Three exciting ballets new to Pennsylvania Ballet


Choreographer: Helen Pickett
Composer: Philip Glass

American choreographer Helen Pickett will create an exciting new work for us. Critics have called her pieces “stunningly original” and “extraordinarily imaginative.”

Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts



Choreographer: Matthew Neenan
Composer: Laurie Anderson

Lauded as “fresh, touching, musical, and original,” Matthew Neenan has been praised by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times as one of the most appealing and singular choreographic voices in ballet today.


Choreographer: Alexander Ekman

Composers: Ane Brun, Mikael Karlsson, Erik Satie

Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman is known for his fast-paced timing, witty humor, and clever choreography, and Episode 31 does not disappoint.

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Preludes for On Edge

Header Image: Jermel Johnson. Photo: © Nic D’Amico.


Merriam Theater
250 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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1 hour, 50 minutes with two intermissions

Choreographers & Composers


Choreographer, World Premiere

Helen Pickett, a San Diego, California native, currently resides Brooklyn, New York. 2017 marks 12 years for Helen as a choreographer. During this time she created over 35 ballets in the U.S. and Europe, and was resident choreographer for Atlanta Ballet from 2012-2017. Critic, Manning Harris, wrote that Camino Real, Helen’s first full-length ballet, would “become a legend in the dance world.”

Her commissions for 2017 and 2018 include Tulsa Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, a new full length for Scottish Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, and Voices of the Amazon, a new London musical dance theater production. In recent seasons she choreographed for the Chicago Lyric Opera, Dresden Ballet, Vienna State Ballet, Boston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, among others. In addition to Helen’s contemporary ballet choreography, she has collaborated, as a choreographer and actress with installation video artists and filmmakers, including Eve Sussman, Toni Dove and Laurie Simmons. She danced with Ballet Frankfurt, director, William Forsythe for 11 years, and performed with the New York theater company Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth LeCompte, for five years. She was nominated for the Isadora Duncan Dance Award in 2013, and was won Best Choreographer of Atlanta in 2014 and 2015. She is the producer and creator of the workshops, Choreographic Essentials and Steps into Courage, the motivational creative workshop for the general public. In 2006, Dance Europe published Helen’s article, Considering Cezanne. In 2012, Emory University published her writing for the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, director Martha Fineman, that appeared on the Emory University School of Law website. Helen earned her Masters of Fine Arts in 2011 from Hollins University. In 2016, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, for her contribution to the arts, and named Visiting Distinguished Artist from North Carolina School of the Arts, dean, Susan Jaffe. For more information please visit:


Choreographer, Episode 31

Alexander Ekman was born in Stockholm in 1984 and trained at the Operans Balettelevskola from 1994 to 2001. From 2001 to 2002, he danced at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2002, he joined Netherlands Dans Theater II (NDT II), where he danced until 2005. During his dance career he worked with choreographers such as Jiří Kylián, Hans van Manen, Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, and Mats Ek.

Between 2005 and 2006, Mr. Ekman joined Cullberg Ballet, where he had his first breakthrough, receiving a prize at the International Choreographic Competition in Hannover for his piece The Swingle Sisters, for which he also claimed the Critics’ Prize. That same year, he was also chosen as one of the dancers to create a work Unknown art? for the Cullberg Växtverk  project, which was performed in Stockholm and Malmö in April 2006. During autumn of the same year, Mr. Ekman created the choreography, set, and music to Flock Work for NDT II, which premiered in November 2006 and became his international breakthrough as a choreographer.
Since then Alexander has gone on to create works for Netherlands Dans Theater I, Ballet de L’Opéra du Rhin, France, Bern Ballet, and Ballet Junior de Genève, Switzerland, IT-Dansa in Spain, the Iceland Dance Company, as well as for the Göteborg Ballet. Alexander also created choreography for Cullberg Ballet’s 40th anniversary, as well as the dance installations presented at the Moderna Museet in 2008 and at the Bildmuseet in Umeå last autumn. In 2009, he created the video projections for Mats Ek’s production of Roland Schimmelpfenning’s Hållplats at Stockholm City Theater.
In March 2010, Mr. Ekman’s first dance film 40 M UNDER premiered in collaboration with Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm. During the spring and summer of 2010 he created a new work, La La Land, for the Göteborg Ballet, as well as a new piece for Cedar Lake Dance Company in New York. His work, Cacti, which Ekman created for NDT II during the winter of 2010, was given as a gift to the Oslo Opera from Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands during a state visit. Alexander Ekman was named resident choreographer for NDT II 2011-2013.

