Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Angel Corella chose the company’s short November season, which opened at the Merriam Theater Thursday, to present world premieres from three lesser-known choreographers who are new to the company: Yin Yue, Juliano Nunes, and Garrett Smith.
Corella has said he knew Yue from working in New York and Smith from the Houston Ballet. He was introduced to Nunes via a video on Instagram.
Despite some ups and downs, the program offers a welcome break from the handful of hot choreographers every ballet company seems to be dancing, and it’s worth seeing.
That said, a blend of known and newer names might make more sense — especially in a venue as large as the Merriam with all those seats to fill.
Nunes’ work is the strongest on the program. His Connection is a series of group pieces and duets performed in barely-there costumes that matched the dancers’ skin tones. The music by Ezio Bosso was occasionally painfully loud, but the dance quality was high.
Dancers swooped, stretched, turned, and showed off their long limbs in clean, spare movements. They came together to create a sort of large, blooming flower. Oksana Maslova, Jermel Johnson, and Arian Molina Soca’s trio was especially lovely, with clean movements and her extreme flexibility.
Smith’s Reverberance is an ode to the cello, and Peter Gregson’s “Bach Recomposed” set the tone, played live off to the side of the stage. The dancers themselves were the spirit of the cello in motion, dancing duets and trios, with large impressive jumps and fast turns. Their ombré costumes were beautiful.
Also part of the cast is an actual cello that is spun, swooped, partnered, and passed among the dancers. Cellos also hang from the rafters, which is a little corny and more than we need to get the point.
Yue’s ballet, A Trace of Inevitability, to Michel Banabila’s “Dragonfly II,” is performed in loose, sunset-hued costumes and socks. It features a series of duets that were a little messy Thursday night and were overwhelmed by frequently changing scenery and lighting.
All three ballets featured lighting by Michael Mazzola, whose work was sometimes cool, often distracting, and for several moments during Yue’s ballet, blinding. I had to turn away.
And yet it was wonderful to see new people creating new work. Experimentation is important both to the art of dance and the careers of dancers.
Pennsylvania Ballet performing world premieres
Repeats 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St.