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Pennsylvania Ballet: Romance and Revelry

'Fancy Free, 'In the Night,' 'The Concert'

by Lori Ibay

October 12, 2006 -- Academy of Music, Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Ballet opened its 2006-2007 season with a tribute to choreographer Jerome Robbins, featuring three short ballets, “Fancy Free,” “In The Night,” and “The Concert.” Although the program was upbeat and the posters outside the building colorful and inviting, there were disappointingly numerous empty seats within the Academy of Music on Thursday evening. And while the program promised “Romance and Revelry” with audience favorite “Fancy Free” and the company premiere of “In The Night,” comedy dominated the evening with Robbins’ hilarious masterpiece, “The Concert.”

The program began with the crowd-pleasing “Fancy Free,” set to music by Leonard Bernstein, with James Ady, Philip Colucci, and Jonathan Stiles portraying the three sailors spending a night on the town. The three gave solid performances and demonstrated precise comedic timing, but from early on, their antics made little impact on the quiet, subdued audience.

Perhaps there was an initial lack of energy or a slow start, but as the dancers warmed up, so did the crowd, showing appreciation in their applause for the men’s solo efforts. Stiles showed a smooth, romantic side; Colucci infused acrobatics, energy, and athleticism into the performance; and Ady was crisp and comical. The animated passers-by who the men sought to impress were played by Tara Keating, Amy Aldridge, and Emily Waters.

After a short intermission, the program took a more serene tone with the company premiere of “In The Night,” featuring three couples dancing to music by Frederic Chopin. The first couple, Arantxa Ochoa and corps member Maximilien Baud, danced smoothly and gracefully, with a hint of timidity – appropriate for their depiction of young, tender love. Ochoa was elegant and poised as always, and Baud was a cautious but attentive partner.

Riolama Lorenzo and James Ihde represented more mature love, working well together through seamless transitions and making easy work of lifts and supported turns. The pair had wonderful poise, emanating confidence and stability. The final pair, Julie Diana and James Ady, showed passion and fire with seemingly dangerous lifts and twists. The two showed an impressive range of emotions, sometimes gravitating toward each other, sometimes pushing each other away.

All three couples returned for the final segment, and it is only then that the dancers interacted with anyone other than their own partners. For a brief moment, the dancing couples stopped and regarded the others on stage before turning back to their partner and waltzing off into the night, once again completely engrossed in each other.

The final performance of the evening was Robbins’ comedic masterpiece, “The Concert,” which began with perhaps the most unlikely comedian of all – Pennsylvania Ballet’s pianist, Martha Koeneman. In the role of the pianist at a piano recital, Koeneman had the audience roaring with her gaudy entrance and garish gestures before dancers even took the stage.

In their roles as quirky concert-goers, Lorenzo, Baud, and Hawley Rowe (with Thomas Baltrushunas, Alexei Charov, Colucci, Yosbel Delgado, Valerie Amiss, Keating, and Waters) were individually uproariously entertaining. Even those familiar with this “Concert,” who could anticipate the shticks, couldn’t resist laughing out loud, as the piece became more and more deliciously ridiculous with every passing minute. The dancers, too, seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

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