Focus on Dance

Posted: September 11, 2009

(www.philadanceprojects.org, 215-546-2552)    - Merilyn Jackson

Pennsylvania Ballet. The 46th season opens Oct. 21 with the world premiere of Matthew Neenan's 12th ballet for the troupe. But the Balanchine-based company is also remembering whence it came, dancing the master choreographer's Theme and Variations. The program concludes with the rousing Agnes deMille-Aaron Copland favorite, Rodeo. (www.paballet.org, 215-893-1955)    - Ellen Dunkel

Dance Celebration. This Annenberg-based program brings in the world's great touring dance troupes and starts off the year with a world premiere, Thank You, Gregory, honoring tap legends and starring the late Gregory Hines' brother Maurice. But presenter Randy Swartz knows his audience, and brings back favorites every few years - such as BodyVox, from Portland, Ore., here for its fourth visit since 2001 (Oct. 22 to 24). The athletic dance group, led by Momix and Pilobolus alums Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, premieres Water Bodies, featuring synchronized swimming and strange creatures of the deep. Two-time Bessie Award-winner Doug Elkins last performed here at the Painted Bride 10 years ago with Train to Philly. He returns as Doug Elkins & Friends and lets loose with his gender-bending Fräulein Maria, turning The Sound of Music into a funhouse featuring three Marias, cross-dressing nuns, and a reportedly heartbreaking hip-hop solo to "Climb Every Mountain." Nov. 12 to 14.

If you think they can dance on those TV shows, you haven't seen River North Chicago Dance Company, whose sensational choreography, sexy but tasteful costuming, and brilliant music choices work jazz, ballroom, and contemporary modern dance into an elegant movement palette. The company's Jan. 13-16 run, its fourth here in 10 years, includes five premieres for its loving Philly audience. STREB is MacArthur genius and "Pop Action" choreographer Elizabeth Streb's flying dance company - her dancers also have to be stuntmen and -women to hurl their bodies around on trusses and flying machines in her current show, Brave (Feb. 4 to 6). It was commissioned by F.A.R. (Future Arts Research) at Arizona State in collaboration with ASU's Arts, Media and Engineering Department, MIT's Media Lab, and circus greats Noe and Ivan Espana, all of which brought the new "Whizzing Gizmo" into being.

   - M.J.

Forget tutus and tights. The Bad Boys of Dance (April 15 to 17) is a high-energy, high-talent show that turns skeptics into dance lovers. The company, led by international ballet star Rasta Thomas, dances all over the world, combining ballet, hip-hop, jazz, capoeira, and other genres. (For all Dance Celebration events, 215-898-3900, www.pennpresents.org)   

- E.D.

Philadanco. The Philadelphia Dance Company, Philadanco to its many friends, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a world premiere by Christopher Huggins, and is also bringing back Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's 1995 Batty Moves, a nod to the female derriere. Nov. 12 to 15. (215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org)

   - E.D.

BalletX. This fine modern ballet company continues its mission of bringing new works to town with a fall program of world premieres by former Pennsylvania Ballet dancer Meredith Rainey, California-based choreographer Alex Ketley, and BalletX co-artistic director Matthew Neenan. The spring season will include at least one new ballet, by New Yorker Thang Dao. Nov. 19 to 22 and April 14 to 18. (215-546-7824 or www.wilmatheater.org)

   - E.D.

The Nutcracker. There's more than one way to crack a nut - in fact, each December there are dozens. The classic way is with Pennsylvania Ballet's Balanchine version (215-893-1955, www.paballet.org), which will also be seen this year at Washington's Kennedy Center. Suburban options include West Chester's Brandywine Ballet (610-696-2711, www.brandywineballet.com), International Ballet Classique in Aston (610-459-9221, www.academyballetru.com), and BalletNJ in Voorhees (856-768-9503, www.balletnj.org).

Or, for something different, there's ContempraDance Theatre's hip-hop/ballet Philly-Nutt-Crak-Up at Drexel University (610-225-3007, www.contempradancetheatre.org).    - E.D.

Koresh Dance Company. Next spring will mark the first time Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, sets a work on a Philadelphia company. In addition to Naharin's Passomezzo, the April 29-May 2 program will include a new piece by company artistic director Roni Koresh. (215-985-0420, www.koreshdance.org)

   - E.D.

Pennsylvania Ballet II. It's not until May 6, but I'm already antsy to see the company's quartet of major works: George Balanchine's Square Danceand Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Requiem for a Rose, plus the Philadelphia premieres of Jerome Robbins' 1953 Afternoon of a Faunand William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, to Thom Willems' metallic score. This ought to be on your calendar. (215-336-2000 or www.paballet.org.)

   - M.J.

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