For Artistic Director Roy Kaiser, the creation of each season offers a new challenge: the chance to expand Pennsylvania Ballet's repertoire, showcase the talents of its dancers, and engage and keep audiences captivated.
"When you look at the 2010-2011 Season, you can see an incredible diversity in the various choreographic styles the dancers of Pennsylvania Ballet are able to perform at an extremely high level," Kaiser says. "On each individual program, you will come away with a very different impression of the Company, and when you put them all together, it's pretty extraordinary."
For Kaiser, crafting each season has three components: commissioning innovative choreographers to create brand new works for the Company, introducing existing ballets to Pennsylvania Ballet's audience for the first time, and reviving pieces that already live in the repertoire. After mapping out the 2010-2011 Season, Kaiser stepped back and noticed a theme trs int_ressant had emerged. Nearly all the programs have ties to the culturally-rich country of France. The fiery Carmen and a world premiere are both courtesy of renowned French-born choreographers, and Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake and La Fille mal gard_e are set in France. Plus, apart from the regular season of six productions, the Company has been invited to perform a brand new version of the classic French ballet Pulcinella at the first-ever Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts where the theme is Paris: 1910-1920.
While he didn't set out to weave a French thread through the 2010-2011 Season, Kaiser candidly admits, "If I had sought to inject a French theme into the season, it probably wouldn't look much different than it does now!"
Carmen Triple Bill
Pennsylvania Ballet is set to sizzle as it opens the 2010-2011 Season with Roland Petit's Carmen, October 21-24 at the Academy of Music. Inspired by the famous opera of the same name, Carmen is an irresistible blend of sensuality, theatricality, and style. Audiences will find themselves spellbound by the torrid and tragic affair between the temptress Carmen and her lover, Don Jos_. Carmen's searing movement and frank sexuality leave audiences breathless.
Complementing Carmen is the clean, pure, and exhilarating Concerto Barocco by George Balanchine. Journey back to Pennsylvania Ballet's roots with this piece that highlighted the Company's very first performance in 1963. Concerto Barocco's sparkling choreography is a near-perfect reflection of the score by Johan Sebastian Bach. A world premiere by Pennsylvania Ballet's innovative Choreographer in Residence Matthew Neenan, his 13th commission for the Company, completes this thrilling evening of dance.
Three of today's strongest choreographic voices unite for one cutting-edge program, February 3-6 at the Merriam Theater. Classic Innovations presents a trio of modern pieces that have already made their mark on the ballet world. In The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, a Company premiere, masterful innovator William Forsythe manipulates ballet technique into a powerful, contemporary work. Vibrant costumes including futuristic, plate-like tutus are a trademark of this visionary piece. Bold and stripped-down, Polyphonia is an abstract masterpiece fashioned for the 21st century. The polyphony (variety of sounds) of the Gy‹rgy Ligeti score is mirrored by Christopher Wheeldon's mix of ballet and modern steps, creating inventive partnering and duets. Twyla Tharp's theatrical In the Upper Room is a tour-de-force of energy and finesse. Phillip Glass' thundering score propels this rigorous display of continuous, in-your-face athleticism. Two groups of dancers, wearing running shoes or ballet slippers, shift through a stage filled with billows of smoke, their steps ranging from traditional to unconventional.
Behold Pennsylvania Ballet's own stunning version of the world's most loved ballet, March 3-13 at the Academy of Music. Premiered in 2004 to national acclaim, Chris- topher Wheeldon's stellar production of Swan Lake was commissioned and per- formed to sold-out audiences for the Company's 40th Anniversary Season. Wheeldon's Swan Lake is based on the original Ivanov/Petipa classic and set to the timeless Tschaikovsky score but has been re-imagined for today's audiences. The million-dollar production features spectacular sets and costumes, dazzling choreography, and visual complexities that illuminate ballet's greatest love story.
Building on Balanchine
Pennsylvania Ballet honors its Balanchine heritage, April 14-17 at the Merriam Theater, with two works from the legendary choreographer exemplifying his creative breadth. Agon is a collaboration between George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky, who together designed the structure of this ballet during the creation of the music. Minimalist costumes and sets let Balanchine's choreography take center stage. Then, Who Cares? brings a bit of Broadway to the ballet. The lively George Gershwin score features beloved classics like "The Man I Love" and "I Got Rhythm." An enchanting, fun-filled ode to the 1930's, Who Cares? sends audiences from the theater feeling energized. The Company looks to its future with a world premiere ballet from renowned French-born choreographer Benjamin Millepied. Currently a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet, Millepied is sure to draw inspiration and a fresh perspective from his mentor, choreographer Jerome Robbins, a colleague of Balanchine himself.
La Fille mal gard_e
La Fille mal gard_e (loosely translated as "The Wayward Daughter") is Sir Frederick Ashton's touching tale of two determined lovers and their quest to marry, to be presented June 2-11 at the Academy of Music. Lise, the young daughter of a wealthy farmer, wishes to marry Colas, a handsome, young farm worker, but her mother, Mother Simone (who, in the tradition of English theater, is played by a man) disapproves. Set along a backdrop of simple country life, this uplifting ballet is brimming with charming characters (including dancing hens!), hilarious antics, and memorable dances: a delightful romantic comedy.
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
The holidays in Philadelphia are not complete without Pennsylvania Ballet's production of George Balanchine's The NutcrackerTM! This enduring tradition returns to the Academy of Music, December 4-31. Now in its 42nd year, George Balanchine's The NutcrackerTM boasts enchanting characters, lavish costumes and sets, world-class dancing, and a heart-warming Tschaikovsky score complemented by the Philadelphia Boys Choir.
Marissa Montenegro is Public Relations Manager at Pennsylvania Ballet.