Pennsylvania Ballet's N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz

11-12, Roy Kaiser, Interviews

by Jim Cotter
June 2, 2012
WRTI's Jim Cotter speaks with Pennsylvania Ballet Artistic Director Roy Kaiser about the company’s season-ending production at the Merriam Theater through June 3rd.
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When ballet dancers fly: Neverland on Broad Street

Reviews, 11-12

May 8, 2012
Roll over, Nutcracker, and make way for that feral boy with the aerial chops. Peter Pan has found his Neverland at the Academy of Music, where Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker has for so long reigned as the prime ballet offering for both adults and children.
Thanks to the spirited Pennsylvania Ballet premiere of this 2002 work by Trey McIntyre, Philadelphians now have the makings of a new children’s classic that can become a recurring treat in the repertory.
In his first full ballet, McIntyre eschews the Disneyfied approaches to Peter Pan by returning to the haunting and darker story of the original J.M. Barrie story. More recent theater productions of Peter Pan, such as the 2010 version by the National Theater of Scotland, also re-discover the disturbing story of an eternally youthful boy relating to fantastical and real worlds.
You won’t see much innovative choreographic invention in this work, but you will see totally committed dancers embodying a compelling story. McIntyre has mined the original tale to illustrate how the Lost Boys gather in Neverland. Early in the first act we see three outsized nannies walking three similarly outsized perambulators; when one overactive “child” rolls out of one, he’s swept with a broom offstage and, as the story goes, when unclaimed is sent away to Neverland.
Sniffing the bedclothes
Peter was well portrayed by Amir Yogev at a Sunday matinee performance, exhibiting his feral side as he first sniffed all the bed clothing in Wendy’s bedroom after his arrival flight. Yogev’s physical dynamism and control of the space manifests the Pan character’s youthful energy, but the choreographer may have missed some of the poignancies in the boy’s outsider status and in his relations with those who, like Wendy, expect him to grow up.
Wendy, danced by Lauren Fadeley, perfectly realized the child and woman aspects of this role. Her concluding solo as Peter flew away was memorably wistful.
Zachary Hench made a lasting impression on my four-year-old date, Amelia, who, like her grandfather, admired his ability to combine comical menace within the character. Of the ensemble dances, the animated dance of the Red Skins (a name well worth changing for these times) stood out for its visceral earthiness, appropriate to a dance for a Rite of Spring.
Flying debut
Peter Pan also appeared to be a flying debut for the Pennsylvania Ballet, which employed aerial dance as an integral element to this story. Yogev seemed as comfortable in the air as on the ground, and when he crossed his arms across his chest with his legs in a diamond shape, his revolving upward ascent had the effect of a lunar rocket blastoff.
The first aerial ascent of Wendy and her siblings was magically commenced as Peter gave a light lift to Wendy’s extended foot. I wished for more extended and choreographed aerial dance, but there was enough here to elicit Amelia’s response: “I wish I could fly.” (Someday I’ll tell her about the Amelia who did fly.)
Slithering crocodile
Thomas Boyd’s scenic design ably created the illusionist spaces of Neverland’s flowered and forested landscape, the intimidating pirate ship interior, and the Darling bedroom full of watchful nannies and visiting fairies. Jeanne Button met the challenge of widely divergent, yet singular, costume designs for an extraordinary cast of characters. The Elgar music, collaged from various works by arranger Niel DePonte, sufficed to provide the range of sound to accompany this work.
A 15-foot-long crocodile made two slithering solos, albeit without a cowering Captain Hook or the sound of a ticking clock. Perhaps a future production can offer up some ominous ticks from the beast. But even without them, this Peter Pan has the makings of a classic that will enthrall and delight those of all ages.
Perhaps this success might provide a catalyst for the gleaning of other mythic children’s stories from the rich literature out there, giving theNutcracker some competition while also giving the public new access into all those children’s stories whose appeal transcends age boundaries.
By Jonathan M. Stein
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U.D. resident has stage presence

