Jewels is a story-less ballet performance with three parts, choreographed by George Balanchine. Jewels isn’t entirely an abstract ballet because it isn’t a modern ballet. However, that does not change the fact that Jewels can still be enjoyed in today’s times. First and foremost, for the matinee performance that I saw on Saturday, May 12, major props to all of the dancers for performing this ballet and executing it perfectly. Jewels has three parts: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds.
Emeralds was enjoyable and overall spectacular. Drawing inspiration from France’s elegance, Balanchine had considered Emeralds “an evocation of France.” This is appropriate because Emeralds is elegant. From the costumes to the background, the entire color for this segment was green, the color for emeralds. I had read in an article that the female dancers stretch their one leg and arms upward to represent the refraction of light from a jewel. All of the movements were beautiful and everything had a really nice flow to it. Emeralds is an enjoyable segment and can truly work as a stand-alone ballet performance. However, after seeing so many other ballet performances and comparing it to the other two parts, Emeralds didn’t stand out as much as I had hoped. Emeralds was still enjoyable and fun to watch and I appreciate all of the hard work and effort put into it.
Rubies, on the other hand, is much more my speed. If I had to describe this segment with one word, I would say, “PARTY.” When the curtain lifted to show a mesmerizing red and beautiful background and gorgeous outfits, I was overwhelmed with joy. I had watched a video discussing Rubies and in that video, it mentioned that ballet dancers enjoy doing this segment the most out of all the three. In all honesty, I can agree wholeheartedly because the dancers really did look like they were having a blast. Funny enough, I only know that Rubies came from Balanchine and Stravinsky collaborating, but not where they drew inspiration. Honestly, I feel as if the inspiration came from salsa dancing because Rubies had a Spanish feel to it. I would also like to point out that I had noticed something that I did not expect and that was two male lead dancers with one female lead dancer. The same thing happened later on with two female lead dancers and one male lead dancer. For me, it was a really nice change in pace and made the overall spectacle that much more appealing.
After seeing Swan Lake, I was actually having déjà vu while watching Diamonds, because of the white color of the outfits and the background, as well as the fact that the composer of the music for this segment was none other than the famous Tchaikovsky. Aside from that, Diamonds was by far the most beautiful segment out of all the three. Drawing inspiration from the order and grandeur of Russia, Diamonds really is true to its name seeing as how it is a diamond. A beautiful masterpiece! The dancer’s movements were fun to watch and everything had a fantastic flow. I was so focused on the dancer’s movements, I did not notice the changing background with chandeliers coming in out of nowhere. I feel somewhat biased because of how much I loved Swan Lake, but I will immediately contradict myself by saying that Diamonds is simply marvelous. Diamonds can really work as a stand-alone piece all on its own because of how it outdoes the other segments. Three words: I. Loved. It.
Northeast High School
Class of 2019
Jewels is a masterpiece ballet written by George Balanchine. It is unique in that it presents not one, but three unique stories to the audience. What’s more is that Jewels does not have a story, or rather, a storyline; it is an abstract ballet, making each piece intriguing yet confusing. The full ballet was presented at the Academy of Music on May 12, 2018. For me, there was one unique factor about each of the pieces that helped me to remember its presence in Jewels. As this was my first abstract ballet, I can confidently state that Balanchine’s vision has shown me that there is room for many beautiful forms ballets in the performing arts.
The first piece to be presented is Emeralds, which represents a traditional form of ballet. Its true intriguing point was its ambiguous ending. I did not anticipate much for Emeralds based on what I had heard about it in contrast to the others two. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, overall, it represented the world of classical ballet well. The costumes were done magnificently. Emeralds had the longest costumes of the 3 mini-ballets. For the females, the dark green top contrasting with the light green bottom helped to create illusions with lights. At certain points, this effect made the dancers look like fireflies, which was an interesting imagery. Emeralds grabbed my attention at the very end when the dancers started to incorporate more intricate moves, which included many twists and turns while they were holding hands. This added complexity to the classic. At the very end, when the dancers finish by pointing to the right of the stage, I was left with many questions as to what they were pointing to and what it could possible represent. Understanding that the ballet is abstract, I was content knowing that I may never get an answer, but overall, I was happy with this representation of classical ballet.
Following Emeralds was Rubies. Rubies had an upbeat and unconventional air around it. I heard a lot of praise for this piece and so I was very expectant to see what it was about. For me, what secured the places of Rubies within the larger masterpiece is the use of piano in the musical composition that allowed for less smooth and more intricate movements. While Emeralds was all about soft and flowing movement, Rubies depicted more rough and concise movements. This type of dance went well with the piano that helped to dominate the composition of Igor Stravinsky. This was something uncommon to me, as I have not heard much ballet composition with such heavy presence of piano. This paired with the wonderful and flowing ruby red costumes created a sense of being unconventional.
The final segment of the ballet was Diamonds. Somewhere between Emeralds and Ruby, Diamonds shows a twist to the classical nature of the ballet. Although it was last, it certainly wasn’t least, which became abundantly clear with the changing background. Between the three performances, Diamonds had the most dancers on stage, especially at the finale. What drew my attention, however, was the consistent change in the background. The background started out by resembling a chandelier made from what appeared to be scattered silver glitter. The changes to the background were subtle at first, but as soon as I realized the change, it became a part of the show for me. When it last the ballet ended, the grandeur of the expanded chandelier neatly summed up the excitement of the ballet. Overall, Diamonds was the perfect middle ground that captured the classical vibes from Emeralds and the unconventional feel from Rubyies and was the flawless conclusion to abstract vision.
Northeast High School
Class of 2019
The ballet Jewels was a grand display of Emeralds, Rubies, and the most magnificent, Diamonds. The ballet signified all the different faces of ballet with the Emeralds displaying moves with a mesmerizing pace drawing in the audience, Rubies with is lightning, jazz, and pizzazz like giving the audience the sassy side of ballet. Lastly, the Diamonds were skilled in the classical heritage of ballet. The uniqueness that each act displays and their music with the themes are due to the different composers of the dances: Fauré for Emeralds, Stravinsky for Rubies, Tchaikovsky for Diamonds.
Unlike the ballets with a story, this ballet is much more abstract and in my interpretation, each individual dances represents a different time. Emeralds, for instance, seemed to have an aristocratic feel. The dance takes me back to the time where women were all pristine and dreamed of jewels and wealth. It was a time where the noble women were together and were shining bright as an example to all. Emeralds, with their beautiful green shade, represent a balance of humble, nobility, and leaders. Fauré’s music is a good fit because this feeling with the Emeralds helps to give off that balance.
Rubies, the second act, helped set in the feeling of modern jazz with their loose moves. When it started, there was a sharp tuning in the instruments. Like the New York Time claim, “Rubies, to Stravinsky, is quintessentially New York — its speed, density and jazzy modernity characterize this city rather than this nation.” Like New York a bustling city and the rise in the popularity in the jazz culture the Rubies give off a brave, energetic, and boundless impression to the audience. Rubies were special due to the freedom in their movement that almost seem to disregard the stereotype of ballet. It was fun and a great replacement for energy drinks.”
Diamonds, the last act, was the complete opposite of Rubies. Rather than breaking boundaries and contradicting the stereotypes of the art of ballet, Diamonds showed the perfected and polished classical heritage. Although it seemed less creative compared to the other two dances, they were the most stunning. The costumes shimmered with the stage lights, the background of the stage looked like millions of stars and the dancers were synchronized. They looked like royals.
