Dance dreams, cartoons & metaphysics.

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
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BalletX’s Spring Series currently in an extended run at the Wilma Theater, comprised of three distinctly different ballets that are exemplar of the company’s versatility – from the broad dance comedy of choreographer Cayetano Soto to Tommie-Waheed Evans’ meditative dance journey and capped off by an intoxicating dance carnavale by Matt Neenan.

Soto’s “Schachmatt” is its US premiere starts with a French song called ‘J’attendral’ that instantly charms as the curtain comes up on the dancers micro-gyrating, arms in fouffy poses, dressed in sporty shorts and jockey caps (designed by Soto and Gudren Schretzmeier). They full company ensemble in precision, demi-point struts, as their hands splay out in fouffy gestures (ala Fosse). They drop into equally funny phrases, exaggerated butt thrusts or deep plies, as they lurch around the stage. Soto’s wryly vamps the mannered exotica of the music. It’s cartoony dance fun, but “Schachmatt” has a static feel by the middle, with some bumpy gear shifts in key moments. The ending tableau with its lusty rhythms of “Cuban Mambo” and “Perez Prado” percolating, Cato laces in some mambo and rumba phrases and by then these dancers are so ready to break out.

The cool opening work was the warm up for the contrasting dramatic intensity of Tommie-Waheed Evans’ elegiac In Between the Passing…’ A somber themed, meditative work that also begins with smoke rising on stage, along with the time-suspending music of Henryk
Gorecki’s Symphony no 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).

Evans was a premier Philadanco dancer for many years and was on a dual choreographic track, creating work for Complexions, Eleone Dance Theatre and Philadanco. Evans was awarded BalletX 2017 Choreographic Fellowship and this piece is his debut with the company.

The mood for “In Between the Passing” indeed mournful and yearning, as the dancers cling to each other, in paroxysm of emotional anguish and that give way to explosive balletics that completely tap into BalletX’s classical artistry and Evans’ choreographic prowess. Most affecting through a series of hypnotic duets which are the most compelling passages with journeying and technically eloquent passages, hypnotic and evocative of the work’s metaphysical themes. Gary W. Jeter II and Caili Quan in intricate lift patterns that keep evolving and a equally intimate and athletic extended duet by Roderick Phifer and Richard Villaverde. The ballet is for six dancers and rotates two casts, so all of the company’s dancers are performing in the premiere run.

“The Last Glass” scored to a suite of songs by the indie-band Beirut, is a BX classic by Matt Neenan, many of the dancers keeping the same roles for several years, but this time Neenan recast them in others and the ballet looks fresher than ever. Martha Chamberlain’s costumes have a sexy retro-circusy look with frilly, swirling pale pinks on the women and gritty busker threads for the men.

Chloe Felesina and Megan Dickinson keep to a quicksilver pointe solos, dressed in lacey tutus, are the spritely ballerinas bolting through Neenan’s Fellini-esque dream that should always be playing in a parallel dance universe. The wry romantic song cycle by Beirut fueling Neenan’s dreamscape of floating storylines about fatal loves and crushed dreams. Daniel Mayo and Andrea Yorita are gorgeous actor-dancers as the troubled lovers swirling in and out to the waltztime rock tunes. “The Last Glass” has Neenan signatures, but doesn’t look like any other Neenan ballet. It is exemplar of his company’s aesthetics of contemporary ballet fusion.

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