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BalletX gets ready for season opener at the Wilma Theater

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STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON 
For 21st Century Media
Contemporary company BalletX, the resident dance company of the Wilma Theater, opens its ninth season with Fall Series 2014. The performances include the work of three renowned choreographers: Jorma Elo, Olivier Wevers, and company co-founder Matthew Neenan.

“The works in the Fall Series are varied,” Neenan said. “There’s something for everyone.”
Elo, who is the resident choreographer of Boston Ballet, is known for combining classical ballet with elements of modern and contemporary dance. He worked with BalletX before and is thrilled to premiere his new work inspired by the film noir classic “Touch of Evil.”

Wevers brings his piece “Instantly Bound” to BalletX again (the company premiered it in 2013). It’s an abstract piece exploring gun violence and the devastating effects that leaves in its wake.
Neenan choreographed the work titled “Increasing.” He was commissioned to create it for and it premiered at the Vail International Dance Festival in Colorado in August. Its inclusion in the BalletX Fall Series marks the work’s East Coast and Philadelphia premieres.

The piece is set to Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major performed by an on-stage string quintet comprised of alumni of The Curtis Institute of Music. Neenan said the company wants to do more with live music because of the sophistication that adds to each piece. He has used the Schubert music before, but for a site-specific work (the space helped to dictate his choreography). This time, on the company’s home stage at the Wilma, it’s all about the sight and the sound.

“I have been doing a lot of narrative and more conceptual work in the past year, so I really wanted to do something about pure dance and just in response to the music, which is very rich and voluptuous,” he said. The composition has “playful richness and dramatic intensity within the arrangement.”
In his work, 10 dancers — five men and five women — will take the stage and almost never stop moving. “It’s very arduous,” he said, “and physically demanding.”
But pushing themselves — physically and artistically — is nothing new to the performers and creatives of BalletX.

When the company began, Neenan did most of the choreography. Now, they use many outside choreographers, which adds interest and intrigue. “We’ve given them free range to do whatever they wanted,” he said. “And now we make sure that all of the pieces [in each performance] have a different look and different tone for the audience’s pleasure.”

This season, they’re bringing in work, too, that other companies have performed, “that we had seen and knew would look good on BalletX,” he said. After the Fall Series, the season continues with the Winter Series in February and the Summer Series in July.

BalletX’s goal is to challenge the boundaries of classical ballet by encouraging experimentation while preserving rigorous technique. It aims to be beauty and precision with an edge.
“We’re always changing the game,” Neenan said, “and stirring the pot.”

IF YOU GO

What: Fall Series 2014 by BalletX
When: Nov. 19-23
Where: The Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St., Philadelphia.
Tickets: $35-$40 with discounts for seniors and students.
Info.: For more information, call (215) 546-7824 or visit www.balletx.org.

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