As one is watching it, one can feel the energy coming from the dancers who are immersed in their roles, feeling free from themselves, yet ironically confined to their part of the show. Under the fancy jewels that the show is titled and focused the ballet was established as plotless and pure in its choreography. Jewels is a great ballet with multiple possibilities and the interpretations.
Central High School
Class of 2020
Prepare to bring a blanket and pillow and set your seat into a bed because the first act is designed to make you sleep. The dancing was great, no lie. However, it led me to complete boredom. I’m not a ballet expert since this is my second time trying the ballet cuisine. When intermission comes, pack your bags and everything you brought and leave it near the trash cans because it is time for the Rubies to shine. From the entire performance, my favorite act was the second one. I fell in love as soon as the curtains went up. It wasn’t your typical ballet, there were still plies, spins and leaps, but this one had movements going on the shoulders, hips and hands. It was as if the studio put in their own Latino spice to the flavor. It definitely woke me up from the first act. The music was beautiful; it compiled with the dancing and the whole atmosphere. I loved it when the dancers “stomp” with their pointes. Then BOOM! the act is done and we all clap before the curtains fall. Now it’s time to pick up your stuff and shake your head for being wrong thinking the play was wrong. Or at least that’s what I did. Not only did I have the pleasure of seeing a different flavor to the ballet cuisine, but Jewels ended the performance with an act called Diamonds, which brought the entire elegance of white and crystals into life. In the end of the performance, there was about thirty-two dancers on stage. Beautiful music and beautiful dancing was present, meanwhile the backdrop was constantly changing (even though the first two acts weren’t). There was no plot to this ballet story, but sit through the first act and don’t be too surprised of what impressions the second and third act will give you.
On Saturday, November 11th, ON EDGE performed at the Merriam Theater. ON EDGE expresses the required elements of an “abstract ballet.” Going into this ballet with that definition in mind, I had absolutely no clue what to expect. For the most part, I am more familiar with “classic ballet” which involves a story adaptation and at the same time tells the story through the means of ballet. Classic Ballet is open to interpretation in terms of reading scenes and finding pieces of symbolism, but symbolism and deeper meanings can only go so far. On the other hand, “abstract ballet” is open to so much interpretation that there is no backstory, just beautifully choreographed dancing. ON EDGE surpassed the expectations that I did and didn’t have.
Tilt, the first act, blew my mind completely. With no context, I had originally thought everything was taking place on some alien world; everything felt joyful and hopeful while at the same time feeling suspenseful and ominous. Those feelings were also heavily influenced by the music which was a mix of assorted string instruments. Every note expressed a new and different feeling. The lighting gave off a feeling of dread when everything would go dark and foreboding, glow menacingly red, or shine brightly with hope. When the lights focused on the rock-like structure in the middle, the scene would grow even more suspenseful. The rock-like structure alone was odd, but was needed for the act to be complete.
It Goes That Way, the second act, veered completely away from the feelings I had experienced with Tilt. Every other feeling was replaced by only two emotions: joy and loss. The costumes were skin-tight with multiple color dyes which expressed happiness. The background
was so appealing to the eye with a mix of colors much like the color dyes of the costumes. The dancing itself was silly, but had a very nice charm seeing as how it tied in with the rest of the setting. The feeling of loss had set in when I realized the scene was portraying our solar system, more specifically, our planets. There were only eight dancers and each dancer represented a planet: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto was not present because it wasn’t considered a planet anymore. After taking notice of that, I thought of how this scene was expressed. It was expressed with happiness even though an important piece was no longer part of the puzzle. In doing so, I related that to how we do the same in society. When we lose something important, we force ourselves to be happy and joyful to overcome loss.
Finally, the last act of ON EDGE, Episode 31, was phenomenal. It opened with a man in a suit turning on a lamp and walking slowly across the stage. Soon, the curtain lifted up multiple times to reveal the strangest but most intriguing scene ever–it felt as if I was watching the dancers in the middle of practicing with all of the shouting of directions, the moving of the floor mats, and the group moving as one to complete tasks. The lighting was set beautifully as it resembled what things would look like behind a stage preparing for a performance and the way that the beams would move all over the stage was quite a spectacle to behold.
By this time, the man had disappeared off stage, but since my focus had been set on the dancers, I hadn’t noticed that he had vanished. The dancers gathered and soon undid their shoes, picked them up, and threw them down on the floor. The sudden sound of each shoe hitting the floor literally sent chills down my spine, making me feel like I was waking up. Afterward, they gathered in the corner and two male dancers performed, acting as if they were trying to mirror one another while at the same time interacting with each other. This intrigued me because it is possible that it stood for a symbol of being arrogant or cocky. Midway through, a woman walked
by in the background with a sign that read, “BEAUTIFUL” which seemed random but tied into a mirror theme. The man in the suit had made his way across the stage once more to the lamp and the group of dancers picked up their shoes and the man in the suit turned off the light.
Out of the many ballet performances that I have seen, ON EDGE blew me away and really deepened my love for ballet even opening my eyes to other types of ballet that isn’t just “classic ballet.” Regardless, it was a beautiful and riveting performance that I am grateful to have seen and would love to see many more like it in the future.
Central High School
Class of 2019
Review of ON EDGE
For a ballet that lacked a clear synopsis, it became quickly obvious that the audience was supposed to draw their own interpretations of the performance. Being an abstract ballet, On Edge presents many differences from other ballets. From equal dance opportunities for both genders, to music that conveys a fascination with technology, the Pennsylvania Ballet’s performance of On Edge was definitely one to remember.
All three parts of the ballet dealt with varying aspects of humanity, the most surprising presentation being the final portion, Episode 31. Members of the audience were pleasantly surprised when the piece opened with the Pennsylvania Ballet paying homage to the city of Philadelphia. In the beginning multimedia presentation, the crowd got an inside look into the preparations that went into the ballet performance. The reactions the dancers received while practicing in various locations served to draw humour from the crowd. Introducing a view of the dancers getting out of the comfort zones served to further excite the crowd for what was to lay ahead in the performance.
Northeast High School
Class of 2019
Review of ON EDGE
On Edge means, “tense, nervous, or irritable.” These are the feelings anyone would have felt while watching this ballet. The dancing sent a message, making you sit on the edge of your seat with excitement. On Edge consists of, “Three exciting ballets new to Pennsylvania Ballet”: Tilt, It Goes That Way, and Episode 31. The choreography of each piece was captivating.
According to critics, the choreography of Tilt by American choreographer Helen Pickett is “stunningly original” and “extraordinarily imaginative.” No other words can be more right, but I say it was simply marvelous; their actions were bold, fierce, and unique. Tilt felt exactly as the title suggests–the dancers were expressing the struggle of 2 groups and how they need each other’s support to do one thing. The choreography demonstrated work’s balance and without the help of another the balance is thrown off, like tilting. Each dancer cannot finish a step without the help of two other dancers. This illustrates the harmony needed for a running world. The choreography is well thought-out and many could comprehend it in different ways.
