Departing artistic director Roy Kaiser, who has brought 90 new works to the Pennsylvania Ballet during his 19-year tenure, brings two more to the Academy of Music stage in this weekend's "Director's Choice."
In the world premiere of choreographer Trey McIntyre's The Accidental, John Hoey's lighting left dark shadows that made it difficult to see the six dancers in Andrea Lauer's drably mottled costumes. Yet, Patrick Watson's kicky Rufus Wainwrightlike songs weren't on the dark side. James Ihde is still the big guy on the squad, and it was gratifying to see that McIntyre had him not just partnering - here with Rachel Maher - but doing more dancing. The second half of the piece provided a wonderful extended solo for Alexander Peters, who has a classically gymnastic style. His vertical spin with one arm straight as an arrow into the heavens was almost supernatural.
The finale, the company premiere of Robert Weiss' 2011 Grieg: Piano Concerto, might have been better as the opening number. With its pearlescent lighting by Ross Kolman beaming on the women's white-net skirts, it was a classical-ballet-lover's cream puff that put most of the company to work. Principal dancer Lauren Fadely got a chance to show off her magnificent classical style, but her partner, Jong Suk Park, a company soloist, looked labored. He stooped his upper back in the lifts, making him look as if he were picking up a ladder, not a ballerina.
Repeated from last year's company premiere, Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain had movement of intricate geometric shaping, textures that reflected the chromatic music (Part One of Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa), and the choreographic contours that framed it.
The second part, with its sunny lighting designed by Mark Stanley, is really after the rain. Julie Diana in a ballet-slipper-pink leotard and soft slippers reappeared with Zachary Hench (her real-life husband). He's bare-chested and in white bell-bottoms as they dance to Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror).
Diana retires after this weekend, and Hench stays on, so this final duet between these spouses dripped poignancy. One of many sensual phrases was repeated: Diana back-bends like a bridge, and Hench picks her up by the waist, placing her a few feet away, but still arched. The second time, he slides beneath her, supporting her with hip and hand as the lights dim. This is a grown-up love song and would be reason enough to go even if the program weren't a swan song for two major figures in Pennsylvania Ballet history.