Virtual ballet is starting to feel normal. Part of that is thanks to Pennsylvania Ballet, whose latest program has as many as 18 dancers performing together, against a backdrop and with large pieces of scenery — fairly close to an in-person theatrical experience.
All that can be seen in Raymonda Suite, one of the ballets on the Resilience program on the ballet’s digital platform.
It’s a bit of a something-old, something-new ballet, the latest Petipa classic reimagined by Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Angel Corella (but just sections and not a full-length ballet). Raymonda is not performed frequently in the United States, although American Ballet Theatre, where Corella danced for many years, has danced both the full-length piece and divertissements. New York City Ballet has a Balanchine version of the variations in its repertoire. Balanchine is said to have delighted in Alexander Glazunov’s music but found the story useless.
The suite of dances Corella chose to present is both classically lovely and somewhat old-fashioned feeling, with its backdrop of corps dancers and fussy tutus, tiaras, and hairstyles. It is impressive to see how he managed to turn the intimate Performance Garage, where the digital season was filmed, into a formal space, framed by large candelabras.
Dayesi Torriente and Arian Molina Soca are virtuosic as the lead couple, capturing the Russian flavor of the dance. There is ample opportunity to highlight other company dancers, as well. Yuka Iseda and Sydney Dolan were particular standouts, presenting their solos with personality and flair.
Allegro Brilliante, choreographed by Balanchine to music by Tchaikovsky in 1956, is a breath of fresh air that still feels modern. Mayara Pineiro and Zecheng Liang lead the cast for this recorded performance, and they are as fast, light, and fun as the choreography demands. But they are not Balanchine-trained dancers and do not always dance with Balanchine technique. It may seem like a minor detail, but Pennsylvania Ballet was long a Balanchine company, and that tradition has been eroding since Corella was hired in 2014.
Pennsylvania Ballet first danced Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia in 2005, and it looks even better with this generation of company dancers. Set to a complicated score by György Ligeti, it is an impressive showcase for eight dancers.
Oksana Maslova and Sterling Baca are beautifully controlled, in slow, fluid movements. Maslova, who trained early on in rhythmic gymnastics, is exceptionally strong and flexible. So Jung Shin delivers a passionate performance and lovely stretched, finished movements.
Jermel Johnson, the senior dancer in the company, again has a solo in this month’s program, as he did in March. And So It Is …, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden to music by Steve Reich, shows off Johnson’s strength, flexibility, and command of the space. Earlier in his career, he was often cast for his ability to dance showy tricks. It’s wonderful seeing him as a mature, thoughtful dancer.
The filming of the program shows the dancers at many angles — sometimes too many. In Polyphonia, the lighting changes with the angles, which is sometimes distracting. In Raymonda Suite, we sometimes see Torriente’s feet or upper body where it would’ve helped to see her whole body. And in And So It Is …, Johnson sometimes winds up too deep in the shadows.
But overall, it’s a satisfying round of ballet.
Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Resilience” virtual program
Single tickets, for $25, allow viewing through May 5. Ticket bundles for two programs are available for $50. Unlimited viewing, $175. Information at 215-893-1999 or paballet.org.