Philadelphia High School Writers Review Angel Corella’s Le Corsaire

Mayara Corsaire
Principal Dancer Mayara Pineiro in Le Corsaire             Photo: Arian Molina Soca

Enoch Tariku

Central High School
Class of 2020


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.

Philadelphia Futures Students Review Revolution

Raphael Keele

Northeast High School Class of 2018

Revolutionpa-ballet-revolution-3-e1482542851928

Photo Credit: Alexander Iziliaev

Raphael Keele

Northeast High School Class of 2018

Revolution

“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.

Writers from Philadelphia Futures Review Cinderella

PHILADELPHIA FUTURES

Reviews of Cinderella

Pennsylvania Ballet

Performed on October 22, 2016

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.

Thamar Barthelemy

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.  

Raphael Keele

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.

Writers from Philadelphia Futures Review Strength and Longing

Angie Mohammad

Strength and Longing

February 20, 2016

Review

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.

Jessica Diplan

Class of 2017

Esperanza Cyber Charter School

Strength and Longing

February 20, 2016

Jessica Diplan

Review

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.

 

Nimra Tahir

Dance Review

February 6, 2016

Pennsylvania Ballet: “Strength & Longing”

 

Strength and Longing Fadeley and Wasserman
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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

Oyin Adetola

“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.

 

 

 

 

Juniata Park Academy Students Reflect on The Nutcracker

Mouse
Photo: Dave Moser

My Christmas Holiday

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

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

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

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

By,

Amir Coleman, 6th grade

Teacher,

Mr. Heim

Juniata Park Academy

 

Christmas Time

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

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

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

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

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

By,

Ninel Espino, 7th grade

Teacher,

Mr. Heim

Juniata Park Academy

Conwell Students Reflect on The Nutcracker

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

Yasmeen Felton

December 15, 2015

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Grade 6

The Nutcracker

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hawa Barry

December 15, 2015

Grade 7

The Nutcracker

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

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

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

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

 

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Christopher Wu

December 15, 2015

The Nutcracker

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

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

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

 

Christion Bullock

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Grade 7

The Nutcracker

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Students Review Press Play

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

Alexis Cerezo

Alexis Cerezo

Lincoln High School ’17

Response to Press Play

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

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

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

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

Antwain Golson

Antwain Golson

Bodine High School ’16

Response to Press Play

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

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

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

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

 

 

Matthew Ridley

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Northeast High School ’15

Response to Press Play

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

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

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

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

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

Shatiana Wackens

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Bodine High School ’16

Response to Press Play

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

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

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

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

Posted 9th December 2014 by PA Ballet

 

Conwell Middle Magnet Students Review The Nutcracker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalen Davis

5th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

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

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

Jasmine Donahue

6th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

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

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

Alicia Saunders

6th Grader

Conwell Middle Magnet School

Posted 14th January 2015 by PA Ballet

 

Local Students Review Prodigal Son

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

Alexis Cerezo

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Lincoln High School

Class of 2017


Alexis Cerezo

Prodigal Son: The Goons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Antwain Golson

Antwain Golson

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Bodine High School

Class of 2016

Prodigal Son’s Essential Representation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kwadir Mack

Philadelphia Futures: College Connection

Roman Catholic High School

Class of 2016


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

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

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

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

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Matthew Ridley

Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar Student

Northeast High School

Class of 2015

Matthew Ridley.jpg


Response to Prodigal Son

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

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

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

 

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

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

Posted 23rd March 2015 by PA Ballet