Sunday morning, Haglund snagged the last available senior fare ticket on the Corella Express out of Penn Station bound for Philly. A little over an hour later the train's tailhooks caught the arresting cables while going about 150 mph as we accelerated into the 30 Street Station. You see, acceleration is the only thing that the Corella Express does. No brakes. No downshift. And certainly no drogue parachute on the back of the last car. The Corella Express is engineered to accelerate. Period.
There was enough time to wander around beautiful Philadelphia and have a bite of lunch before heading over to the majestic Academy of Music which is one of the grandest, oldest opera houses in the United States. Haglund was there to see Angel Corella’s Pennsylvania Ballet wind up its fall season with a program entitled Speed & Precision. On the bill was Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, and Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse – all of it danced to a huge live orchestra whose music was rich and vibrant.
McGregor is not Haglund’s cup of tea. So, he will lightly skip over Chroma and only say that the content was the same as most everything else McGregor has done: an amalgam of cabaret kicks and slithering, gymnastics, joint snapping and yanking – all carried by forceful lighting and fab music by White Stripes and Joby Talbot. The Pennsylvania Ballet dancers managed all of it with great spirit and energy. Chroma didn’t tax the artists' dance or theatrical skills, only their cartilage and ligaments.
The architecture of Concerto Barocco, led by Lillian Di Piazza, Marria Cosentino and James Ihde, revealed strong symmetries, vivid details, and even some new discoveries. The eight women in the corps de ballet incorporated the use of their heads and eyes into their epaulement with great clarity and uniformity. There was a striking moment early on when all of a sudden all of the women turned their heads toward the audience. Haglund had never noticed that before, possibly because he mostly sits in the cheap seats in his home theater where NYCB performs the ballet. Whatever the reason, that particular moment was a very pleasing, stylish detail that he’ll look for from now on. The Repetiteur for Concerto Barocco is Kyra Nichols. In her more than three decades at NYCB, she logged plenty of performances of each ballerina's role. How nice it was to see the ballet as she remembers it. There were some parts which seemed demure if compared to how NYCB dances it, but overall the performance was quite stunning.
The audience loved, loved, loved Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse. What’s not to love? It is set to Michael Nyman’s driving score MGV: Musique à Grande Vitesse (translation: high speed music) that was composed for the ceremonial opening of the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse - high speed train) corridor between Paris and Lille. It is one of the fastest trains in the world, streaming through the French countryside at 190 mph - even faster than the Corella Express.
The leotard costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant revealed the dancers' sleek power as they tore through the fast curves of Wheeldon’s high speed choreography. The imaginative scenery included ribbons of gray metal road that ran toward the back of the stage and suddenly stopped in twisted, uprooted fashion like wreckage. The lighting was shadowy, sometimes originating from the back of the stage.
Elizabeth Wallace & Lorin Mathis Edward Barnes, Amy Aldridge & Alexander Peters, Lauren Fadeley & James Ihde, and Mayara Pineiro & Arian Molina Soca led the outstanding cast on Sunday that included a corps of 16 who were simply phenomenal. The opening corps movement with stationary bodies sharply shifting left and right to the rumbling rhythms of Nyman’s musical train barreling down the tracks was riveting. All of the PdD were in very capable hands. Lorin Mathis Edward Barnes had the benefit of dancing his role at every one of the five performances; so, maybe that’s why he had a little edge on the others who had to share their roles with another cast. For those who have not seen this ballet danced by NYCB or the Royal Ballet, let’s just say that it has a lot of arm signals in it, especially toward the end, which we wish Wheeldon would edit down or add steps to the section. That little complaint aside, DGV is one of his major abstract works.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, metal wreckage by Bryan Oknyansky, is bestowed upon the cast of DGV who brought the audience to its feet. One can only imagine what is going to happen in Philly next March when Angel Corella unleashes his dancers in his new Don Quixote. Can. Not. Wait.