It's the holiday season, and Philadanco has given itself, and audience members, some gifts.
The company added two impressive world premieres to its repertoire, as well as two new vignettes to its witty Xmas Philes. All debuted Thursday, when Philadanco opened its annual winter concert series at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.
Elisa Monte plays homage to 20th-century German modernist painter and color theorist Josef Albers in "Light Lies Beyond," a piece for eight dancers in brightly hued costumes on a white floor. The backdrop is lit to various shades of pinks and blues throughout the piece as the dancers leap, dance series of chainé turns, and stretch their legs high in second position.
Pairs of dancers cross the stage while performing carefully balanced lifts, and one woman performs slow, controlled arabesques in penché. The dance is beautiful and thought-provoking, although it could be tightened up in places. The music - repeated chants, string instruments and drumming - occasionally distracts.
Violin Concerto was choreographed by Milton Myers, the company's resident choreographer, and set to music by Philip Glass. Myers shows off the dancers in their best light with stretches, high leg extensions, contortionist movements, and split jumps. The costumes, by Anna-Alisa Belous, are tight-fitting and metallic, showing off rippled muscles on perfect bodies.
Xmas Philes already feels like a holiday favorite, but this is only the fourth season it has been performed since its premiere in 2000. The lovely new prelude features the dancers stretching on the ground and silhouetted against the backdrop. Here and there, a couple stand and dance a short duet. Eventually, they all rise, wrap their bodies around one another Pilobolus-style, and spell out "Xmas Philes."
Later in Xmas Philes, the new "Jingle All the Way" section features the full cast in orange and black jumpsuits stomping their feet and clapping their hands, while jingle bells ring out from around their ankles. It is a rollicking good addition to the piece, and audience members got caught up in the action.
But on opening night, the program was not without its problems.
One dancer lost both sets of bells from his ankles early in "Jingle All the Way," and they remained on stage through at least two vignettes. At least one of the lifts in "Light Lies Beyond" was incomplete. And the backdrop that was used throughout the evening had several noticeable holes and a giant, and very distracting, outlined rectangle that looked like a drywall patch.