Source. With edits made.


Choreographer, World Premiere

Matthew Neenan began his dance training at the Boston Ballet School, along with instruction from noted teachers Nan C. Keating and Jacqueline Cronsberg. He later attended LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and the School of American Ballet in New York. From 1994 to 2007, Matthew danced with Pennsylvania Ballet, where he performed numerous principal roles in the classical-contemporary and Balanchine repertoire. In 2007, he was named Pennsylvania Ballet’s choreographer in residence.

Matthew’s choreography has been featured and performed by companies across the country, including Pennsylvania Ballet (totaling 18 commissions), BalletX, the Washington Ballet, Ballet West, BalletMet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Milwaukee Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, OKC Ballet, Juilliard Dance, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, and Opera Philadelphia, among others.

Matthew has received numerous awards and grants for his choreography, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Dance Advance (funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts), the Choo San Goh Foundation, the Independence Foundation, and, in 2006, he received New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute Fellowship Initiative Award. His ballets Carmina Burana, As It’s Going, and 11:11 were performed by Pennsylvania Ballet at New York City Center in 2006 and 2007, and, in 2008, he received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts—his fourth time doing so. In 2009, Matthew was the grand-prize winner of Sacramento Ballet’s Capital Choreography Competition as well as the first recipient of the Jerome Robbins NEW Program Fellowship for his work At the border for Pennsylvania Ballet.

Matthew also co-founded BalletX with fellow dancer and former Pennsylvania Ballet member Christine Cox. BalletX had its world premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September 2005 and is now the resident dance company of the Wilma Theatre and considered to be one of the nation’s preeminent contemporary ballet companies. BalletX has toured and performed Matthew’s choreography in New York City at the Joyce Theater, NY City Center, the Skirball Center, Symphony Space, and Central Park SummerStage, as well as at the 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. From 2010 to 2016, Matthew was a trustee member for DanceUSA.


Composer, Episode 31

Born March 10, 1976, Ane Brun (pronounced Ah-na Broon) is a Norwegian songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist. Known for lilting vocals, theatrical arrangements, and a delicate indie-folk craft, she remained a regional secret until 2003, when she made her European debut with the release of Spending Time with Morgan. Released on the DetErMine label, a company that Brun co-founded, the album won local praise for its cinematic sound and was later championed at the Swedish Independent Music Awards.

A year later, Brun released the My Lover Will Go EP, as well as the romantic songbook A Temporary Dive—an album that drew comparisons to early Neko Case, Feist, and Nick Drake and featured collaborations with Teitur, Syd Matters, and Canadian artist Ron Sexsmith. Three weeks after its release, A Temporary Dive went platinum in Brun’s native Norway. A slew of awards followed, including best female artist and hit of the year in 2005 for the country’s Grammy equivalent, the Norwegian Spellemannsprisen. Brun closed out the year with yet another release, Duets, in which she collaborated with ten different songwriters.

A remixed/re-mastered version of A Temporary Dive landed in America via the V2 label in May 2006. Brun followed its release with Live in Scandinavia, her first live album before setting to work on a new studio effort. Released in 2008, Changing of the Seasons dealt with shifting climates and evolving relationships, while her album Sketches (also released in 2008) compiled Brun’s home recordings into an attractive package of demos.

