Daniel Ezralow is the choreographer of the $65 million musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, set to music by Bono and The Edge, and scheduled to open on Broadway in January.
But he also works frequently with Philadanco. His pieces for that company are loaded with magic and whimsy on a far more modest scale.
Philadanco celebrated Ezralow in the final program of its 40th-anniversary season, which opened Friday night at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater. It was a delightful evening, if rather short. The first two pieces were presented in less than 25 minutes.
Ezralow's 2001 "Compassion & Revenge" is a nod to the events of Sept. 11. Performed in jeans, T-shirts, fleeces, and street shoes, it opens with a short narrative by Gary Zukav, with each dancer speaking a section, and then features basic movements of stretches, bends, simple turns, and hugs. The simplicity adds to the beauty and emotion of the piece. But it was so brief that, after an usher asked a man near me to put away his phone, I barely had enough time to get invested in the work before it was over.
"Pulse" is very low-tech animation, with dancers wearing socks sliding across the stage, in and out of lights. It is impressive, too, for the way the dancers run and slide, and then do a controlled, even risky move. One dancer pirouettes so fast, it's as if he's spinning on ice. A man throws his partner into the arms of another. The dancers never lose their footing.
The highlight of the program is "X-Mas Philes," a frenzied but fun 50 minutes, with several dance styles, familiar songs, and many costume changes. Like The Nutcracker, the framework of the piece is a fantastical holiday dream, but in this one, reindeer are represented by nine women in high heels, and store Santa Clauses double as X-Men. My favorite section is "12 Daz," in which each Christmas day is played out by a different dancer with a signature step.
"X-Mas Philes" could become a holiday tradition if only Philadanco performed it every year. Still, for years now, executive artistic director Joan Myers Brown has been saying that Ezralow will eventually return to Philadelphia and choreograph more scenes, making it an evening-length piece.
I am eager to see what he comes up with.