Pennsylvania Ballet

'A Fancy 40th':  'Concerto Barocco,' 'The Four Temperaments,' 'Fancy Free'

by Lori Ibay

October 11, 2003 -- Merriam Theater at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA

On an unusually warm and sunny October afternoon, Pennsylvania Ballet continued its run of "A Fancy 40th," the first program of its much anticipated 40th anniversary season. As the Saturday matinee audience waited for the curtain to rise, the crowd buzzed about the program they were about to see-- a refreshing selection of works including George Balanchine’s "Concerto Barocco" and "The Four Temperaments," as well as Jerome Robbins’s "Fancy Free."

The performance began with "Concerto Barocco," set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Concerto in D minor for Two Violins," which featured principal dancers Amy Aldridge and Arantxa Ochoa personifying the concerto’s two stringed instruments. Both Aldridge and Ochoa deftly expressed the varying emotions in the music, provided by violin soloists Olga Mudryk and Lawrence Abramovitz. Soloist Meredith Rainey joined Ochoa for the second movement’s pas de deux, and his strong partnering perfectly complimented Ochoa’s fluid lines and impressive extension.

Backing the principal dancers, a solid corps of eight women expertly created ever-changing formations, weaving in and out of intricate patterns with an easy fluidity that gave the complex designs the illusion of simplicity. The crispness of the ensemble’s simple white costumes contrasted against the dark blue backdrop of the stage was matched by their clean unison, especially evident in the finale.

The next Balanchine piece, "The Four Temperaments," is based on the medieval belief that human personalities are made up of four different humors. Set to Paul Hindemith’s "Theme with Four Variations for String Orchestra and Piano," the piece, which is subtitled "A Dance Ballet Without Plot," explores four human dispositions-- the melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, and choleric.

Three themes, danced by three couples-- Jennifer Smith and Neil Marshall, Jennifer Gall and James Ihde, and Martha Chamberlain and James Ady-- first roused the audience’s interest with dynamic pas de deux sequences. The pairs drew in the attention of the crowd with their intensity, each giving a hint of their individual flair, then exiting the stage, leaving the audience wanting more. Thus the stage was set for the "four temperaments" that followed.

Alexander Iziliaev embodied "Melancholy" with his every motion, pose, and posture, while the corps’ smooth unison surrounded him with an aura of gloom. Iziliaev's attention to detail was apparent in every carefully placed arm and each purposeful motion -- misery emanated from his body. In contrast, Dede Barfield and David Krensing exploded onto the stage with frenzied motions, almost pressing the corps of four women to keep up with them. Their vibrant pairing and the corps’ sharp synchrony personified "Sanguinic." Alexei Borovik followed with "Phlegmatic," expressing the calm and unemotional temperament. Framed by the serene movement of a corps of four women, Borovik’s interpretation with unique style and grace (and beautifully arched feet) gave phlegmatic a distinctive personality. The final temperament, "Choleric," was danced by Heidi Cruz, with fervent movement and radiant energy. The intensity escalated to the final segment, when Cruz was joined by the entire ensemble in an almost overwhelming finale.

The final piece of the performance was the company’s premiere of Jerome Robbins’s "Fancy Free," a one-act ballet comedy depicting three sailors spending a carefree night on the town. James Ihde, Philip Colucci, and Edward Cieslak were the endearing sailors who try to out-do each other to gain the affections of passers-by Tara Keating and Riolama Lorenzo. The trio excelled in expressing the personalities of their individual characters as well as in their technique--the audience chuckled at the trio’s slapstick gestures and marveled at Colucci’s splits and tours.

Pennsylvania Ballet’s 40th anniversary season continues with "Dracula," "The Nutcracker," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Rhythm and Blues," and the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s "Swan Lake." With a fine start to the season, the company has given its audience much to look forward to.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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