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It’s all eyes on Philly as BalletX nails it again with brief dance films that feed the soul

BalletX's second digital program is very brief and very satisfying, with gems danced in lovely settings.

BalletX dancer Ashley Simpson in Robbie Fairchild's "The Cycle."
BalletX dancer Ashley Simpson in Robbie Fairchild's "The Cycle."Read moreGiacomo Belletti

BalletX released its second set of short ballet films Wednesday night on its BalletX Beyond streaming platform, again reaffirming its place on the national dance scene as home to some of the pandemic’s most satisfying new works.

It’s very quick viewing. Each of the three pieces is about 5 minutes long. But they are gems, and it’s wonderful to see new choreography being made and danced in such lovely settings.

Robbie Fairchild — former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Tony nominee for his starring role in An American in Paris — sets his piece, The Cycle, in Longwood Gardens.

Brazilian choreographer Mariana Oliveira’s Saudade was shot at Stoneleigh in Villanova. And Amy Hall Garner’s New Heights takes place in front of three murals around Philadelphia. (Garner coached Beyoncé for her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.)

The new program is the second of four that will in total premiere works by 15 choreographers that artistic director Christine Cox commissioned to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary, promising they’d pop in the way “Hamilton” did on Disney+ and “penetrate into the audience’s home.”

» READ MORE: David Gordon's "Philadelphia Matter" and BalletX Beyond have set a high bar for digital dance programs

And they certainly do. While brief, they are immersive experiences that feed the soul. They also have common threads. For example, because all are filmed outdoors, light is a prominent part of the setting for each one. They are like little movies, with distinct genres and narratives.

Oliveria’s Saudade recalls an old Hollywood gothic film, shot in black and white but colorized to show off BalletX dancer Andrea Yorita’s red coat as she comes to life off the page of a book that dancer Zachary Kapeluck is pining over. Set to “Arquitetura de Morar — Architecture to Live,” by Antônio Carlos Jobim, the ballet is a short, romantic scene. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the longing as the two dance freely — and while touching! — in a beautiful setting.

Fairchild’s The Cycle is dreamy before anyone dances a step. The dresses are by Marchesa, the music is “On Max Richter’s the Nature of Daylight,” with a nature sound design by Eric Brown, and it’s set in Longwood’s meadow and the beautiful flooded sunken floor of its conservatory. The dancers wake in the grasses, water, and trees, meet the sun — and five minutes later, it’s time to return to sleep. It’s the most polished of the three and one I’d like to watch several times.

Garner’s New Heights is pure fun, a celebration of dance in mural-backed lots that Philadelphians pass on a daily basis. Set to “On the Dancefloor” by Sebastian Bartmann, performed by Spark, it is the kind of freedom and fun that’s been so rare during the coronavirus pandemic and a joy to watch.


BalletX Premieres

Available until Aug. 31, 2021, with a BalletX Beyond subscription.

Fees are $15 a month for a basic plan and $30 for an upgrade with extras, including behind-the-scenes documentaries. Information at