Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Ballet’

Getting to the Nuts and Bolts of Trisha Brown

Posted May 11th, 2016

On April 29, Trisha Brown’s dance legacy was represented by three generations of her dancers in a rehearsal studio on the top floor of the Main Building at Drexel University for In the New Body: Nuts and Bolts. Facilitated by Lisa Kraus, the project director of Trisha Brown: In the New Body (a yearlong festival of Trisha Brown’s work) and a former Trisha Brown Dance Company (TBDC) dancer, Nuts and Bolts was an open rehearsal and discussion for audiences to observe a Pennsylvania Ballet company rehearsal for O zlozony / O composite, the Trisha Brown dance that will be part of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s “Balanchine and Beyond” program (June 9–12, tickets) at the Merriam Theater.

Photo by Johanna Austin

Photo by Johanna Austin

The Rehearsal

The floor was occupied by three Pennsylvania Ballet dancers—Ian Hussey (principal), Lillian de Piazza (soloist), and Aaron Anker (apprentice)—along with Neal Beasley, the youngest of the present TBDC legacy, who is setting Brown’s work on the dancers. The four of them were chatting, warming up, stretching, and reviewing the movement phrases they were about to share.

TB 4

Photo by Johanna Austin

Stephen Petronio, TBDC’s first male dancer, sat in the front row, and he was hard to miss. He’s very tall with a shiny bald head, black thick-rimmed glasses, and a stately gray tuft of hair hanging from his chin. He possessed the air of being very important—many people were trying to talk to him at all once before the rehearsal started.

Those familiar with Trisha Brown and her work know that her creative process as well as her work is far from conventional—and this was manifest as soon as Beasley counted the beat using the alphabet instead of numbers. After one or two cycles of the alphabet, Beasley revealed that using the alphabet instead of a dancer’s go-to counts of six or eight was a tradition that Brown’s dancers started.

Each movement was deliberate, and monotonous in its rhythm dynamic, evenly fitting the steady timing of the alphabet, with each position or transition filling up one count (or letter). The vocabulary he used while he practiced the phrases with the dancers was colorful and rhythmic—almost poetic.

Beasley’s directing style was less critical instruction and served more as a reminder for the dancers of the origin and intent of the movement for unification, as well as to capture Brown’s original intent.

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The Weekender: PA Ballet’s Forsythe and Kylian, Martha Graham Cracker, your dad, and other sources of inspiration

Posted June 13th, 2013
Dancers Ian Hussey & Amy Aldridge

Dancers Ian Hussey & Amy Aldridge in Artifact Suite

The Pennsylvania Ballet  premieres a set of absolutely stunning contemporary ballets, Forsythe & Kylián starting June 13th and running through the 16th at The Academy of Music, 240 South Broad Street (at Locust), prices ranging from $20 to $125. One of the world’s foremost choreographers, William Forsythe creates precisely angular mechanics wrapped up in gripping physicality and arresting simplicity in Artifact Suite. Czech-born choreographer Jiří Kylián illustrates a somber kinetic masterpiece with Forgotten Land. Finally, Matthew Neenan, choreographer in residence, presents his intimate, youthful 14th commission, Forgotten Land.Try before you buy: check out this teaser! (TIX)

Martha Graham Cracker

Martha Graham Cracker

Come see the enormous, hairy-armed woman who gave me my first lap dance, Martha Graham Cracker, perform this Thursday night at L’etage at 8pm. For a fee of just $15, be enthralled by a riotous evening of post-illusionist drag cabaret complete with an accompanying live band, opening set by Philly Gayborhood comedian Alejandro Morales, and a guest appearance by Typhoon Sugarpants. Ages 21+ only!

Spend Saturday, June 15th, at the outdoor crafts market on the Porch at 30th Street Station, 2955 Market Street. Browse handmade jewelry, prints, clothing, candles, ceramics, woodwork, stationary, children’s gifts and more items inexplicably adorn with birds than you can imagine, all day from 11am to 4pm. That’s right 30th Street Station is getting in on that crafts fair thing. (VENDORS)

Alie & the Brigade (formerly known as Movement Brigade) will perform live interactive choral dance in celebration of the Schuykill, INVISIBLRIVER, at 8pm this Sunday, June 16th, and again on the 23rd.An ensemble of ten will perform Elliot Harvey’s compositions,while leading audience members on the Schuylkill River Trail as choreographed by Alie Vidich. Anyone interested should meet at the parking lot next to the St. Joseph’s University Boathouse, 2200 Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. The event is completely free and age inclusive. PhiladelphiaDANCE Journal wrote about the sure to be dance spectacle here.


Paul DeLaurier, Dan Kern in Heroes

Paul DeLaurier, Dan Kern in Heroes

Lantern Theater Company  has extended its run until June 16th of Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of the French play Heroes showing at St. Stephen’s Theater, 10th & Ludlow Street. Winner of London’s Oliver Award for Best New Comedy, the play tails Mal Whyte, Dan Kern, and Peter DeLaurier as war heroes Gustave, Phillippe, and Henri as they plot their escape to Indochina or a picnic under a poplar tree (still undecided) from dictatorial captors, untrustworthy fellow prisoners, and far too many birthday parties. Bring someone’s dad on Sunday! He’ll get in for $10. (TIX)

–Maya Beale

Dance And (Healing) The Broken Body

Posted August 9th, 2012

Sarah Jordan has written extensively for national and regional magazines and newspapers. She is also the author of four books and a regular contributor to the Festival Blog.

Before Pilates.

