Ballet X

The Wilma Theatre, Philadelphia
July 21-25, 2009

 balletx, philadelphia

Amy Aldridge, Matthew Prescott. “Broke Apart”.

Ballet X’s co-directors Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan continue to define the company with potent mixes of contemporary choreographers and bal-mod dancers giving their all physically, even if they are off-season from other companies.  The 09-summer program made up of BX’s core roster and three guest dancers for an evening of dance drama, fun and electric chemistry.      

The opening work, a revival of Jorma Elo’s 2006 ’Scenes View 2’s starts with text of the dancers voicing stage directions, looked leaner and more relaxed in the repertory this time out.   Elo sets up a disarming ‘contact improv’ prologue of movement fragments.  This preamble slouched toward tedium when Bach’ Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin, thunders in and Elo finally uncorks his choreographic stream.   Elo’s expressiveness can look decorated on ballet bodies, but these dancers have the muscle to attack his choreographic extravagances with tight theatricality.    

Matthew Neenan also revived ’Broke Apart’ looking as sleek this time as sectional ballet barre set..  Amy Aldridge and Matthew Prescott state the theme with their intimate and antagonistic duet moving around the barre ‘box‘ which they bust through and reconfigure.  That theme of bodies moving over- under- sideways- down captures Neenan’s sense of movement humor and erotic mystery.  

Set to a disparate mix of womens’ vocals, Neenan included the emotional highlight of Cindi Lauper’s vainglorious version of ’Le Vie en Rose’ that underscores one of his finest trio passages danced with diamond hard technical clarity by Laura Feig, Amy Aldridge and Jermel Johnson.  

Jodie Gates’ ’Le Baiser Inevitable’ in its premiere has a Cirque du Soleil look with its total eclipse light ring framing undulating dancers looking volcanic ala Fosse. The men bare-chested in rust colored black band pants and the women in red bikinis with black sheer shrugs.   The troupe clusters as Ravel’s Bolero starts, swaying as solo dancers pulse out of the circle and boomerang back in.  

Bodies snake out of the circle as Ravel’s oboe gets more and more aggressive    Jetes, fish dive lifts and other ballet variations, timed strategically to Ravel’s lurching eroticism.  Francis Veyette and Johnson execute thrilling aerials and Kevin Yee-Chan possesses razor litheness.    There might even be the suggestion of objectification of men, perhaps a swipe at Balanchine’s mannequin women as the three women, Tara Keating, Anikra Nornberger and Laura Feig remain in the background, until they enter the eclipse for a series of overwrought duets with the men.   

Matthew Prescott has an over the top duet with BX-mvp Keating that skirts close to balletic camp, all part of the fun.  Gates’ steps up the pace in the crescendos that leads in this performance to muddy unison work.  Still, the esprit and sexual subtext had inevitable trajectory of its own.  


Philadelphia ,
Lewis Whittington writes about the performing and film arts for many publications. He is a renegade dance, theater and opera queen, a jazz-head and a civil activist.