Behind the Scenes, 11-12, Features

May 06, 2012
The story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, is a familiar one to many. But seeing it on the stage in a full-length ballet will be a first for most Philadelphia audience members.
The Pennsylvania Ballet is presenting the Philadelphia premiere of Trey McIntyre’s “Peter Pan.” It opened May 3 and continues through May 13 at the Academy of Music.
During the performances, all eyes will be on the dancers onstage and on the spectacular flying sequences. But behind the scenes Tony Costandino of Upper Darby also has a key role.
As stage manager for the company, he’ll stand backstage at each performance, wearing headphones, reading the score, looking intently at the stage or at a monitor, which shows everything happening onstage.
He calls the lighting cues, gives cues to the stage crew and oversees numerous other backstage details.
“My job is to run the show from the minute the house lights go down until the very end when they go up,” said Costandino. “It’s my responsibility to know the entire show.”
A full-length ballet like “Peter Pan” has special challenges for the stage manager, especially because its the first time with this ballet. It was originated by the Houston Ballet, and the Pennsylvania Ballet is the first company outside of Houston to do it.
“It’s totally new to us,” said Costandino.
One challenge was all the activity packed into the first act.
“It’s fast-paced from the moment the curtain goes up,” said Costandino. “It starts with the fairies, then the parents, the children, and finally the arrival of Peter Pan.”
Then, too, there’s an extended flying sequence in Act I. At his first entrance, Peter is not flying.
But in the next one, “he’s flying from the moment he comes on until he exits,” said Costandino. “It’s a lengthy sequence of flying. And what’s so impressive is that he flips and spins and does all sorts of things.”
There’s still another flying sequence in Act III, when Peter flies back to Neverland. For both scenes, wires are used for the flying, and they are connected to other apparatus, and to computers.
The basics are provided by a company called “Flying by Foy.”
“It designs flying rigs and apparatus that are used all over the world,” said Costandino. One of their technicians was assigned to work full time with the company on this show.
To practice the flying scenes, the Pennsylvania Ballet first rented Haverford School’s theater.
“We rigged up all the equipment and practiced for an entire week, and it went great,” said Costandino.
Although all the flying sequences are automated and controlled by computer, Costandino handles everything else that surrounds the flying, for instance, the lighting.
“We don’t want the wires to be visible while Peter Pan is flying, so the lighting has to be very limited,” he said.
That’s why the flying sequences take place at night. Costandino especially likes the visual effects at the end of Act I, when Peter and Wendy fly off.
“It’s nighttime, the stars are out, and they’re flying above London,” he said. “It’s very impressive.”
Act II keeps him especially busy. This is when Captain Hook arrives on his ship, and Peter Pan and the Lost Boys come on another ship.
“A lot of set pieces are moved on and off the stage,” said Costandino, whose role is to call the cues for when to move particular pieces of the set. Then the stage crew does the actual moving.
Act III opens on the deck of Captain Hook’s ship. His pirates have captured the Lost Boys.
“There’s a big fight scene between the pirates and the boys, and between Hook and Peter,” Costandino said.
Behind the scenes, he supervises the cues, including sound effects. During the battle, there are explosive sounds.
“I call the cue, someone presses a button, and there’s a ‘boom,’” he said. In all, the boom is heard four times.
Lighting cues, sound cues, spotlight cues and more, Costandino oversees it all. In all, he estimates there are about 250 different cues in the three-act ballet.
Whatever the challenge, this veteran stage manager can handle it. He’s been with the Pennsylvania Ballet for 30 years, and has worked on hundreds of ballets during his tenure.
Each ballet is like an individual show. Besides full-length ballets, other programs present several ballets in one performance.
“So I can do upward of 16 different ballets in one season,” Costandino said. “The work is changing all the time.”
Along with familiar ballets like the popular “Nutcracker,” there are new works, and “Peter Pan” is one of them. It’s a first for the company and the stage manager. He predicts audiences will enjoy this premiere.
“It follows closely the original story, but this is the chance to see it live,” he said. “Also, it’s one of the most family-oriented ballets we’ve ever done. It has appeal for everyone, regardless of age.”
IF YOU GO: Performances of the Pennsylvania Ballet premiere of “Peter Pan” at the Academy of Music run through May 13. Tickets are available online at, by phone at 215-893-1999 or at the Kimmel Center box office.
By Ruth Rovner
 Special to the Times
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Flying High in "Peter Pan" at PA Ballet