Brun appeared on Peter Gabriel’s 2011 album New Blood. Later that year, she released her sixth album It All Starts with One, produced by Tobias Fröberg, and in 2015 released When I’m Free.

Please visit for more information.

Source. With edits made


Composer, Episode 31

Mikael Karlsson lives in Harlem, NYC. He moved to New York from Sweden in 2000 and graduated summa cum laude in 2005 with departmental honors and a master’s degree in classical composition from the Aaron Copland School of Music. He studied with composers Bruce Saylor and Edward Smaldone.

Mr. Karlsson’s music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, the MoMA, as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Concert Hall, the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden, the Oslo Opera House, the Royal Swedish Opera House, the Vienna State Opera, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, the Ingmar Bergman Center at Fårö, the Joyce Theater, BAM, and at new music festivals and opera houses around the world. His commissions for dance include works for Norwegian Opera and Ballet (A Swan Lake, Resin – Alexander Ekman), NDT 2 (Left Right, Left Right – Ekman), Ailey II, the Royal Swedish Opera and Ballet (Tyll, Midsummer Night’s Dream – Ekman) as well as works for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. He also composed soundtracks to the EA/DICE video games Battlefield Bad Company I and II with Tobias Wagner and Roman Vinuesa.

Mr. Karlsson has composed for the International Contemporary Ensemble, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Black Sun Productions, Lydia Lunch, Claire Chase, Joshua Rubin, Patricia Schuman, Mivos Quartet, Sirius Quartet, Abby Fischer, and pop singers Lykke Li, Anna Von Hausswolff, and Mariam Wallentin. He has collaborated with Bruce LaBruce, François Rousseau, Black Sun Productions, Othon Mataragas and Lydia Lunch. He is currently developing three operas: The Diana Vreeland Opera (working title) with librettist Royce Vavrek, developed by Paola Prestini’s Vision Into Art; The Echo Drift with co-librettist Elle Kunnos De Voss, developed by HERE Arts Center, Beth Morrison Productions, and American Opera Projects; and Decoration with co-librettist David Flodén. Mr. Karlsson has also released over a dozen albums with chamber works and soundtracks ranging from pop and film music to sound collages, dance scores, and Avant-Garde concert music.

In 2007, Mr. Karlsson was included in Out Magazine’s “Out 100” list of influential people (others that year included Annie Lennox, Marc Jacobs, Antony Hegarty, and Beth Ditto). In 2011, Public Radio listeners voted him as one of their 100 favorite classical composers under 40, and, in May 2014, he received the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award “for an exceptional mid-career composer” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. As well, Mr. Karlsson enjoys an ongoing working relationship with celebrated choreographer and director Alexander Ekman. Since 2012, the two have presented 7 stage works – among them Tyll (Royal Swedish Ballet, 2012; US premiere in 2015 by the Joffrey Ballet), A Swan Lake (Norwegian National Ballet, 2014), Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Swedish Ballet), and a full-evening work for the Semperoper in Dresden which premiered in March 2016.

Mr. Karlsson composed an electronic version of the “Flocking” section from Alexander Ekman’s A Swan Lake for envelope-pushing fashion designer Henrik Vibskov’s SS15 at Paris Fashion Week and Copenhagen Fashion Week. In 2014 Mr. Karlsson founded his own production company, Rough State Sound.

Source. With edit made.


Composer, Episode 31

Erik Satie, born in Honfleur, Calvados, France on May 17, 1866, was a French composer whose spare, unconventional, and often witty style exerted a major influence on 20th-century music, particularly in France. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, dropped out, and later worked as a café pianist. Around 1890, he became associated with the Rosicrucian movement and wrote several works under its influence, notably the Messe des pauvres (Mass for the Poor) in 1895. From 1898, he lived alone in Arcueil, a Paris suburb, cultivating an eccentric lifestyle and permitting no one to enter his apartment. Beginning in 1905, he studied for three years at the Schola Cantorum under Vincent d’Indy and Albert Roussel. Then, around 1917, a group of young composers known as Les Six adopted him as their patron saint, and later the School of Arcueil, a group including Darius Milhaud, Henri Sauguet, and Roger Désomiere, was formed in his honor.

