On Edge

by Helen Pickett, Matthew Neenan, and Alexander Ekman, music by Ane Brun, Mikael Karlsson and Erik Satie
November 9, 2017 to November 12, 2017 Merriam Theater

A program of three ballets as vibrant and crisp as autumn itself. On Edge will do just that—push choreography to its limits in new and exciting ways. This program will include a world premiere by esteemed choreographer Helen Pickett as well as a new work from our very own Matthew Neenan. Capping off On Edge is Episode 31, an exhilarating piece by Alexander Ekman that is as fearless as it is memorable. 

One of the most in-demand choreographers working today- whom critics have called “stunningly original”, “extraordinarily imaginative” and “visually and aurally dynamic”- Helen Pickett will be creating her first work for Pennsylvania Ballet.

Lauded as “fresh, touching, musical and original”, Alastair Macauley of the New York Times called him one of the most appealing and singular choreographic voices in ballet today.

Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman is known for his fast-paced timing, witty humor and clever choreography and Episode 31 does not disappoint. This piece is a true test of stamina and endurance while celebrating the importance of working as a team.  



Helen Pickett, Matthew Neenan, and Alexander Ekman

Helen Pickett

Helen Pickett was born in San Diego, California and studied dance in her hometown and at The San Francisco Ballet School under the direction of Lew Christensen, Michael Smuin, and Helgi Tomasson. Ms. Pickett danced with Ballet Frankfurt under the direction of William Forsythe for 11 years. In 2005, she received her first choreographic commission from Boston Ballet under the direction of Mikko Nissinen. Pickett has created more than 30 ballets in the U.S. and Europe over the last 10 years and has served as the Resident Choreographer for Atlanta Ballet since 2012. Ms. Pickett was awarded a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute in 2006. Over the next two years, Ms. Pickett choreographed for Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Louisville Ballet, and Philadelphia’s Ballet X. In 2007, Dance Magazine named Ms. Pickett one of the 25 to Watch and a year later, she received a Choreographic Residency from Jacob’s Pillow. She also became one of the first choreographers to receive the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works Grant. From 2009 through 2011, Ms. Pickett created new ballets for Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet West, Atlanta Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

In 2015, Ms. Pickett was named the Winner of the Best Choreographer and Best Dance production of Atlanta. That same year, Ms. Pickett premiered her first full-length ballet, Camino Real, by Tennessee Williams to critical acclaim. This season is the first-time Pennsylvania Ballet will perform a work by Ms. Pickett.  

Source: http://www.helenpickett.com/biography.html


Matthew Neenan

Matthew Neenan began his dance training at the Boston Ballet School with Nan C. Keating and Jacqueline Cronsberg. He later attended the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and The School of American Ballet in New York. From 1994-2007, Mr. Neenan danced with Pennsylvania Ballet where he performed numerous principal roles in works by George Balanchine, John Cranko, Paul Taylor, Peter Martins, Val Caniparioli, Jorma Elo, Lila York, Meredith Rainey, Christopher Wheeldon, and Jerome Robbins. In October 2007, Mr. Neenan was named Choreographer in Residence at Pennsylvania Ballet.

Mr. Neenan’s choreography has been featured and performed by Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet X, The Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Milwaukee Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, Julliard Dance, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Sacramento Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Indiana University, Opera Philadelphia, and LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts (NYC), among others. He has received numerous awards and grants for his choreography from the National Endowment of the Arts, Dance Advance funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Choo San Goh Foundation, and the Independence Foundation. 

In 2005, Mr. Neenan co-founded Ballet X with fellow dancer Christine Cox. Ballet X had its world premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September 2005 and is now the resident dance company at the prestigious Wilma Theater. Ballet X has toured and performed Neenan’s choreography in New York City at The Joyce Theater, The Skirball Center, Symphony Space and Central Park Summerstage, Vail International Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, The Cerritos Center, Laguna Dance Festival, Spring to Dance Festival in St. Louis, and internationally in Cali, Colombia, and Seoul, Korea. 

Mr. Neenan performed with Pennsylvania Ballet from 1994 to 2007. In 2007, Pennsylvania Ballet named him Choreographer in Residence. In 1997, Pennsylvania Ballet performed Vicissitudes, Mr. Neenan’s first work choreographed for the company. He has since created 17 works for Pennsylvania Ballet, making this World Premiere his 18th commission.

Source: http://paballet.org/matthew-neenan


Alexander Ekman

Alexander Ekman was born in Stockholm in 1984. He trained at the Operans Balettelevskola and he has danced for the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, the Netherlands Dans Theater II and Cullberg Ballet. During his dance career, he worked with choreographers such as Jiri Kylian, Hans van Manen, Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, and Mats Ek.

While a member of Cullberg Ballet, Ekman received first prize at the international choreographic competition in Hannover for his piece The Swingle Sisters, for which he also claimed the critics’ prize. Following several successful choreographic works, Ekman created the choreography, set, and music to Flock Work for Netherlands Dans Theater II, which premiered in 2006 and became his international breakthrough as a choreographer. Since then, Ekman has choreographed works for Netherlands Dans Theater I, Ballet de L’Opera du Rhin, France, Bern Ballet, and Ballet Junior de Geneve, Switzerland, IT-Dansa in Spain, the Iceland Dance Company, as well as for the Gotenborg Ballet.

Source: http://alexekman.com/about/