STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
BalletX’s Fall Series 2015 gives new meaning to the phrase “beauty and the beast.” The contemporary ballet company offers “Beasts,” an evening of movement inspired by the sociological debate of nature versus nurture.
BalletX aims to expand the vocabulary of classical dance for all audiences and has since its founding in 2005. The company kicks off its 10th anniversary season with the world premiere of the full-length work by Brooklyn-born internationally-renowned choreographer Nicolo Fonte. His movements will explore the dramatic contrasts of learned behavior and primal human instincts and examine how biology and environment converge to form one’s identity. He’ll “stretch movement to its expressive limits by integrating a variety of dance genres to investigate the tension between nobility and savageness, and explore the ways in which humans are both nurtured and ‘of nature,’” according to the press release.
BalletX co-founder Christine Cox, who feels blessed to be in a city like Philadelphia that appreciates dynamic new work, said in a telephone interview that Fonte’s work is that: “He’s incredibly dynamic.”
She invited him to choreograph a full-length ballet two years ago and it was outstanding emotionally and physically, she said. So she invited him back to open the company’s anniversary season.
“I wanted to take a big step in our 10th anniversary season, showing we’re thinking big,” she said. “We’re trying to imagine contemporary ballet in a new light that aligns with classical ballet.”
To do that, the company collaborates with choreographers like Fonte, works with set designers, and offers live musical accompaniment.
“Usually, we’ve been more bare, focused on the dance,” she said. “Now we’re trying to elevate beyond the dance into the sets and the music. It feels right.”
In 2013, “Beautiful Decay,” Fonte’s first full-evening work to be presented in the United States, was BalletX’s first use of a large set, Cox said. Last year, a work by co-founder Matthew Neenan featured a commissioned composition and musicians on stage with the dancers. She hopes those kinds of collaborations continue and become the norm for her company.
She’s happy to bring “Beasts” and the Fall Series, which runs Nov. 18 through 22, to patrons, as usual, but the event also has a deeper meaning.
“It feels like it’s bridging our past and our future together,” Cox said. “This company is close to my heart because I’ve been in every layer of it – as a dancer, a choreographer, a co-founder, and now artistic and executive director. It’s so cliché, but it’s beyond our wildest dreams.”
Cox said BalletX, which encourages experimentation while preserving rigorous technique, is at a pivotal time in its history.
“We have 10 beautiful dancers, great staff,” she said. “I feel like we’re finding our cohesive rhythm.”
And she has big dreams for the next 10 years.
“I would love to see really explosive amounts of live music on the stage,” she said. “I would love the opportunity to bring visual artists in that could connect to the costume design. I would love to expand all of our collaborations in wonderful, meaningful ways.”
Her main goal has been and will continue to be “being able to create opportunities for artists to fulfill their dream ideas,” she said, including hers, which began 10 years ago and she hopes will go on for so much longer than 10 more.