The program is called Strength and Longing, but Strength and Lengthening might have been a better name.

The Pennsylvania Ballet opened its February season Thursday night with four dances that were all long limbs, rippling muscles, bravado, and control. Three of the pieces presented at the Merriam Theater were company premieres, as artistic director Ángel Corella continues his plan to introduce new work to Philadelphia audiences.

The evening opened with "Without Words," a Nacho Duato premiere of chiseled bodies in minimal costumes performing duets and trios that flowed from position to position. The six dancers rarely paused, creating their patterns out of sheer strength. Martha Koeneman on piano and Jennie Lorenzo on violoncello played solos in the Schubert score while close-up photos of sections of the dance by Alexander Izilaev were projected effectively on a curtain.

After just an intermission to change her costume and catch her breath, Lauren Fadeley, one of the six, returned for another difficult piece. "Chutes and Ladders" is a fast, fun, flirty Justin Peck pas de deux with Craig Wasserman. Another company premiere, it was a lighter-than-air celebration of the Benjamin Britten score, and it featured a string quartet playing on stage.

Ten years ago, Corella danced Christopher Wheeldon's "For Four" with three other male ballet superstars, and now his dancers have their turn. Arian Molina Soca, Ian Hussey, Amir Yogev, and Jermel Johnson danced the Cuban, Russian, Danish, and American styles. Set to another Schubert score, each filled the roles with bravado and tricks, and each impressed. Yet while the piece had the ability to get audiences out of their seats, it was danced more than performed.

The program ended with Jerome Robbins' "N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz," which the Pennsylvania Ballet last performed in 2012. The "ballet in sneakers" is the happy version of West Side Story - also choreographed by Robbins - with all the jazzy moves and gritty scenery, but minus the turf wars. It is a delight to see stellar dancing in casual clothes, making the dancers look as young as they really are.

Additional performances: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. Tickets: $29-$125 Information: or 215-893-1999.