The choreography of It Goes That Way was bizarre. It seemed futuristic and at one point I realized it was all about mimicry. The dancers all came on stage at different times to mimic what the other dancers were doing. It demonstrates the typical life of any person who doesn’t have a dream and was very well choreographed. This section was strange and out of the ordinary, but hard to forget, so it had a big impact. But this wasn’t the most special thing about the section. A curly haired dancer came on to the stage and started his own solo and was completely different from all the other dancers. This dancer in particular was leaping across the stage and doing moves that I never thought possible. He stood out and didn’t follow the path the other dancers were following. He tried, seemed to make metaphorical mistakes, then tried another path–like the dreamers of today. Toward the end of the section, the other dancers started to dance with their own styles. For some odd reason I started to think about planets and outer space. There are 8 planets, and I realized there were 8 dancers.
Episode 31 made me excited and I’m positive I can say the same for the rest of the audience. Episode 31 focused on the ballet dancers on a personal level. The choreography was contemporary. For example, when they were cheering it was something so unexpected, especially for ballet dancers. Contrary to the stereotype for ballet dancers to dance gracefully, like swans, they shouted and seemed hip. The choreography was physically demanding and the timing had to be impeccable. There were a lot of dancers on the stage, so dancing with insufficient arm space must be difficult. It seemed to me that the dancers were enjoying dancing out of their comfort zones, making it fun for the audience as well.
Sterling Baca and Oksana Maslova, principals, Pennsylvania Ballet
Alain Sto Domingo Academy at Palumbo
Class of 2020
Review of Sleeping Beauty
On Saturday, October 22nd, we attended a performance of Sleeping Beauty, presented by the Pennsylvania Ballet. In complete honesty, I did not have prior knowledge of Sleeping Beauty and was therefore confused, with the thought of Snow White in my mind. Regardless, the spectacle was one to behold due to the fact that it was something that was brand new to me. I have been to several ballets in the past, but this time I had no idea of what I was going into.
As the curtains went up, I was met with a beautiful set. The Prologue focused on presenting a royal setting and the stage really expressed that with popping colors of rich gold and royal red, both contrasting and complementing one another. The background was that of a royal courtyard which is beautifully accented by the costumes, and also representing the royal theme, portraying a fairytale-like feeling because of the majestic and mystical tones.
The most eye-catching moment happens once Carabosse, the evil queen, comes out onto stage with her henchmen, transforming the mood into that of darkness and imminent doom. However, the mood changed again when the Lilac Fairy, the one who changes Princess Aurora’s deadly fate, fell into a deep sleep and came back on stage–a feeling of hope had arisen. Moving onto Act 1, the scene beautifully portrays a birthday party for a princess with the same hint of royalty in the setting and decorations. As the scene goes on with the dancers expressing their joy through the power of dance, a mysterious and dark tone takes the stage once more as a strange lady in a cloak interrupts the party.
The emotions of confusion and fear are felt when Princess Aurora pricks her finger upon the spindle. When Carabosse reveals herself in her sinister and fright-inducing outfit, a certain uneasiness loomed over anything. Once she disappears, a great feeling of dread fell upon the stage. However, just like in the prologue, the Lilac Fairy makes another appearance and the hope and light just resonates off of her. As she had done so, she also puts a sleeping spell over everyone as well as conceals the palace in a forest in which relief could be felt but still not all as well.
In Act 2, the story takes a big leap in tone as the setting is a vision of Prince Desiré’s that the Lilac Fairy is showing him in order to save Princess Aurora. The background is essentially a forest, which ties into the whole palace being engulfed and concealed. The feel of the scene is off compared to the others previous scenes. However, it works because of the setting: without looking at the synopsis of the scene, everything feels a little unusual–it comes off as if everything is all and well, but something isn’t quite right. Princess Aurora and Prince Desiré share a moment in the vision which is quite genius as it really portrays the whole concept of them becoming true lovers.
Once the vision is over, the natural feel of the progressing story flows back into the mix. Determination is what best describes the following events as Prince Desiré rushes to find the sleeping Princess Aurora and break the spell. With the lighting very dim, it adds to the suspense of this scene, especially when Carabosse appears to stop Prince Desiré along with her minions. But as Prince Desiré slays both Carabosse and her minions, the wave of suspense comes to an end and we feel sudden relief when Prince Desiré awakens Princess Aurora and the rest of the court.
Finally, in Act 3, a huge wave of joy floods the stage with the celebration of Prince Desiré’s and Princess Aurora’s wedding, with the dancing reflecting their happiness. This scene was short, but a mix of both relief and joy is felt throughout. The execution and intrigue of the plot was unbelievable. It was a phenomenal show and I would go see it again if I ever had the chance because of the rare experience I had while watching it.
Northeast High School
Class of 2019
Review of Sleeping Beauty
The performance of Sleeping Beauty presented by the Pennsylvania Ballet, on Saturday October 21 2017, was spectacular and mind blowing. It was the first ballet I had ever seen.. Sleeping Beauty left a very good impression on a first-time viewer. There is a lot to talk about the scenery and the music, along with how elegant the dancers look when they glide along the stage, “owning it.” For me, the most enchanting aspect was the costumes. The stage was like a rainbow of pastels and colors in all shades. Every character, or in this case, the dancers, were dressed in glittering clothes that fit their image and who they were playing.
Let’s take the Queen, for instance. The Queen wasn’t a dancer but her clothes werejust as spectacular. It was like seeing a real life queen in the 21st century. When she first entered, she was wearing a gown, walking on stage with dignity and the aura of a real queen throughout the ballet. She would change gowns depending on the feeling of the play. She had a gown that was gold when they were celebrating, then she was wearing one with light shade. I think this helps with the communication so the audience knows what’s going on along with the help of the music and the hand movements.
My favorite character throughout the play was the Lilac fairy. She had an aura of goodness even if it was just acting. The color purple that she wears complements everything about her. It fits her name and her character. I’m assuming that the color was symbolic in a way. The color purple stands for being calm and having stability. In the play, the evil queen sends everything into mayhem and ruins the balance. Lilac, on the other hand, goes through the whole play tying to fix everything as if she was guiding fate. Purple also represents dignity, wisdom, and extravagance.
At the end of the wedding scene when other characters were invited the stage looked like a party for fairytales; their costumes were bold and extraordinary. The one that caught my attention the most was the Swan Lake couple. The blue color reminded me of the lake they were referring to. They were wearing a shade of light blue, a mix of neon blue and vivid sky blue. Just by the names, you can tell it was breathtaking. The color helped the dancers look like they were gliding with a streak of color following them. They looked like birds as graceful as they were and this was help of the costumes.
The costumes also help them gain another identity on the stage even if that’s not the way their character is and was a big contribution of the show. The dancing would not have been able to pop, be bold and tell a story without the help of the costumes.
My first visit to the Academy of Music on March 11, 2017 was to see Le Corsaire, an ancient story of love between a pirate and a slave girl, which was performed by dancers of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Having said that it was my first time seeing any show at the Academy, I must make a confession about my sentiment going in. I just couldn’t grasp why a modern audience would be interested in a tale as old as time. And so I paid attention to what made the show tick. After some research and thinking, I’ve decided that Le Corsaire has two things to offer modern audiences: a comparison of today’s idea of love and dance versus long ago’s, and its appeal to the eye. Now, with that information at hand, please take your seats, as the show is about to begin.
