Philadelphia’s BalletX contemporary ballet took to the Staller Center stage on Nov. 20 and showed the audience that ballet does not have to be boring.
The group, founded in 2005 by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, has received exceptional reviews from The Dance Journal, Philadelphia Citizen and The New York Times, who said the dancers are “among America’s best.”
The performance at Stony Brook University began with a piece entitled “Increasing,” choreographed by Neenan which featured 10 dancers. The piece, accompanied by Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, D.956, Movement I was first premiered in 2014. The choreography was a great introduction to the marriage between contemporary dance and ballet that the group is so well-known for.
One attendant was especially surprised by the playful, untraditional ballet choreography.
“I was a dancer, so watching how they have a lot of flexed feet, it’s very unnatural to see because I was classically trained in ballet my whole life,” Michaela Reitzel, a sophomore marine biology major, said. “Seeing a twist with flexed feet is really interesting to see because I haven’t seen a lot of ballet choreography like that. I think it’s very unique.”
Ballet as an art form is popularly known to be extremely technical and rigorous. Fundamentals of the sport like poise, physical strength, flexibility and the concept of perfection have proven ballet to be physically and mentally challenging. Furthermore, the image of a typical ballet dancer is often that of a white and extremely thin dancer. BalletX challenges these elements of ballet that have historically been accepted as the standard.
The performance by BalletX proved that the world of dance can be much more inclusive and creative than the stereotypical pretentious ballet environment.
“Fancy Me,” a duet between Shawn Cusseaux and Andrea Yorita, was the second piece in the show. Choreographed by Caili Quan, “Fancy Me” was exciting and unexpected. The R&B sound of “Groove Me” by King Floyd which carried the fluid and hip-hop inspired movements of Yorita and Cusseaux, is not common within the ballet atmosphere. Audience members were pleasantly surprised by the romantic piece inspired by the sounds and fashion of the 1970s and expressed their appreciation for the performance with tumultuous applause.
Another duet, titled “It’s Not a Cry,” was performed by Skylar Lubin and Pete Leo Walker. The piece was a steep contrast to the fun performance before. The emotional dance was a “compelling portrait of a relationship” and “explores the passing of strength between the partners during dark times,” as described by choreographer Amy Seiwert.
After intermission the group performed their final piece, “Steep Drop, Euphoric.” The complex piece featured all 10 dancers who presented breath-taking partner work. The pairs displayed great trust in each other as dramatic lifts and falls in the pas de deuxs represented the highs and lows of the “road to bliss,” that choreographer Nicole Fonte personified.
BalletX’s performance proved that the group is dedicated to their goal of challenging “the boundaries of classical ballet and other dance forms by encouraging formal experimentation” while preserving the fundamental concepts of performance that are loved and appreciated by lovers of dance.