Features, 11-12

by Lauren Fadeley
Pointe Magazine
May 2012
Pennsylvania Ballet presents Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan for the first time this May. PAB soloist Lauren Fadeley, who'll dance the part of Wendy, is guest-blogging the rehearsal process for Pointe.
When we started this season at Pennsylvania Ballet, Trey McIntyre'sPeter Pan was definitely one of the most anticipated ballets in the lineup. Everyone knows the story of the boy who doesn't want to grow up and his adventures in Neverland, but none of us knew what to expect from a ballet version of the beloved classic. Would there still be mermaids and the ticking crocodile? Would Captain Hook and Peter still be arch nemeses fighting alongside their crews of pirates and Lost Boys? Would the Darling children still "think happy thoughts" and fly to Neverland?
After starting rehearsals last week, the answer to all these questions is: Yes! And then some. This production is so innovative in the way it tells the story through dance, props and special effects. McIntyre bases his ballet more on James M. Barrie's novel of Peter Pan than the Disney cartoon we grew up with, and the book has many underlying stories that add to the character development.
I have the amazing opportunity to portray Wendy in this full-length production. And that means I get to fly! We began the "flying to Neverland" scene in the studio by watching the video and learning the choreography with music. It was difficult to mark on the ground and be on the right counts when going up in the air takes so much more time. So the company rented out a venue where we can practice flying. We're going to get used to the harnesses we have to wear and work on our spacing and choreography in the air. The guys playing Peter went today and said it was a lot of fun. The Wendys will go tomorrow--I'll be sure to write all about it next time!
In a week and a half of rehearsals we have pretty much learned the whole three-act ballet, so there has been a ton of information floating through my head. I go to sleep reviewing choreography and wake up humming the music. Right now it's all about trying to remember the counts and what comes next, as well as starting to develop the character of a girl slowly becoming a young woman. As a 26-year-old, it's definitely a challenge to pretend to be 10, but it's also quite fun to remember what it was like to be that age. I'm looking forward to the point where it all starts to become second nature, and I can just let go and enjoy!
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Pennsylvania Ballet: Peter Pan With a Twist Through May 13th

Reviews, 11-12

by Susan Lewis
May 7, 2012

A fantasy born over a hundred years ago continues to resonate today. As Pennsylvania Ballet stages Peter Pan, set to the music of Sir Edward Elgar, WRTI's Susan Lewis considers the boy who wouldn't grow up and his relevance to our lives today.

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McIntyre’s "Peter Pan" Takes Flight at Pennsylvania Ballet