Satie’s music represents the first definite break with 19th-century French Romanticism and also stands in opposition to the works of composer Claude Debussy. Closely allied to the Dada and Surrealist movements in art, his music refused to become involved with grandiose sentiment or transcendent significance and disregards traditional forms and tonal structures. It characteristically takes the form of parody with flippant titles, such as Embryons Desséchés (Desiccated Embryos), and directions to the musician, such as “with much illness” or “light as an egg,” intended to mock works such as Debussy’s preludes.

Satie’s flippancy and eccentricity, an intimate part of his musical aesthetic, epitomized the Avant-Garde ideal of fusing art and life into an often startling but unified personality. He sought to strip pretentiousness and sentimentality from music and thereby reveal an austere essence. This desire is reflected in piano pieces such as “Trois Gnossiennes” (1890), notated without bar lines or key signatures. Other early piano pieces employed then-novel chords as well, revealing him as a pioneer in harmony. His 1917 ballet Parade, choreographed by Léonide Massine with scenario by Jean Cocteau and stage design and costumes by Pablo Picasso, was scored for typewriters, sirens, airplane propellers, ticker tape, and a lottery wheel and anticipated the use of jazz materials by Igor Stravinsky among others, and the term, Surrealism, was used for the first time in Guillaume Apollinaire’s program notes for the ballet.

Musicians who misunderstood Satie’s irreverence and wit dismissed him as a charlatan. As well, they deplored the nonmusical influences in his life, such as painters, many of whom he had met while working as a café pianist. Satie was nonetheless deeply admired by notable composers such as Darius Milhaud, Maurice Ravel, and, in particular, Claude Debussy, of whom he was an intimate friend for close to 30 years. His influence on French composers of the early 20th century and on the later school of Neoclassicism was profound. Erik Satie died in Paris France on July 1, 1925.

Source. With edits made.

On Edge News & Events

On Edge News & Events

Chestnut Hill Local: 'On Edge'

Published on: Thursday, November 16, 2017
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Critical Dance: Pennsylvania Ballet: On Edge

Published on: Thursday, November 16, 2017
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The Dance Journal: Review: Pennsylvania Ballet's On Edge

Published on: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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Phindie: ON EDGE (PA Ballet): Cutting-edge ballet by three striking choreographers

Published on: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
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Phindie: Theater in Sketch: ON EDGE (PA Ballet)

Published on: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
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Fjord Review: Full Tilt: Helen Pickett's "Tilt" premieres at Pennsylvania Ballet

Published on: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
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ThinkingDANCE: Having Fun at the Ballet

Published on: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
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Broad Street Review: Three to think on

Published on: Saturday, November 11, 2017
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Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania Ballet soars with 3 new works

Published on: Friday, November 10, 2017
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Moving Forward: Report from Symposium on Women in Dance

Published on: Friday, November 10, 2017
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UWISHUNU: 10 Can't-Miss Dance Shows On Philly Stages This November

Published on: Friday, November 10, 2017
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UWISHUNU: 25+ Amazing Things To Do In Philly This Week

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Season & Tickets

Whether you enjoy the grandeur and pageantry of full-length ballets or the breathtaking innovation of more contemporary works, our 54th season consists of a mixed repertoire designed to thrill and delight.

Meet the Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet comprises a team of dedicated professionals—each one devoted to bringing you the most thrilling and inspired works ballet has to offer.

The School

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet offers the highest caliber dance education of any program in the Greater Philadelphia area, providing our students with exceptional technical training and unparalleled performance opportunities.