Pennsylvannia Ballet 2001

February 7, 2001

Pennylvania Ballet dancers donned Liz Prince?s retro-futuristic costumes for Trey McIntyre?s Plush.
Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet

The Merriam Theater
Philadelphia, PA

February 7?11, 2001

Reviewed by Lewis Whittington

By the time viewers got to Plush, the much-anticipated Trey McIntyre premiere that closed an ambitious but skittish modern program from the Pennsylvania Ballet, they had been put through their visual and emotional paces.

The opening work, Balanchine’s Agon, lacked the academic clarity that the dancers usually bring to the work. After a clean introduction by the men, the company rushed through the ensemble passages, although the first pas de trois, danced by Alexander Iziliaev, Jennifer Gall, and a serenely athletic Heidi Cruz, looked lush and angular. Meredith Rainey struggled in his central duet with Arantxa Ochoa, although the pair’s considerable chemistry compensated for any technical flaws. But the cast lacked focus in the final movement, scuttled under Stravinsky’s fanfares.

Lar Lubovitch’s Concerto Six Twenty-Two, with music by Mozart, pulsed naturally through these dancers, with classical flourishes finished off by loopy end-phrases. The cast relished Lubovitch’s childlike joy and witty sophistication, returning repeatedly to the flowing ensemble circle. The piece was anchored by the central male duet, the adagio, a signature work for David Krensing and Jeffrey Gribler, who is retiring this year as principal dancer after twenty-six years with the company. The two were transcendent as the lovers who support, comfort, sustain, falter, and entwine in Lubovitch’s movement meditation on AIDS. Christine Cox, Amanda Miller, and Kelly Moriarty, meanwhile, danced the limb-flinging rondo section with comic flair. Kudos to Beatrice Jona Affron’s ballet orchestra, which was paced beautifully with the dancers.

Roy Kaiser’s eight years as artistic director have transformed this company most clearly in contemporary pieces like Plush, McIntyre’s five-part ballet scored to Darius Milhaud’s Chamber Symphonies Nos. 1?5. The title refers in part to Liz Prince’s vibrant costumes, which ranged from peltlike to futuristic to trashy Euro-disco chic. The piece looked simultaneously retro and modern, and showed off the company’s technical diversity. The corps?four women in hooded fur outfits, à la Josie and the Pussycats, and four men in purple velvet bell-bottomed unitards?appeared and vanished with playful earnestness.

Philip Colucci eventually shed his yellow plush-toy costume to reveal superhero underpinnings; he was a steely presence in McIntyre’s fevered choreography. Amy Aldridge and Jonas Lundqvist lurched toward, and cleaved to, one other, while Christine Cox, costumed like Theda Bara, peered over her folded arms and launched into a menacingly brittle solo as dancers slid on their bellies and froze in crouched positions. McIntyre’s piece could benefit from another segment, because just when everything was aloft, he pulled the plug.