11-12, Features

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Philadelphia
May 3, 2012
Choreographer Trey McIntyre created "Peter Pan"for Houston Ballet ten years ago, and it was a huge success. Critics hailed McIntyre as the new vanguard for the story ballet. Houston performed it again in 2004, but the ballet is seeing its first re-staged revival in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania Ballet this week.
J.M.Barrie’s story of Wendy, the Lost Boys, Captain Hook, and all of Neverland’s denizens were all there before. But it was never, never, like this onstage. Elaborate sets were designed by Thomas Boyd and music was composed by Sir Edward Elgar and arranged by Niel DePonte. McIntyre has interpreted "Peter Pan" through a dark magical realism lens for a story ballet.
This is McIntyre’s third collaboration with PB; he created "Plush" with them in 2001 and returned for a revival of his modern ballet "Blue Until June," which featured a gay themed central duet for a male couple. He is overseeing the dancers for "Peter Pan" but has left the staging to Annali Rose and Brett Perry, two dancers from the choreographer’s own company (The Trey McIntyre Project).
EDGE spoke to Perry and Alex Peters, a dynamic new dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet corps cast in the lead role, after they discussed the production aspects of the ballet during a preview talk at the Free Library on Rittenhouse Square. Both are in their 20s and recipients of the prestigious Princess Grace Award for their achievements in dance.
At Houston Ballet, much was made of the inventiveness of the flying effects as they worked within ballet vocabulary. The Houston production had to use manual flying apparatus with ropes and pulleys operated by stage technicians. In Philly, everything is computerized and operated by hydraulics and robotics. Perry described the process of setting the steps and aerials for a new company. Working from recordings of the Houston performance and rehearsals, "Annali and I wrote down descriptions of every step of this. We worked it out for months in advance," he said.
"I’ve been a dancer with TMP for four years. As a dancer, I know what it feels like to not have the stager know every step. I can relate to these dancers. And they have been so game to get it right. I think they knew I was one of them too," Perry explained.
Peters is alternating in the lead with fellow corps member Amir Yogev. Pennsylvania Ballet artistic director Roy Kaiser often uses members of the corps de ballet in feature or lead roles.
"It’s amazing to see Alex’s confidence in this. When they were first working with the flying, they were just attacking the precision of this movement," Perry said.
The two Peter Pans had been rehearsing the aerial work at a smaller studio theater nearby. When they rig the Academy of Music, they will be making adjustments for seven more feet of flying ropes. "It’s going to change a lot. The other characters just go up and down basically, but Peter’s flying involves spinning variations, for instance...and elements that are really the magic of the whole story," Perry noted.
Peters said that the choreography "requires a lot of acrobatic skills," He continued, "Trey has this vision of the character...not as Disney, but more animalistic and reckless. Peter is self-involved and unaware of the consequences. With Captain Hook especially, it’s just a dangerous game. He just wants us to throw ourselves into the part."
Perry is already scheduled to stage "Peter Pan" for two other companies next year. "This work is Trey ten years ago, and he doesn’t work with pointe shoes anymore. So it’s interesting to realize what he did within the story ballet. He brings to it a very real and honest base to the characters." Perry will be dancing when he joins TMP the day after the Philly opening, flying halfway around the world for their month-long Asian tour. Meanwhile, the two Peter Pans will be flying on their own in the Academy of Music.
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An impressive 'Messiah' from Pennsylvania Ballet

11-12, Reviews

by Ellen Dunkel
The Inquirer
March 10, 2012
Art and religion are frequent companions, and Pennsylvania Ballet's Messiah, which opened Thursday night at the Academy of Music, is, not surprisingly, steeped in Christianity.
During this Lenten season, many audience members may appreciate a balletic look at Jesus' life, death, and impact. But while Handel's Messiah is magnificent no matter what one's leanings, the 21/4-hour-long ballet (including an intermission and a significant pause), set to the complete Handel oratorio, may seem a bit of a haul for others.
Choreographed in 1998 by Robert Weiss, who was Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic director from 1982 to 1990, Messiah is a grand undertaking, featuring the side-stage Philadelphia Singers with four soloists, two dozen dancers, and the ballet orchestra.
Thursday's dancers, occasionally overshadowed by the intensity of the chorus, might have made their movements larger, but they performed very well. Especially notable were the men, including Ian Hussey and Francis Veyette, and Zachary Hench as Jesus.
In one beautiful section, Veyette partnered two women, Barette Vance Widell and Arantxa Ochoa, dressed in white. At times, he had both promenading or turning, requiring great strength from all three. In another section, pairs of dancers stretched out yards of fabric that rippled over the floor like water, as Hench walked atop it.
At a particularly quick and breathtaking point, several men threw Hench nearly onto the backs of three dancers; three men caught him at the last minute. The "Hallelujah Chorus," with the full cast of dancers, closed out the first part of the ballet with a bang.
At another point, the cast, all in white, lined up at the lip of the stage, leaning and supporting one another. Hench was weighted down by a great cross, which looked even more poignant in shadow against the backdrop. Finally, attached to a cable, he spun and rose toward heaven.
But one section ("Why do the nations so furiously rage together") baffled, and almost made the entire ballet jump the shark. In it, the dancers waved flags of various countries and causes, including that of the Confederacy. Some performed hand-to-hand combat with sticks, others goose-stepped like Nazis, a group vibrated as though firing machine guns. And then Hench, as Jesus, leaped back on stage and restored calm.
No question, Messiah looks good on Pennsylvania Ballet, and clearly some will love it. But it may not be for everyone.
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Sweet sorrow for a dancer bowing out

