Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

BalletX in Jorma Elo's Gran Partita

By Merilyn Jackson


From Richard Villaverde's opening rond de jambe in Matthew Neenan's Increasing to Jorma Elo's dramatic ending in Gran Partita, BalletX kicked off its seven-show fall run (with an added Sunday night performance) at the Wilma theater Wednesday with the confidence and artistry of a world-class ballet company. That's what it is, really, though there wasn't a pointe shoe in sight.

The world premiere of Gran Partita was inspired by the film noir classic, Touch of Evil, yet had too much beauty and too little grit to match that imagery. Alban Berg's chilling music and Drew Billiau's lighting, however, lent the necessary hint of evil. Billiau carved the stage into harsh triangles and cast smoky shafts of light along the varied groupings, duets, and solos.

Costume designer Christine Darch's white togs left the men bare-chested as they danced some of the dark choreography.

Newcomers Edgar Anido, Skyler Lubin and Francesca Forcella shone throughout Elo's work — indeed, the entire evening — and Caili Quan and Zachary Kapeluck maintained the sleek look of BalletX as it continues to evolve its personnel.

This was the East Coast premiere of Neenan's Increasing. He used the opening allegro of Schubert's String Quintet in C Major played live by alumni of the Curtis Institute of Music. The dancers moved at a faster tempo than the music, flexed feet or hands rapidly turning to a point. Carole Divet's romantic sky-blues, worn by all, lent an air of young people at various social gatherings.

Villaverde and Chloe Felesina star here with their body-bending intricate intertwining. Anido, Lubin and Forcella were shining forces here, too. Gary W. Jeter II, late of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, masterfully partnered Andrea Yorita, especially in her heart-stopping high triple spin. The piece ends in an architectural frieze, with each dancer facing the audience in varied poses bathed in Billiau's warm lighting.

Olivier Wevers premiered his Instantly Bound on BalletX last year with Sebastian Meissner's (aka Klimek) noirish techno music. On that program, I found it too similar to the other works to make many distinctions. Here, there was good contrast with Neenan's neo-romantics and Elo's neo-noir work.

Using six of the 10 company dancers, Wevers pairs them into couples and has Robb Anderson's spots opening on one and coming up again on another. In the blink of an eye, Villaverde yanks Felesina back by her wrists from her convulsive flight, pushes her flat to the floor, and pulls her up with his foot under her belly into a downturned "V," later collapsing over her body as the others gather around and the lights dim.

Performances: tonight 8 p.m., Nov. 21, 8 p.m., Nov. 22, 2 & 8 p.m., Nov. 23, 2 & 7 p.m. Tickets: $45 (Seniors $35, Students $27) Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad Street 215-546-7824