Pennsylvania Ballet in A Tribute to Jerome Robbins featuring In G Major, Fancy Free, The Concert

Academy of Music, Philadelphia, PA; May 7, 2015

Lori Ibay

Lauren Fadeley and James Ihde with  Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ In G Major.  Photo Alexander Iziliaev

Lauren Fadeley and James Ihde with Pennsylvania Ballet
in Jerome Robbins’ In G Major.
Photo Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet presented a colorful and lighthearted program with A Tribute to Jerome Robbins. The Thursday evening audience at the Academy of Music on opening night buzzed with chatter, but quieted down as Angel Corella briefly took the stage before the curtain rose to share his excitement about the upcoming 2015-2016 season, his first season choosing the full repertoire as Artistic Director.

The program began with the company premiere of In G Major, set to Maurice Ravel’s Gershwin-inspired, jazzy score. The corps of twelve was bright and energetic in pastels and stripes designed by Erté, dancing with vigor and buoyancy as six couples frolicking on the beach on a summer day. Lauren Fadeley floated in like a cool breeze off the water, costumed in all white. Fun and flirty with the corps of six men, Fadeley had a radiant smile to match her movement, which seemed to reach the dark corners of the theater like sunlight reflecting off water.

James Ihde, also in white, commanded attention with his grace and serenity, also physically towering over the petite corps. As a partner to Fadeley, Ihde was steady though serious, their pas de deux smooth and seamless. At times, the pair seemed to glide over water, rolling towards and away from each other like gentle ocean waves. The ensemble truly seemed to enjoy themselves in the final movement, looking like a group of beach-goers kicking up their heels in the sand.

Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.  Photo Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free.
Photo Alexander Iziliaev

Fancy Free was first performed over seventy years ago, though if Robbins had choreographed this piece today, he may have had some sexual harassment grievances to deal with. However, transported to a different era, Arian Molina Soca, Alexander Peters, and Ian Hussey were boyish and endearing as three sailors on shore leave on a hot summer night in 1944.

Though they comically taunt each other and the too-forgiving Marria Cosentino (you might be able to flirt with a woman, but don’t ever touch her purse!), the men were most impressive in their solos. Peters wowed the audience with his double tours landing in full splits, and his acrobatic sequence of leaps. Hussey was a sweet, “aw shucks” sailor, charming and romantic opposite Lillian DiPiazza, who danced gracefully in their pas de deux. Arian Molina Soca, making his company debut as a Principal Guest Artist from Ballet Nacional de Cuba, was silly yet seductive in his solo, astonishing with his precisely-controlled, perfectly-centered pirouettes.

The evening concluded with The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody), which also displayed the company’s lighter, humorous side. The performance was nearly stolen by the first artist to take the stage, pianist Martha Koeneman, who ceremoniously took her seat at the piano on the stage before playing masterfully, as she had all evening. The dancers who followed also fully embraced their colorful characters, with each entrance seeming more hilarious than the previous.

Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ The Concert.  Photo Alexander Iziliaev

Pennsylvania Ballet in Jerome Robbins’ The Concert.
Photo Alexander Iziliaev

The laughter from the audience became louder and louder as the scenarios became more and more absurd. The ensemble showed its mastery of comedic timing, with standout performances from Amy Aldridge as the fanatical piano-hugging concert-goer, Ian Hussey as the fed up but submissive husband, and Brooke Moore as his dominating wife. The dancing (yes, there is some dancing) was sometimes intentionally reckless, overly passionate, ill-timed, and ridiculous – but always funny, proving that the piece was executed perfectly by the dancers. The women’s corps in particular, with its satirical sequence of missteps and mishaps, was spectacularly hilarious.

Pennsylvania Ballet closes its 2014-2015 season with Keigwin, Fonte, & Forsythe at the Merriam Theater from June 11 -14. The 2015-2016 season begins in October and boasts eight company premieres, six company favorites, and one world premiere. For more information see www.paballet.org.