STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Forget dancing with the stars. How about dancing under the stars? On May 30, audiences can watch contemporary dancers tell their stories through movement as part of Longwood Gardens’ Summer Performance Series.
BalletX, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary during the 2015-2016 season, is paired with PHILADANCO. Both companies will perform in the Gardens’ Open Air Theatre.
Christine Cox, BalletX’s founder and Artistic and Executive Director, said her company uses the language of ballet to tell the stories of today. They focus on creating new work by internationally renowned choreographers to make sure performances are relevant for today’s audiences.
BalletX features 10 “athletic, talented, and powerful dancers,” she said. They try to push the envelope, to take risks, and to explore what their bodies are capable of and how to fully express themselves through movement. Cox said BalletX shows always have an element of surprise, too.
She’s excited to be performing at Longwood, especially with PHILADANCO, which was founded in 1970 and is known for its innovation, creativity, and preservation of predominantly African-American traditions in dance.
“This is the first time our two companies are sharing the stage and it is an honor to perform with this legendary company in such beautiful and vibrant environment,” she said.
The companies will alternate in the space, with BalletX performing a piece or two, then PHILADANCO taking the stage. Cox thinks this format will allow the audience to get a sense of the “essence and variety each company has to offer.”
Three of BalletX’s works are: “Slump,” choreographed by Joshua L. Peugh, which is a wild, aggressive dance about courtship and the instinctual rituals of mating set to Klezmer, jazz, and mambo music; “It’s Not a Cry,” choreographed by Amy Seiwert, which is a gripping portrait of a struggling relationship set to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah”; and “The Last Glass,” choreographed by company co-founder Matthew Neenan, which is a ballet that slowly awakens like a city, inspired by the wild street-parade sound of American indie-rock band Beirut.
Cox said they’ll perform some of their favorite pieces from the company’s repertory that represent the diversity in genre, music, and movement they offer. Each choreographer’s voice is unique, she said.
“It’s a sampler of sorts that gives everyone a glimpse into what we do,” she said.
One of the things she likes to get across is that anyone can dance.
“Movement is such a universal language and I feel it is incredibly important that we celebrate the moving body and all its possibilities,” Cox said.
BalletX moves to tell a story and to make audiences feel something, a power that all the arts has.
“It can’t be overlooked how powerful the arts can be. There is no right or wrong with art. It’s just about feeling,” she said. “You don’t have to be a trained ballerina to feel something during a BalletX performance. It’s accessible and invaluable. It really is magical.”
And performing at venues in the city and the surrounding area, places like Longwood Gardens, means so much.
“We are firmly rooted in our city. Philadelphia is crucial to our identity,” Cox said. “No matter how far we travel on tour, or where our choreographers are from, we are a Philadelphia dance company and we love our city. We do everything we can to give back to the community and bring dance to as many people as we can.”
IF YOU GO
What: BalletX and PHILADANCO
When: Saturday, May 30 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Open Air Theatre at Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, PA
Tickets: Reserved seating: $26-$46. Call (215) 893-1999 or visit http://longwoodgardens.org/events-and-performances/events/philadanco-and-balletx-performance
Info.: To learn more about BalletX, visit www.balletx.org.