How bad does it have to hurt to keep a dancer off the stage? Often, near catastrophically. Dancers, especially classically trained, continuously battle the limits of their bodies’ abilities to tolerate damaging physical repetition all for the sake of creating the illusion of effortless beauty on stage. Chances are that Georges Balanchine ballet that dazzled you with its speed, attack, and precise musicality, was performed by a dancer concealing a bum knee, murderously throbbing feet, and an aching back. Dancers are known for their high thresholds for pain and will push through most suffering, making physical accommodations to achieve the look they want and to perform their choreographic assignments. But there is a physical price they pay.

Dancers’ bodies require atypical strength, power, flexibility, agility, fine motor skills, and proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness. Properly trained, rested, fueled, hydrated, and lucky, a dancer’s body will thrive season after season. But when hurt, dancers often wait until they are in significant pain before seeking help. And the line between temporary discomfort and career-ending pain can be blurry.

Many young classical dancers will push past the levels of their training to perform challenging choreography, and set themselves up for ticking time-bomb injuries. Forcing turnout (the rotation of their leg outward at the hip) beyond normal range can eventually cause stress fractures in the spine or knee issues; going on pointe without necessary foot and ankle strength can create tendonitis, stretched ligaments, and bone spurs; improperly strengthened lower abdominal muscles and hamstrings can lead to their own chain reaction of problems. Dancers dance through the pain for their art—and often for fear of losing work or being branded as a dancer who is “injury prone.” According to the US Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics), 90 percent of all dancers get injured.

But change is afoot for encouraging safer dance practices. I talked with three dance veterans to learn how attitudes towards dancing injured are evolving and messages of preventative wellness are being preached to younger dancers. New programs such as The University of the Art’s Body Pathways, the brain child of associate professor of dance Jennifer B. Johnson, is a powerful model for dancer education and preventive health care.

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Fly Creation: More Behind The Scenes Of PA Ballet’s Peter Pan

Posted May 11th, 2012

Suspended Wendy (Evelyn Kocak).

This Saturday and Sunday are the last two performances for Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan at the Academy of Music. We recently heard from two of the dancers (playing Peter Pan and Wendy), but we were also interested in the behind-the-scenes perspective in staging the complex flying sequences. For this production, the flying is not controlled by “eight guys standing in the wings” but is programmed, fully automated, and computer-controlled. We caught up with Brett Perry, a dancer for the Trey McIntyre Project, who helped McIntyre stage the flying sequences on the PA Ballet dancers.

Live Arts: What does the ability to suspend bodies in air allow artistically? And how does the technology of this particular system aid in the creative process?

Brett Perry: I remember being with Trey and the dancers the first day in the theater when they started working with this new flying equipment and noticing how amazing the system was but also how many challenges it would present. When Houston Ballet did Peter Pan in 2002 and 2004, all of the flying was done manually by eight tech guys. This time at Pennsylvania Ballet, all of the flying is computerized. That has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that when all of the flying cues are put into the computer, it will be done forever. Anytime another ballet company wants to do Peter Pan, the flying will be ready to go with little more than a few tweaks here and there. The disadvantage to this system is that it is basically a robot—and robots do not have human instincts. The program doesn’t know when the dancer plies the next move, it is usually going to be a jump. All of those details have to be programmed in and the timing has to be perfect. I talked to Trey about the flying a few days into the rehearsals and he was saying how tedious and time-consuming the flying was. Making a change in the computer and getting it just right was taking hours to perfect. The ability to suspend bodies in the air offers weightlessness that you cannot achieve on the ground. Some partnering that Wendy and Peter do would never work without the assistance of flying.

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Dancin’ On Air: Pennsylvania Ballet Dancers Reveal How They Learned To Fly In Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan

Posted April 26th, 2012

Learning to fly while dancing.

In Pennsylvania Ballet’s upcoming production (and company premiere) of Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan there is a lot of air time. But this air time is not just for the audience to say, “Wow, they’re flying,” but it is used to create a vertical canvas where much of the choreography and evocative imagery of the ballet takes place. For this production, the flying is not controlled by “eight guys standing in the wings” but is programmed, fully automated, and computer-controlled. We caught up with PA Ballet dancers Evelyn Kocak, who plays Wendy, and Alexander Peters, who plays Peter Pan, to discuss this process and what it’s like to be truly dancin’ on air.

Live Arts: Do you enjoy the flying?

Evelyn Kocak: I do enjoy the flying. Generally, I’m scared of heights, but somehow
 the sensation of flying is not nerve-wracking for me, possibly because there’s motion involved.

Alexander Peters: This whole experience of flying has been new for me. At first I would say I was slightly nervous, but within a few rehearsal hours, I was fully comfortable and enjoying the weightless and anti gravitational sensations.

LA: How does it work?

Just don't look down.

Evelyn: Aside from the pixie dust, we wear a harness that has a wire attached to the back of it that suspends us. The wire is connected 
to a machine, which has been computer-programmed to make us fly.

Alexander: A majority of the rehearsal process was spent doing trial-and-error through the specific choreographed sequences. We are put in a harness around the hips and sent into the air, and then slowly adding in the choreographed tricks as we felt more comfortable.

LA: Talk about a typical rehearsal for Peter Pan.

Alexander: Trey really likes for us to be fully immersed in our characters throughout the entire rehearsal process, so even during the flying, we are very aware of how our characters would act and react to what is happening in the air.

Evelyn: A typical rehearsal for Peter Pan usually means running through the
 material of the ballet from start to finish. I’m preparing for the
 role of Wendy, so there’s been a particular emphasis on creating a character and story that is believable and authentic. Trey McIntyre
 has been working with all of us to establish a dialogue in our heads that will help physically communicate the character and action we’re trying to portray on stage.

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