There’s a buzz about BalletX, a new dance company bringing fresh energy and innovative movement to the scene in Philadelphia. While their approach is grounded in classical ballet technique, BalletX stretches and morphs itself into a funky contemporary style. The dancers are athletic, fearless, and completely individual—yet they present themselves with the sincere closeness of a happy ensemble. Audiences can’t help but feel the love.
Co-directors Matthew Neenan and Christine Cox, both former Pennsylvania Ballet dancers, seem to outdo themselves with each program. Their most recent creation titled “Right to Spring” is a one-hour production about the winter thaw and how this seasonal change affects us spiritually and emotionally. Choreographed by Neenan and musically arranged and performed by Matthew Pierce (of the Lake Trout Band), we are taken on a journey from winter’s enforced and impatient dormancy to spring’s warm and joyous sense of abandon. The band is onstage throughout the entire piece, stressing the importance of nature’s music and our sensitivity to its rhythms. Meanwhile the dancers tackle difficult and intricate movements, slither under sheer fabric, play a suggestive game of spin the bottle, and present flowers to unsuspecting patrons in the first row. With such moments of humor and delight, every person in the audience must want to jump onstage and join in on the action! I know I did.
BalletX’s next program, running July 23-27 at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, will be an evening of all new works by female choreographers. I anticipate it to be yet another refreshingly original dance experience. In the meantime, you can check them out at www.balletx.org to get a glimpse of who they are and what they’re about…
See for yourselves why people are talking about BalletX. The buzz just keeps getting louder!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
There's a story Kate Walker, director of dance at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, loves to tell about Emma Sutherland, who just graduated from the program. "We were watching the students run a really long, challenging piece," Walker recalls. "Several kids couldn't quite make it through. But Emma did make it all the way to the end, which is when she walked up to us faculty and very politely asked, 'May I please go throw up?' "