We have all heard that love is patient, kind, and just about anything else people want to call what they can’t see. What about true love? You know, it is that thing you hear about in stories which does not really exist in such perfection and always end the same way. Everybody gets exactly what they want. In Le Corsaire, however, that is not the case! Although the two mains, Conrad, a pirate, and Medora, a harem girl, do end up together in the end, they are shipwrecked at sea and alone of all of their companions who have sunk to the bottomless depths. This is different from modern movies and novels that have taught us that love is only for those who can afford it, the perfect couple who seem to have no imperfections, or the most risque who only think about and with their bodies and not minds. This difference is also what makes the play unique – it makes love seem special again. I believe that 21st-century kids who were are not accustomed to this would take interest in pieces such as Le Corsaire because it fills them with a longing for what they would like to have, but can not seem to get just quite right.
One thing that rings true throughout the halls of history and society’s changes is that people love to dance. It has told stories and even preserved cultures. The thing that makes ballet dancing special is its structure – the way the ladies fly and how the gentlemen leap – which makes us feel as if we’re watching living dolls that need no control. Dance has changed in modern times, though. Today’s dance movement is convoluted and contorted like a plaything in people’s hands, shifting and switching until we find its “right” form and eventually, ours. Overall, today’s expressions of how we feel with our feet often involve very vivacious movements as if we are at a wild party rather than a performance. It is that ancient essential of integrity and gracefulness that we lack, and by viewing ancient stories, we regain that grace and beauty. The dancers in the show are acting out a story, and without words, they have to be able to transform their movements into the ultimate performance. In Le Corsaire, every scene had a relevant dance. For example, the fight scene between Conrad and Medora’s capturers consisted of a sword sequence where the opposing sides advanced and then leaped, mimicking a battle between the two. Again, it is that old-style way we want to see.
The reason why a ballet such as this is still enjoyed by today’s audiences is because it has inherited an air of elegance in its love story and its dance that stands in contrast to today’s culture. But I wonder what if the opposite were true? What if, by some miracle or catastrophe, the people of old were able to view our dances and how we perceive love? Just something to think about.
Alain Sto Domingo Academy at Palumbo High School Class of 2020 On March 11, 2017 the Pennsylvania Ballet performed Le Corsaire, or The Pirate as it is known in English, an old ballet based on a wonderful poem written by Lord Byron. While it may be confusing as to how the overall plot plays out and how the story is told due to the complexity of the story itself, having a simple synopsis of the plot at hand is quite handy. However, even without reading a synopsis or summary of the story during the ballet performance or let alone beforehand, the performance itself is still quite a spectacle to behold and simply take in. Le Corsaire falls under the genres of romance and drama as it is a story of intense conflict and a conquest for love. It is a beautifully choreographed ballet performance that is staged in three acts. The overall plot and storyline is very well transformed and translated into the language of ballet, with each portion of the story being portrayed as a beautiful, complex, and incredible set of dance moves that correspond with and tell the story.
The entire ballet expressed a great deal of beauty and came off to be very eye-catching indeed. The aesthetics and staging of the entire set gave the performance quite the personality and made the dancers stand out. Aside from that, the dancers costumes and overall appearance also stood out greatly and was very appealing to the eye. Those two aspects of the dancers combined made scenes really mean something and expressed a lot of feeling in the process. The props used were very simple yet gave fight scenes, dramatic scenes, or even romantic scenes the extra amount of an authentic feeling. Swords and guns were used in order to really bring together a moment of intense conflict and the drugged flower expresses the conflict and drama in heavy serious moments. Even dream sequences of the ballet were portrayed beautifully. These dream sequences begin with the curtains dropping and the lights dimming implying a dream sequence along with a different set of decorations for the stage, thus bringing together the entirety of the scene. With the use of these props to express important scenes, the ballet really comes together beautifully. Furthermore, the dancing that took place upon the stage was absolutely a sight to behold for that the moves and footwork was extraordinary and so captivating in every sort of aspect imaginable. What really is mesmerizing is how fluent and smoothly the dancing and footwork went, leaving the audience in a state of shock and awe.
Leaning away from some aspects and elements of the ballet, the experience of seeing the ballet was quite incredible because of every single moment of the ballet. Everything was in such beautiful sync, and the ballet was beautifully choreographed. Experience all comes down to seeing it first-hand and watching it all unfold before your very eyes. I haven’t ever been to a ballet as I never really had the opportunity nor was I particularly motivated to see one in the first place. However, seeing Le Corsaire, I was left absolutely stunned at the fact that I had enjoyed it to a great degree, and would be happy to go again in the future. In my head, I analyzed the ballet and matched every part to the story itself. Not only was everything practically accurate, but it was all done so elegantly and beautifully, right from the dancing to the presentation of the ballet in general. The experience was thrilling in every way one could imagine and it was definitely something that no one could ever forget.
Jennifer Lu Philadelphia High School for Girls Class of 2018 Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges’s Le Corsaire, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on March 11, 2017, was a dramatic and emotional endeavor of the love and strife for two people of different status in society and those that oppose them. It is a splatter of intense scenes: fighting which portrayed the masculinity of men and flamboyant dances showcasing the beauty of women. The portrayal of such invigorating a tale was aided by the fantastic use of props throughout the ballet. The props added a sensual touch which drew me, and I dare say the entire audience, in as we watched this breathtaking performance. The swords used as they fought gave a metallic shine, visible in all perspectives. The clang of the swords as they clashed impactfully called for attention. The shots of the guns gave me a fright though I thought I was prepared as I had heard of these effects moments before settling in my seat. The flare of the gun resonated throughout the seats as Birbanto demanded recognition of not only the crew but also the entire audience. On several occasions, the performers transformed the stage itself into a prop as they slammed their hands down to the floor as they landed, conveying the importance of their cause.
The Pasha’s character expresses an extravagant lifestyle as he is portrayed as plump man draped in glamourous clothing made of rich looking fabrics. The parasols at his beck and call were a splendid array of color, pleasant to the eyes as they gave a simple and neat contrast to each other and the pasha’s garb. His cane, embellished with jewels and gold, gave him a prosperous and authoritative aura. In spite of his extravagant costumes, the Pasha was used as comedic relief. As Medora playfully swiped his cane he reached for it with less than innocent intent. The cane provided a smooth transition allowing for Medora to dance around the stage as the pasha followed mindlessly, showing his lovestruck adoration of her beauty.
The Pasha dreams of the alluring women of his harem dancing to his amusement. This scene is a recital of excellently choreographed dances staring Medora and Gulnare, the swans amongst ducks. They danced distinctively as the other performers danced in a synchronized manner, complementing them. The use of props in this scene put further attention on Medora and Gulnare. The appearance of strange green hedges indicated Medora’s importance as they motioned towards her as she dances. The hedges held by the precious child dancers were placed down one by one as Medora gracefully stepped into them claiming her center standing. The flower, a focal point of the play, represents not only Medora and Conrad’s undying love but also Birbanto’s traitorous plans. I had assumed this important prop would be a red rose but to my utter astonishment found it to be a pure white flower. The white stood out immensely and could be seen clearly by the audience.
The skillful use of props heightened the appeal of the performance as sounds and color were infused beautifully and realistically throughout the performance, and thus, for me they became an irreplaceable aspect of this performance of a classic ballet.
