It was a night of firsts Thursday evening for the Philadelphia Ballet.
The ballet debuted at the 600-seat Perelman Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus. It is the company’s new home for contemporary ballet. (The ballet will continue to present classical works at the Academy of Music.)
A new resident choreographer, Juliano Nunes, has joined the company, artistic director Angel Corella announced just before the performance began.
And the program was comprised of three world premieres, including Nunes’ third piece for Philadelphia Ballet. This is the Philadelphia Ballet premiere for the other two choreographers, Alba Castillo and Andrew Winghart.
The more intimate theater allowed the audience to see the details up close. It’s nice to see the dancers’ faces. But it also highlighted any mistakes that are harder to spot in a larger opera house. I would rather see two clean pirouettes than someone hopping through a third turn, which I saw a number of times.
It also meant all the music was recorded.
BalletX, which generally dances across the street at the Wilma Theater, specializes in new works. It is great to see Philadelphia Ballet commissioning so many new ballets as well, some of which may move on to other cities but will always be known as debuting here.
The program is called New Works for a New World, and each choreographer chose to interpret that “new world” angle differently.
For Winghart, it was rebirth. The program notes describe a new dawn after a violent storm, but it feels dystopian. His Prima Materia was also the most beautiful on the program. The dancers moved together like cogs in a machine for much of the piece, but their acting and reacting made stunning patterns and optical illusions across the stage. It is also the only piece on the program that used pointe work.
Winghart composed his own music, which at times provided a big, grand sound that enveloped the theater. (Some audience members complained that it was too loud.)
Yuka Iseda broke out from the group in the middle of the piece, and alongside Sterling Baca and Ashton Roxander, began to command the situation.
Nunes’ piece, Alignment, has a similar feeling to Winghart’s, with dancers working together in lovely geometric formations across the stage. Set to music by Luke Howard, it had the dancers stretching, turning, moving in mostly small motions. Eventually, a dancer would break out into a more difficult, impressive jump or series of turns, but they were intentionally somewhat hidden before more and more of the dancers broke free of the patterns.
At one point, a group of men lifted Arian Molina Soca seemingly by just pressing on his chest.
“Trust the process,” the program notes advise.
Castillo’s The Persistence of Memory is a nod to artist Salvador Dalí, painter of melting clocks. It is an exploration of suspended time, the program notes say.
It opens with a metronome in a pool of light on the front of the stage. Only one dancer, Oksana Maslova, acknowledges it, and she continues to return to it. Perhaps we are viewing the scene from her view of time. The dance and music — by Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, Emanuele Errante, Christopher Bissonette, and Lambert — were sometimes hard to focus on with the metronome’s continual clicking.
But while the beat of time carried on until nearly the end of the piece, the music and dance eventually won out.
Philadelphia Ballet in New Works for a New World through Feb. 12, Perelman Theater at Kimmel Cultural Campus. $50-$199. 215-893-1999 or philadelphiaballet.org.