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Pennsylvania Ballet: Concerto Barocco, As It's Going, Lambarena
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Pennsylvania Ballet: Concerto Barocco, As It's Going, Lambarena

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Pennsylvania Ballet
(Pennsylvania Ballet Website)
Barbara Weisberger, Founder
Roy Kaiser, Artistic Director
Michael G. Scolamiero, Exec. Director
Tamara Hadley, Ballet Mistress
Jeffrey Gribler, Ballet Master
Beatrice Jona Affron, Music Director & Conductor
Matthew Neenan, Choreographer in Residence

At City Center
(City Center Website)

The Company:
James Ady, Amy Aldridge, Martha Chamberlain,
Julie Diana, Zachary Hench, Alexander Iziliaev,
Riolama Lorenzo, Arantxa Ochoa, Sergio Torrado, James Ihde, Francis Veyette, Gabriella Yudenich, Corps, and Apprentices

Press: Keith Sherman and Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 15, 2007

Concerto Barocco (1940): Choreography by George Balanchine, Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Concerto in D minor for Two Violins), Repetiteur, Sandra Jennings, Costumes by Frankie Fehr, Lighting Design by John Hoey, Violin Soloists, Olga Mudryk and Paul Reiser, Performed by Arantxa Ochoa, Martha Chamberlain, Sergio Torrado, and the Company.

It was quite daring for the Pennsylvania Ballet to return to New York, after decades of absence from City Center, and to bring with it two Balanchine works, one of which is the same work that was featured by Barbara Weisberger, herself a protégée of George Balanchine and the Pennsylvania Ballet founder, at the Company’s debut in 1964. With Bach’s double violin score, the ballet orchestra was well highlighted in this opening work and throughout tonight’s program. In fact, it is obvious from the Company program that the musicians receive almost equal status to the dancers, an impressive element in the publicity.

The Pennsylvania Ballet staged and performed the iconic Balanchine choreography with aplomb and attention to detail, in the position of the arms, the heads, the poise of the torsos. The introduction to its twelve lead soloists (most dancers appeared in two of the three works) was well served in this classical ballet, and Sergio Torrado effortlessly lifted and carried Arantxa Ochoa in their powerful pas de deux. Ms. Ochoa and Martha Chamberlain, as well as the Company, were more individualized and less physically structured than one would see in City Ballet’s performances of Balanchine. This quality of presentation was interesting, as the audience came to know the dancers in the course of both programs. The violin soloists, and the orchestra as a whole, performed the Concerto with mesmerizing momentum.

As It’s Going (2006): Choreography by Matthew Neenan, Music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Costumes by Martha Chamberlain, Lighting Design by John Hoey, Performed by Amy Aldridge, James Ady, Julie Diana, Sergio Torrado, Arantxa Ochoa, Lindsay Purrington, Francis Veyette, James Ihde, and the Company.

It’s unusual to see the costumes designed by one of the dancers, and Martha Chamberlain designed ethereal, blue-burgundy dresses for the females and simple, brown costumes for the males. This contemporary and buoyant work, choreographed by Resident Choreographer, Matthew Neenan, and set to an exotic collection of Shostakovich quartets, trio, dances, and sonata, is performed by four couples. Mr. Neenan allowed the company to show its true strengths in the syncopation and stylizing of seven movements. The 1907 Anna Akhmatova poem, And As It’s Going, relates to nature and lost love. Shostakovich and Akhmatova had both been professionally affected by the Stalinist regime. The comedic gestures, mixed with angular lifts, added nuance to this already versatile work. Ms. Ochoa and Mr. Veyette were especially appealing.

Lambarena (1995): Choreography by Val Caniparoli, Music by Johann Sebastian Bach and traditional African songs, Scenic and Costume Design by Sandra Woodall, Lighting Design by Lisa J. Pinkham, African Dance Consultation by Naomi Gedo-Johnson Washington and Zakariya Sao Diouf, Staging by Maiqui Mañosa, Performed by Amy Aldridge, Martha Chamberlain, Julie Diana, James Ady, Ian Hussey, Jermel Johnson, Rebecca Azenberg, Laura Bowman, Thomas Baltrushunas, Yosbel Delgado, Tanner Schwarz, Jonathan Stiles, and André Vytoptov.

The Bach choral passages, mixed with African chants, drums, athleticism, and colorful backdrops and costumes did not, unfortunately, add up to a satisfying presentation, perhaps partially due to the fact that New York is a town used to the Ailey Company, with its authentic African roots and traditional ethnic movement. Although Val Caniparoli made a valiant attempt to enlist African dancers to coach the Company, the inherent affect and intense attitude of the genre was missing, except in Jermel Johnson's extraordinarily perfected performance. However, the Company, as a whole, brought vivacity and extreme energy to the stage with this swiveling, swirling, sensual ballet. Julie Diana with Ian Hussey, Amy Aldridge, and James Ady also caught my eye.

Concerto Barocco
Martha Chamberlain and James Ihde
Photo: Paul Kolnik

As It's Going
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet
Photo: Paul Kolnik.

Jermel Johnson
Photo: Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at