Amira Sloan Parkway Center City Class of 2020
In Le Corsaire, as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on March 11, 2017, we follow the story of a pirate named Conrad, his slave Ali, and his friend Birbanto as they sail towards Turkey. This ballet was based off The Pirate (1814) by Lord Byron. Since there is a lot going on in the plot, the characters and setting changes, you can get a little confused. Familiarization with anything you can find, especially characters, as well as prior knowledge to me is a good way to follow the performance. A key component of the ballet was the costumes and the changes of costumes by each dancer as they served to guide the audience on the complex storyline.
In the opening act, a lot transpires in the story. It goes from one thing to another and without any clear signs you can get lost. In my opinion a simple way of keeping is up is paying attention to the costumes. The main characters, of course wear extravagant and detailed costumes. Conrad, who is a pirate sailing into a bazaar in Turkey, was dressed in all white with the top half of his attire decorated to show a rank of some importance. You can tell he has superiority over his crew. Conrad has that classic brute style you would expect but still has the beauty of a dancer. Medora is a slave girl being sold at the bazaar, and Conrad falls in love with her upon first sight. Her costume had a big difference in appearance from the other slave girls. She was adorned in a matching set of gold and blue, you can tell she was once a princess. Her outfit compliments her beauty, and the dancing comes together with the story on stage. Other important characters like the pasha, Gulnare, Lankendem, Ali and Birbanto, have their own unique style. Knowing who is who by their costumes as well as having a synopsis helps the audience keep up with the plot and the dance itself.
Act two takes you to the Grotto, a new location where more drama unfolds. There were changes in costume, and the audience sees a more casual side of both of the lovers. Medora goes from a tutu fit for a queen, to more of a loose fitting wrap, light pink in color and somewhat see through like silk. This ties into the plot at this moment with the two being reunited in the place Conrad calls home. When you’re with the person you love and you are comfortable, a new side of you comes out. Medora is more active in this act, and to be involved in the battle she needs something that covers and that is light weight. The same is seen with Conrad’s outfit as the top is now plain white, no medals or gold or decoration to be seen. Of course the outfits of the dancers have to fit into the story and what is going on around them.
The first part of act three is set in a dreamland. As the pasha sleeps the night away he dreams of his bride to be, Medora, dancing among a flowery garden with Gulnare. The pasha, Gulnare and Medora all have new costumes. In these last scene you can also get another comparison between the two main female characters and the gypsies, who are background female roles. This doesn’t mean the lesser roles look cheap or don’t even come close. The gypsies wear fancy outfits, telling us about their role. Even though they do not really dance or perform, they still look like they should, and their outfits are not as plain and simple as the unnamed slave girls or the female pirates from the earlier scenes. As a result of these distinguishing details, the audience is less likely to get lost in the plot or mix two people up. My overall opinion is the show was lovely in every aspect. The dances were beautifully choreographed, they really made the plot come alive. The sets were more than I expected them to be. Even if it may be a simple setup you can tell they were going for accuracy. The costumes as well as the props were the two best parts. The costumes were beautiful and they helped me out a lot. There were scenes with life like guns that actually shot. The swords looked real asif you made one wrong move you were done for. The show is entertaining for all ages and a really fun thing to watch.
Raphael Keele Northeast High School Class of 2018 Le Corsaire, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on March 11th, portrays the story of two star-crossed lovers, going through an arduous journey to be together. This journey was portrayed by not only the ballet dancers, but the sets themselves which often helped aided the portrayal of the plot. The sets reinforce the plot because without the set and the props, the plot of the ballet is complex and difficult for the audience to follow. In Act One it can be assumed that all of the characters are at a slave trade based on the festive set used to portray a bazaar. This elaborate creation on stage makes it easier to interpret the moves of the ballet dancers, and better understand the plot. Furthermore, the placement of the dancers also made it easy to pick out the characters. Based on the way that the characters were placed around Medora, it was easy to figure out that she was the main love interest.When the slave owner came out, many of the dancers dispersed, thus making it easier to figure out that he was the slave owner, based on his power over the other dancers. In Act Two, the setting is a cave leading us to believe that this is a transitional stage in the journey based on the relaxed movement of the dancers, and the slowing down of the music. The set was especially beneficial in this scene because this was a pivotal point in the plot of the play where a duel is engaged between Conrad, Medora’s lover, and Birbanto, his comrade turned traitor. It is the moment where all of the slave girls are freed. This presents a new opportunity for Birbanto to capture Medora, and for the two star crossed lovers to escape. The use of the set, made it easier for the viewer to recognize that Conrad and Medora were in hiding from Birbanto. We can also see when the plot has made an even more drastic turn where Medora gives Conrad a flower, as a token for their love, but instead is confronted with brutal irony. The flower ends up putting Conrad to sleep, and Medora is recaptured by Birbanto’s shipmates. It is even more evident that Conrad is about to be killed by Birbanto, until he realizes how broken hearted he is that Medora is missing. The use of the sets was best implemented during Act Three because there were many shifts in the settings. It is evident that they are at the Pasha’s palace solely because it emulated a colorful, exquisite, palace. The scene then transitions into the Pasha’s dream, because the Pasha is resting before the scene transitions. The set is also useful during the storm, because the set uses makeshift waves and the pitter patter of rain, flashing lights, and thundering sounds to create a storm. When the storm subsides the two are finally rejoiced at last. While it may seem that from reading this review, that the plot was easily discernable, the plot was not very apparent while watching it. It helped to have read the synopsis of the ballet before the performance. Even so, the plot would be almost impossible to discern without the use of the sets, and the use of them was extremely important in strengthening the overall message of the play.
Joan Dartey Central High School
Class of 2019
“The book is always better than the movie,” is a phrase commonly used by many. However, in the case of George Gordon Byron’s poem, The Corsair and the ballet Le Corsaire, as performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet on March 11, 2017, is the poem indeed better than the ballet? They are similar in certain aspects, and so naturally the audience can draw parallel between Le Corsaire and its basis The Corsair. They are both comprised of three parts, feature characters of the same name, and use a tremendous amount of nature in their imagery and symbolism. Learning about both, and watching the performance by the Pennsylvania Ballet, I was struck by how the plots of the poem and the ballet vary greatly.
The poem is initially set in the island of the pirates, where Conrad, and his wife Medora reside. Conrad eventually leaves with his crew of pirates, and sets out to steal the riches from Seyd, the pasha. Although he is able to free several enslaved women, he encounters a Pyrrhic victory, as many of his men die. During his raid, the pasha’s favorite slave girl, Gulnare, falls in love with Conrad, and by killing the Seyd, helps him return back to his island, with her in tow. There, he discovers that his wife, Medora has died, and although Conrad is alive physically, he is dead in spirit. The ballet begins with Conrad’s pirate crew making their way to a marketplace, where Conrad immediately falls in love with Medora, a beautiful slave girl. The performers then present their love story, which essentially ends in the two being the only survivors of a storm, which kills Conrad’s crew and several other escapees of the pasha.
After watching the performance of Le Corsaire, it is evident that the ballet is indeed very loosely based off the poem. The poem features a more direct plot and clear structure, although several parts of the poem deserve serious analysis. Also, Medora, the female lead of the ballet remains a passive beauty in both the poem and the ballet, but Gulnare, the heroine of the poem, rids herself of the damsel-in-distress stature. Both the poem and the ballet can be considered romantic tales.
