, imagery, music, and dance style: The Third Light by David Dawson, Square Dance by George Balanchine, and Chicken Bone Brain, a world premiere by Brian Sanders. Although each of these struck me as unique from one another, they are all within what is considered contemporary ballet. With those differences comes the originality and beauty that lies within contemporary ballet.

As the curtains rose for The Third Light, the audience gazed at the starkly contrasted background and composition of the setting. Huge geometrical black, white and gray shapes presented themselves with a dominant comportment on the stage. A few seconds later, dancers gracefully came out adored in purple clothing. At that moment the elegant and soft music filled the theatre. Albeit the composition of the stage was beautiful, the ballet itself was stodgy. There was no life to this ballet. The dancers however, were giving their all, demonstrating their strength, flexibility, agility, and muscles. It was hard to find the meaning or clear interpretation to this play for me, and this threw off the whole segment. The only part that I could identify with was a section within the ballet in which it seemed a girl was heart-broken after a fight and eventual separation with her partner. This having been said, not all ballet performances have to have a meaning packed within its dance, and I’d say this is especially true in contemporary and abstract pieces.

The second performance was Square Dance, and as the title suggests, it emphasized the interesting and non-obvious similarities between folk/square dance and ballet. The concept that makes this ballet work is the blending of two completely different dance and music genres: country and classical ballet. The dancers flawlessly executed the stark, fast-paced, and lively lives within folk dance while simultaneously keeping that exquisite, precise, swift essence that is always present in classical ballet. Besides the art forms, the composition of the stage was just gorgeous. The dancers were covered in pastel, cool tone lighting that in my mind conveys the pure essence of ballet. The placement of the performers on stage gave a symmetrical feel. This aspect really emphasized the neatness and precision of both ballet and square dance. Square Dance was a delight to witness and an eye-opening experience regarding the similarities between two different dance forms.

The world premiere of Chicken Bone Brain opened with an exhilarating choice of music. The sound penetrated the audience’s ears in the most alluring way possible. Seconds passed and everyone was gazing at the opening dancer, Sterling Baca, who was simulating a running action and showered by vibrant warm colors. After minutes, the room was filled with club beat music mixed with African drums. The most stunning element of Chicken Bone Brain was the use of huge chicken bones as props, and how the dancers interacted with these pieces that towered tall on the stage. The dancers showcased their strength, flexibility, and immaculate movements by climbing, swinging, and hanging on vertical sticks hanging from the ceiling. Other performers  were just as precise and pristine with their dance movements on the ground, not in midair.

Chicken Bone Brain and the other segments struck me as a departure from what I think of as  “normal” or “classical” ballet. Each possessed the basic elements of the ballet dance form, but then went a step further to created a new and dramatic experience which was a delight to me to experience.