Prodigal Son

by George Balanchine, music by
February 5, 2015 to February 8, 2015 Merriam Theater

Christopher Wheeldon's Polyphonia // music by György Ligeti
 
Matthew Neenan's Shift to Minor // music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 
 
Witness a moving masterpiece in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son. Set to an original score by Sergei Prokofiev, Prodigal Son tells the well-known biblical story through touching dramatic scenes and soaring acrobatic movement. Striking and stripped-down, Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia experiments with traditional ballet, resulting in inventive steps and duets. With an adventurous choice in composer György Ligeti, Polyphonia helped solidify Wheeldon’s place in ballet history. Heralded by The New York Times as “one of today’s foremost dance poets,” Choreographer in Residence Matthew Neenan conceives his 16th commission for the Company to round out this eclectic program. 
CASTING
PROGRAM NOTES

George Balanchine

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine (1904-1983) is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet. He came to the United States in late 1933, at the age of 29, accepting the invitation of the young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96), whose great passions included the dream of creating a ballet company in America. At Balanchine's behest, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of an American academy of ballet that would eventually rival the long-established schools of Europe.This was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934, the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration. Several ballet companies directed by the two were created and dissolved in the years that followed, while Balanchine found other outlets for his choreography. Eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983.Balanchine's more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934),Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). His final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky's Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982.He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway's On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie.A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance. This had an inestimable influence on the growth of dance in America. Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by all the major classical ballet companies throughout the world.Founded by Balanchine student Barbara Weisberger, Pennsylvania Ballet is a company steeped in Balanchine style and repertoire.
 
Christopher Wheeldon
English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet. He trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Company 1991–3. For The Royal Ballet he created the one-act ballets Tryst(2002), DGV: Danse à grande vitesse(2006), Electric Counterpoint (2008), ‘Trespass’ (Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, in collaboration with Alastair Marriott) andAeternum (2013, winner of the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production), and the full-length ballets Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 2011 (The Royal Ballet's first full-length commission in 20 years) and The Winter's Tale in 2014.
Wheeldon was born in Yeovil and trained at The Royal Ballet School. In 1991 he won gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne with a solo of his own creation and that year entered The Royal Ballet, where Kenneth MacMillan encouraged him in his choreographic work. In 1993 Wheeldon joined New York City Ballet, promoted to soloist in 1998. He created his first work for NYCB, Slavonic Dances, in 1997 and became the company’s first Resident Choreographer in 2001. Works for NYCB include Polyphonia (2001, winner of a London Critics’ Circle Award and the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production), An American in Paris (2005) and The Nightingale and the Rose (2007).
Wheeldon choreographs regularly for leading companies, including Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. In 2007 he founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and became the first British choreographer to create a new work for the Bolshoi Ballet. In 2012 he collaborated with Alastair Marriott on the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games, watched by 23.2 million people worldwide.
 
Matthew Neenan
Matthew Neenan began his dance training at the Boston Ballet School and with noted teachers 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, Matthew danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet where he danced numerous principal roles in works by George Balanchine, John Cranko, Paul Taylor, Peter Martins, Val Caniparoli, Jorma Elo, Lila York, Meredith Rainey, Jeffrey Gribler, Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Robbins. In October 2007, Matthew was named Choreographer in Residenceat the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Matthew’s choreography has been featured by the Pennsylvania Ballet (totaling 12 commissions), BalletX, The Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Juilliard Dance, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Sacramento Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Indiana University, Opera Company of 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 2006, Matthew received the New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute’s Fellowship Initiative Award. Matthew’s “Carmina Burana”, “As It’s Going”, and “11:11” was performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet at New York City Center in 2006 & 2007.  In 2008, he received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. This marks his fourth time receiving the PCA fellowship. In October 2009, Matthew was the grand-prize winner of Sacramento Ballet’s Capital Choreography Competition and was also the first recipient of the Jerome Robbins NEW Program Fellowship for his work At the border for Pennsylvania Ballet.
In 2005, Matthew co-founded BalletX with fellow dancer Christine Cox. BalletX had its world premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September 2005 and is now the resident dance company at the prestigious Wilma Theatre. BalletX has toured and performed Neenan’s choreography in New York City at The Skirball Center and Symphony Space, Jacob’s Pillow Festival, The Cerritos Center, Laguna Dance Festival, Spring to Dance Festival in St.Louis, and internationally in Cali, Colombia and Seoul, Korea.
Matthew was recently named Best Dance Talent by the editors of Philadelphia Magazine’s annual “Best of Philly” list.  He currently serves on the Dance USA / Philadelphia Advisory board and recently joined the Board of Trustees for National Dance USA in Nov. 2010.
 
 

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