The use of nature is strategically scattered throughout both mediums, ranging from seas and storms, to gardens and poisoned roses. The very first sentence of the poem describes “the glad waters of the dark blue sea,” a symbol to the boundless thoughts and free spirits of the pirates. The set of the ballet also captured the essence of Conrad and Medora’s love story, with her throwing the rose down at him to signify the reciprocation of her feelings towards him. However, a rose also serves as an obstruction of their love, when Conrad gets poisoned by a rose intended for Medora. The ballet’s ending also corresponds to its beginning, with the couple surviving a storm at sea, a testament of the strength of their love.
Distinct differences between their plots and characters does not deter from the quality of either the poem nor the ballet. The imagery, symbolism, and outstanding performances presented in both mediums make them something all audiences should familiarize themselves with.
Thamar Barthelemy Northeast High School Class of 2018 On March 11, 2017 I was able to witness the marvelous performance by the Pennsylvania Ballet of Le Corsaire by Angel Corella. It was thrilling and kept me on the edge of my seat. Although there were many exhilarating parts of the show, the thing that stood out the most to was the impeccable storyline. The storyline was not only interesting and unique, but also provided a life lesson. It was unique because I have never seen a ballet performance that had any controversial issue such as slavery. It was interesting because it provided the classic tale of young love separated by circumstances told through choreography, music and acting by the ballet dancers.
The story was about a swashbuckling pirate name Conrad in search of treasure who becomes enamored with a slave girl name Medora. After falling in love with the girl, he sets her free, and seeks their happily ever after. Unfortunately they went through some obstacles while seeking for their happily ever after. One of the obstacles they faced was when Conrad tried to help Medora escape from where she was held captive. Before she was finally rescued a lot of fighting was required, but at the end, their determination to be together won. Another obstacle they faced was when they were on the boat to find a new life. Unfortunately a terrible storm happened and the boat sunk; Conrad and Medora were the only ones who survived because their love gave them hope and helped them to fight to stay alive. Although they went through some obstacles, they eventually gained their happily ever after.
For me, the main theme of Le Corsaire is that love conquers all and if it was meant to be it will be. In life you will go through many obstacles, but it is important not to forget about love. Love provides hope; hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. When Medora was a slave she felt sad and depressed, but after she fell in love with Conrad her whole personality changed. She felt there was hope and that she is not going to be a slave forever. This shows that an automatic amount of hope is gained by love. It is vital to not forget because without love our world would not exist. In the ballet performance the main characters went through trials, but they still had love for each other. The main characters were the only two that survived the storm, showing that if it was meant to be it will be.
Le Corsaire is a must see. It is a show that will entertain everyone in the family because of the thrilling actions and unforgettable theme. The word “impeccable” would not be enough to describe this amazing ballet performance.
“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.
Angie Mohammad Northeast High School Class of 2018
The Pennsylvania Ballet has done it again. On Saturday October 22, 2016 I had the pleasure of going see their rendition of Cinderella at the Academy of Music. The choreographer Ben Stevenson, the costume designers Patty Greer McGarity and Virginia Vogel, and the set designers Thomas Boyd and Steven Rubin had a vision of beauty and elegance when creating this rendition of Cinderella. The dancers in the Pennsylvania Ballet troupe made their visions come alive on stage.
Like every little girl, I watched the Disney movie Cinderella growing up. It taught us that we should always be kind no matter what, be brave and take chances, always believe in ourselves, and to never stop dreaming. Going to see this story performed with no words I thought I would not be able to get the same lessons out of it. I thought that the story of Cinderella would be ruined for me. These thoughts quickly dissolved when the first act began. I realized how these dancers convey the emotions and the story accurately without words in the way they danced and their facial expressions, and in the way that their costumes told the story for them. From the horrid step sisters and evil step mother to the beautiful fairy godmother and her seasonal fairies, everyone had a part and it was crystal clear though their costumes if they were there to help or harm Cinderella, they did not need words.
Act Two showed the athleticism and elegance of the dancers, especially the Jester. When the curtains rise we are at the ball and the Jester is welcoming the guests and the prince while trying to get their attention away from the hideous step sisters. They are suddenly interrupted when the beautiful cinderella comes and instantly the prince falls in love. They share a dance alone and the connection is so evident in their movements, you can see the love in their air. They made it seem so beautiful and lovely, they did not need words.
Act Three centers on the quest to find to whom the glass slipper belongs. The facial expressions told it all from the second the curtains rose and the prince walked in. The stepsisters were excited to force their feet into the slipper and claim the prince, the prince was in distress because he needs his princess, Cinderella is nervous and does not want to get caught, the stepmother is hopeful that one of her daughters get to marry the prince, and the jester is finding this whole ordeal amusing. The facial expressions set the scene and kept it going, they did not need words.
Viana Zamis Northeast High School Class of 2018 Hosted at Academy of Music, the performance of Cinderella was beautiful, passionate, and very elegant. What was really intriguing was how the story and major themes were still conveyed through the amazing dancing and special effects. The combination of dance and special effect transitions allowed the audience to feel as if they were part of the story and put themselves in the character’s shoes, to have similar feelings as them. With the different lighting, the scenes were brought to life, the audience was able to experience the same emotions as the characters, and the true personalities of each of these characters were revealed phenomenally. Although all the lighting effects were astonishing, what really struck with me was in Act 1, during the Fairy Godmother’s enchanting entrance, her realm of high characteristics was brought to life through the dancing and special effects. It’s not just about beauty without, but beauty within. Through the dancing, the characters were foretold in their comedy, their distress, their endurance, and their strength and weaknesses. The luxurious special effects made the story more realistic and left a heartfelt feeling, especially when the stepsisters, in Act 1, are getting prepared for the ball, but Cinderella is left to ponder in sadness alone. The different lighting effects and backgrounds showed the mystery in the character’s silent voice. The facial expressions and exaggerated actions made it look not just fantasized, and more realistic. The mutual love between Cinderella and Prince Charming is not left in suspense, but allowed the audience to think and use their imagination to visualize the setting and the different aspect of each act. In Act 2, mysterious yet calm music accompanies the remarkably stunning entrance of Cinderella. This was a breathtaking scene that truly revealed what was going in Cinderella’s heart and mind at the ball. Through the dancing and special effects, there was a more intense and engaging performance because I felt heart-touching emotions, not just thoughts in my head. While reminiscing on the simplicity and modesty, it was still an outstanding, astonishing ballet.
The smooth transitions allowed more room for dancing, so that the special effects could add a touch of sweetness to the different scenes. It is important to have a pleasant and lovely choreography, but the special effects, the lighting and the background setting on the stage, left a vivid impression. Rather than a plain and simple ballet, the attractive backgrounds, the complex designs, the flow of different ensembles, influenced the drama and the choreography. The appearance of the stage had an effect on the unfolding of the story because the glamorous physique of the characters were revealed, the plot twists were surprising, the actions of these characters provoked wonder and were delightful to watch. I recommend this performance without regrets.
Kymble Clark Central High School Class of 2018 The ballet Cinderella choreographed by Angel Corella and performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet was a gorgeous rendition that retold the classic tale of a generous girl and her journey on becoming a princess. However in this retelling, there are numerous differences compared to the beloved Cinderella movie by Disney. From the characters introduced to the events in the plot, this ballet differed from the movie in several significant ways. Early in the performance, the main difference that caught my attention was the way in which the stepsisters were portrayed.
