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Valentine Weekend Performance

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Did anyone out there make it to the Academy of Music this weekend?

There were five of us who went, and three of us really enjoyed Matt Neenan's Le Travail (inspired by the Degas exhibit at the Art Museum). Sixty percent -- that's passing! and four of us thought the set design quite impressive (80%). (The set design and costumes were done by Steven Weber.) The colors of the huge panels that moved across the stage definitely said impressionism, and costumes of the dancers evoked memory of Degas works wonderfully. Riolama was beautiful, and the throws they did with tiny Jennifer Smith had us catching our breath. I thought it an entertaining work which I hope they keep in the rep. The panels made for an interesting way of moving from segment to segment of the ballet and I liked it!

Four of the five us really enjoyed Carmina Burana. Two of us definitely preferred parts of Kent Stowall's choreography and staging and found part of Butler's less intresting especially the opening which is only chorus and orchestra opposed to Stowalls which opens with the huge "wheel of fortune" suspended over the dancers. But it was hugely entertaining. And the performance we saw was danced beautifully. The section where the girl in white (Meredith Reffner) is rejected left me feeling her pain and longing -- the woman seated next to me whom I did not know was wiping away tears. Arantxa was quite seductive in her animal print, and there was one leap that Heidi Cruz made into Meredith Rainey that gave us all a jolt. One of our dinner companions was really excited about the section where the four soloists were in red and the lifts the men (David Krensing and Alexei Borovik) did with Arantxa Ochoa and Meredith Reffner. He kept saying that Meredith looked like she went on forever --- like she was ten feet long!

It was a wonderful evening. Too bad the snow came when it did and we had to cut short our stay in the city -- but we saw we had a window of opportunity to leave at 8:00 on Sunday morning and took it -- it took us three hours and ten minutes to make the normally under two hour trip home. Our friends decided to order breakfast and left about 9:30 -- it took them five hours.

Hope everyone here in the East enjoys their snow day!

The ballets are being performed again next weekend -- 1st cast (the dancers we saw) is performing Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, and the other cast is performing Friday and Saturday nights next weekend. If you have a chance -- go, I think you'll enjoy it.

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I was there on Saturday night too! Fortunately, I live in the city so I was able to go home that night...I'm sure you had fun on Sunday trying to get home, though!

Interesting to read your reaction to Le Travail- I loved the costumes, and agree that the throws with Jennifer Smith were one of the evening's highlights (the moment when she was thrown onstage was also one of the highlights of Neenan's Vicissitudes, imo). I was also really impressed with Sarah Edery as the yellow girl- beautiful turns, probably the finest performance I've seen from her to date. However, something about the piece didn't quite gel for me- from the program notes and articles I've read, I gather that Neenan was trying to portray what's it's like for dancers behind the scenes, but I didn't get a terrific sense of that through the choreography- I think if I'd been closer and been able to see facial expressions better, I might have seen that theme more clearly. Also, although they were pretty, I found the scenic panels cumbersome and noisy (especially during the score's quiet moments.) And speaking of the score, it was pretty bombastic in parts in a way that I didn't think matched the action on stage. Still, I'd like to hear more from Maggio, the composer (love to have him do the score for a story ballet!) and overall, this was head and shoulders above Neenan's last work for the company.

Carmina didn't really wow me either, although I still enjoyed it- I thought the corps looked a little ragged (actually, the same was true in Neenan's piece). Meredith (Reffner) was lovely in her "white gown" sections- she demonstrated solid technique and I give her the evening's Best Actress award. Arantxa Ochoa was typically delightful- I particularly enjoyed her trio section with the two men. Pennsylvania Ballet has a lot of wonderful female dancers these days- many of the men, while quite talented, unfortuantely seem to be too old or too young to serve as equal partners. But Borovik and Krensing performed admirably- I don't mean to slight them- that's just a general impression I've had about the company as of late.

I, too, would encourage others to check out the program next weekend. Who knows, by then we might have less than two feet of snow on the ground! ;)

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