Cinderella’s two stepsisters, played by Charles Askegard and Ian Hussey, were mainly the comedic aspect of the ballet, and these characters made the whole experience fun and lively. The ugly stepsisters were played by men. With this change comes the topic of body image pertaining to the roles/personalities of certain characters within ballet. The way Askegard and Hussey portrayed the stepsisters also speaks to the way in which antagonistic characters are usually shown in theatre. The stepsisters were clumsy, aloof, and loud. To me, this aspect of the performance gives insight on how “bad” and “dumb” characters are often shown in entertainment. Askegard and Hussey portrayed the two stepsisters marvelously well. The comedic timing was executed perfectly. It was rather interesting to witness the contrast of the stepsisters compared to everyone else on stage. Ballet is often considered to be this frivolous, elegant, pristine art form yet the sister were the exact opposite. The way they moved where clunky and unwieldy to which the beautiful music added to that portrayal of stupidity and clumsiness. The two dancers revealed to me the fun side to the ballet.
Each character, good or bad, was adorned by luxurious costumes. Throughout the play Cinderella was covered head to toe in sparkling, glowing, and lavish drapes, even if they were rags. The dancer portraying Cinderella, So Jung Shin, not only executed each dance movement effortlessly, but made her character shine brighter than the lights cast upon the stage. With her petite body, she danced across the stage with grace and elegance. Her love interest, the prince, played by Jack Thomas, dominated the stage with precise yet swift movements that complimented Cinderella’s soft and elegant movements. In contrast to these characters and many others, the ballet presented two comical characters, the stepsisters, to indirectly illustrate the message of idealistic body.
As I walked away after the performance, I was left with the feeling I had just seen a gorgeous retelling of the age old tale.
Northeast High School
Class of 2018 On October 22, 2016, I was eager and thrilled to witness Cinderella, a ballet by Angel Corella at the Academy of Music. The story is a classic and enduring fairy tale that has been performed around the world. It was extraordinary, humorous, and captivating. The thing that stood out most to me was the costumes because they reflected the main character’s personality thoroughly.
For instance, the stepsisters costumes were vibrant colors, fluffy, over-sized, and worn with the wrong colored shoes. Their outfit demonstrated how discombobulated and immature they were. No adult in the right state of mind would ever wear such crazy outfits at that stage of their life. The stepsisters’ costumes displayed their personality clearly without missing a beat.
Other examples of the wonderful costumes were Cinderella’s ball costume and her wedding dress. Both costumes displayed her caring, elegant, sophisticated personality. The ball costume was a ballet tutu that was a lighter shade of pink with rhinestones around it. At the wedding, her dress left everyone speechless because it was remarkable. There as the white tutu with the long veil that was attach to the shiny silver tiara. It was everything that I imagined and more.
The Cinderella ballet is definitely a must see. It is one of those performances that the whole family can attend and have a splendid time. It is a well-known story, but even so, expect to be on the edge of your seat throughout the entire performance.
Northeast High School Class of 2018 Cinderella, performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet, was a twist from the common told fairy tale and the Disney adaptation. In the Disney adaptation there were several main characters: the Stepmother, the Stepsisters, Cinderella, the Prince and the Fairy Godmother. However in this rendition of the story, there were more characters: Cinderella’s father, the Jester, and four seasonal fairies that accompanied the Fairy Godmother. Each of these characters served a different purpose.
In the exposition of the ballet, the main characters were introduced. We see Cinderella sweeping the floor, and we see her gaudy stepsisters horseplaying while her stepmother entertains their foolishness. All the while the father remains oblivious to the way that the stepsisters treat each other, and how Cinderella is left out and mistreated by the stepsisters. The love for his daughter is very evident, and they bond together reminiscing when her mother was alive, eventually being interrupted by the stepsisters.
In the ballet, the stepsisters played a bigger role in oppressing Cinderella than they did in the movie. They were also much more gaudy and awkward, wearing clothes that didn’t fit with the rest of the cast, and not embracing femininity and grace in the way that Cinderella and the stepmother do. They were very active in separating Cinderella from her father at all costs, and made sure to exclude Cinderella from all of their activities.
The Fairy Godmother arrives as a homeless person, similar to the Greek myth of Baucis and Philemon, who let in the Greek gods, Zeus and Hermes, when they were dressed as homeless people. The stepmother and the stepsisters all stand in fear, while the father and Cinderella tend to her needs. Soon after she leaves the invitations to the Royal Ball arrives, and when the stepsisters and stepmother leave to attend, the Fairy Godmother is revealed, followed by the aid of four dragonflies representing fairies for every season.
Before Cinderella arrives at the ball, the Jester appears. He is stunning, elegant, graceful and carefree, bringing joy to the ball before the celebration commences. His dancing and elegant technique led me to confuse him with the Prince at first. Throughout the ball, he aids the Prince, as Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother arrives. They arrive wearing bright, over the top dresses and, masks covering their faces. When the stepsisters are revealed, the people at the ball are appalled, and they are disturbed by their out of sync dancing.
Overall, this rendition of Cinderella had many surprises, it was one of the best retellings of the classic story that I’ve ever seen. All of it was retold in such an astounding and original way, without even using words.
Nathaly Rodriguez Northeast High School October 24, 2016 Saturday, October 22, 2016, I watched the glorious performance of Cinderella at the Academy of Music as directed by Angel Corella. It was a humorous, yet heart warming experience for me. The performance was based off the classic tale. Cinderella, played by So Jung Shin, lives with her stepmother, stepsisters, and her father. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, and in this rendition, the four season fairies, Cinderella attends the ball where she meets her prince, played by Jack Thomas. I believe that a ballet like this would not be complete without the costumes, as the costumes helped the audience understand who is who and what is going on.
The comical stepsisters, played by Charles Askegard and Ian Hussey, continuously filled the crowd with laughter, young and old alike. Their costumes were cluttered and had an odd color combination of orange, yellow, and purple to accentuate how gawky and awkward they are. In addition, their costumes seemed to be moving and falling all around, similar to the dancers. In turn, this aided the dancers to convey how truly clumsy they are.
Another character that was just as humorous was the jester, played by Alexander Peter. His costume was vibrant, with a white and gold combination, which complimented his enthusiastic charisma. The energetic costume reflected the usual loose jester which aided to reveal how impressively high the jester’s jump were.
Although there was a humorous side to the ballet, I saw the elegance as well. Take the graceful Fairy Godmother who was played by Dayesi Torriente. She wore a sparkling white knee length tutu accompanied by a silver crown that glistened as she danced. Her graceful turns and dance movements displayed how elegant the Fairy Godmother is.
It was troublesome to believe the Fairy Godmother was once dressed as a beggar in green-black rags before. Even Cinderella, who started in rags at first conveyed that she was an elegant character; in fact, she proved she was meant to be a princess. After Cinderella received her gifts and revealed her sparkling light pink costume the message was clear that Cinderella was more than a servant. At the end of the performance Cinderella and the prince are to be married off and Cinderella’s costume was gorgeous sparkling white and vibrant to illustrate Cinderella’s pure and resilient attitude.
The performance was spectacular, and the dancers, without argument, earned their applause. The costumes, the set, and the dancers all came together and together these elements did a wonderful job of conveying Cinderella’s story.
Angel Corrella’s four part piece “Strength and Longing” was emotional and very unusual due to the fact that all pieces were extremely different from each other. I saw the afternoon performance on February 6, 2016 at the Merriam Theater. It was absolutely spectacular. The performance consisted of four ballets, each unique and touching in its own way. First I saw “Without Words,” which was choreographed by Nacho Duato. It was an overall amazing piece about what seemed like several stories about lost lovers and was very dramatic. Next was “Chutes and Ladders,” choreographed by Justin Peck. This one was again a love story but very upbeat. What came next was probably my favorite piece. It was called “For Four,” choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and it was a work of pure art. The next and last piece was the definition of a grand finale and it was titled “N.Y Export: Opus Jazz,” cheoreoghed by Jerome Robbins. This piece was much more sassy, and dripping with attitude from the moments the curtains were raised, but in the most light-hearted way possible.
Although all pieces were very amazing, the one that left its biggest mark on me would be “For Four” This piece stunned me because it was very much unlike the others. In the other performances I noticed an emerging pattern of romance working its way into the mix. In “For Four,” though, it was four men dancing and kind of competing, in my opinion, but not for someone’s love. It was as if they were competing to see whose personality made them the best. Although they were all wearing identical outfits, the colors were what made them unique. The first dancer was in red and next came green, then a kind of brownish color, then it ended with a dancer wearing navy blue. In the beginning of the performance they were all dancing together but then the background changed from the neutral yellow color that matched the dancer who was dancing at the time. Also the music played a part in how they expressed their personality, for example the dancer in the brownish colored costume was dancing to very fast tempoed dramatic music and one could tell he played no games; he was serious and wanted to get through with this and claim his rightful place as the best. As each performer danced alone it seemed as though they were letting out their personality, but then the other dancers would come out as well, and before the next dancer would get their shot at a solo they had another competition.
“For Four” had such a great part in this performance. I find it amazing that one of the parts was actually choreographed for the artistic director himself, and he was the one teaching the part that was originally created for him. It piques my interest as to which dancer would have been him. All and all, this performance is one I will never forget because each piece affected me in a different way and had a different message.
Class of 2017
Esperanza Cyber Charter School
Strength and Longing
February 20, 2016
Hosted at the Merriam Theater, the performance of Strength and Longing opened with an ambiguous, classical piece titled “Without Words”. It explained the title through precise movement and matching facial expressions. Juxtaposed behind the dancers, typically in a set of three, the black backdrop allowed the delicate, but fierce dancers to be vulnerable. It was sleek, but not distracting. Vulnerable, because with their flesh colored costumers every spin, leap, and twirl was to be especially analyzed by the audience. That is emphasized by the music, conducted by Beatrice Jona Affron, one of the few women to lead a successful orchestra. Nacho Duato’s chamber music was first nostalgic, with hints of morose, then suspenseful, graduating towards gleeful, and ended neutral with a tone of acceptance. The Pennsylvania Dance Company dancers and music worked in artistic mutualism; both benefitting and taking clues from one another. Neither took the attention off of the other. Though there was that unity, the focus was definitely on two dancers: A woman and a man. The man, almost urging and desperate was the ‘Longing’ and the women, reluctant and steadfast, was the ‘Strength.’ The man kept his eyes on the woman, his arms always open, while she covered her face and danced away from him. The distance between the duets followed the music: wanting, dejected, uncertainty, and finally trustful as the show ends with the woman being carried off by the man. That is the synthesis of Strength of Longing.
February 6, 2016
Pennsylvania Ballet: “Strength & Longing”
Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Lauren Fadeley and Corps de Ballet Member Craig Wasserman
Photo By: Alexander Iziliaev
A big big thank you!
On February 6, 2016, the Pennsylvania Ballet presented “Strength and Longing,” a ballet performance that brings an emotional journey to the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.
The program consisted of four ballets held at the famous Merriam Theater that blew the audience right off their seats and into a standing ovation. The first ballet performance, “Without Words”, choreographed by Nacho Duato, was an intense and engaging ballet to watch. The six dancers were dressed in simple nude outfits that matched perfectly along with the slow and melodious music Franz Schubert composed. The stage was not too small or too big, but the perfect size for each couple to dance and spread apart along with the perfect amount of lighting. From the moment the first two dancers appeared till the bow with all six dancers, I found my eyes and ears locked on the stage, with different emotions running through my head — from sad, to intense, from intense, to heart touching. The dim lighting with the simple outfits along with the music was a combination that gave the audience a comforting feeling.
As each performer showed his or her bold movements, the expression remained just about the same throughout: serious. We could see the strength from each performer’s ability to twirl and spin and jump on the point of their toe. As they exposed their ability to move dauntlessly, they showed that despite mistakes through life, they must get up and keep going, even if it means to gain help from another. The “strength” represented the women who provided assistance to the men, who were “longing” and remained committed to their significant other.
The performers’ five weeks of nonstop practice for this ballet at Philadelphia paid off as the audience was simply amazed at each performance for their ability to dance. From my experience, this performance pulled at my heart strings in ways that only one can understand if he or she experiences it his or herself.
Review by: Oyin Adetola
Class of 2017
First Philadelphia Prep Charter School
“Without Words” is a ballet choreographed by Nacho Duato with music from Franz Schubert. It is the first of the four ballets that is included in the collection Strength and Longing that I watched on February 6th, 2016. It was performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet in the Merriam Theater.
This ballet was about a woman who is longing for someone she can not have and a man who is in love with her. He has to be strong and continue to support her, hence the overall title Strength and Longing.
While there were only a few people on stage during the ballet, the dancers covered the stage it with their large movements. The scarceness of props and their clothes, which were plain in color, contributed to and really brought in the feeling of loss and longing. The stage’s lack of porps also made it possible for us to be transported to a world not far or too different from our modern day own.
Schubert’s chamber music fits well with the performance. The relation of movement and unique motifs in the score in this performance is remarkably complex in both structure and detail. Both music and dancer almost seem to blend into each other. It was also as if the music was made for the performance (which it was not). The piece does not depend solely on the dancing but on both the music and dancers. The music was very lyrical and soft but very strong, the movements were sharp and precise. And the dancing included gorgeous leaps and beautiful turns. Even though different groups of dancers came on and off the stage, the wholeness of the piece was never lost. The dancers moved in sync and were aware of each other and seemed to be comfortable on stage. The stage acted as an extension of the dancers. They moved around the stage freely and seemed to [new word here] every spot on the floor.
The stage was all black, which included the backdrop, curtain and floor, with a spotlight pointed to the dancers. During the performance the viewer connects with the characters- wishing the woman would let the man in and wishing the man would get the woman. When the show is over you are left reeling and might even have to steady yourself from the emotional rollercoaster you have just gone through.
The piece is truly beautiful and touches viewers on an emotional level. I personally enjoyed this piece and recommend it to everyone. If you are a first time attendee to the ballet or you have already seen hundreds, this performance is not one you want to miss.
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.
Amir Coleman, 6th grade
Juniata Park Academy
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.
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!
December 15, 2015
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
December 15, 2015
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!!
Conwell Middle Magnet School
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!!
Company Members Alexandra Hughes and Lorin Mathis in Liturgy Photo: Alexander Iziliaev
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.
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.
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.
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.