11-12, Reviews

By Ellen Dunkel
The Inquirer
February 11, 2012
Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Riolama Lorenzo's final performance before retiring is Sunday, but it was already a lovefest Thursday night, when the company opened its Pushing Boundaries series at the Merriam Theater.
The theater was buzzing with talk of Lorenzo, both before the show and during the two intermissions. And she didn't disappoint, dancing two Matthew Neenan ballets: 11:11, set to six songs by Rufus Wainwright, andKeep, in a gorgeous, mature pas de deux with Zachary Hench.
Created in 2009, Keep is a beautiful ballet, featuring a suite of, mostly, duets about relationships, set to string quartets by Alexander Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. But it also could be interpreted as Lorenzo's bittersweet bourrée into the next phase of her life, as fresh-faced dancers in pink eagerly fill the gap. Lorenzo, in a yellow gown, stands in the shadows during a long section, then kneels to lean over a fallen colleague and, with bits of chiffon floating around her, melts into her partner in pirouettes and dramatic ports de bras.
The piece ends with Lorenzo alone on stage, spinning on a stool as the curtain comes down.
Neenan's 11:11 from 2005 is one of his classic works, a well-paced suite of dances featuring a large cast pulsating as the seconds tick off in the music, and rotating in a Bolero-like circle to Wainwright's "Oh What a World," which includes a nod to the Ravel composition. A man picks up a woman and rotates her clockwise, her legs like hands of the clock.
The evening opened with The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, by William Forsythe, a 1996 ballet of great speed and - ideally - precision, set to the last movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C major.
It felt like an audition for future Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancers, and perhaps it was. All the company's principals danced Thursday night, but Vertiginous Thrill featured three female soloists (Lauren Fadeley, Brooke Moore, and Barette Vance Widell) and two men from the corps de ballet (Andrew Daly and Tyler Savoie).
All were up to the task, but few got the exactitude. My audition callback goes to Fadeley, who had the most precise footwork while projecting an air of fun and ease.
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PA ballerina dances into retirement

Retirement, 11-12, Features, Videos

by Lisa Thomas-Laury
January 12, 2012
The Pennsylvania Ballet is saying goodbye to one of the best dancers in the business. The Ballet's principal ballerina is retiring next month.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Riolama Lorenzo began her ballet training with her mother at age 14.
"My mother was a ballerina in Cuba. She danced with Alicia Alonso," Lorenzo said.
She says ballet has always come easily to her and she has always loved performing.
"As a child you like what you're good at and then the whole performing and dancing abroad and all those opportunities that you get as a ballerina," Lorenzo said.
In 1993, she received the renowned Princess Grace Award and later joined New York City Ballet.
She joined the Pennsylvania Ballet in 2002.
She has danced leading roles in hundreds of performances and was pregnant in Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake last March, but still performed.
"I have a 6-month old baby daughter and a 4-year-old son and that's a big part of the reason why I'm retiring," Lorenzo said.
As for retiring, she says, "It's hard, but it's something you have to be ready for and I think I'm ready."
Artistic director, Roy Kaiser, says she's a ballerina of breathtaking skill; he hired her ten years ago.
"I will miss her. I certainly will, but we'll keep part of her here. She has a great influence over the younger dancers. She has for many years, so they'll carry that on," Kaiser said.
For her final performance next month , February 12th, Riolama will perform in Matthew Neenan's "Keep" at the Merriam Theatre, which was choreographed for her.
"I think it's perfect, that I should end with something so personal and so beautiful," Lorenzo said.
Riolama has prepared for retirement. She looks forward to spending more time with her children, plus she has a bachelor's degree in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
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Photo Of The Day: Pennsylvania Ballet Dancers at The Comcast Center

Features, 11-12, Nutcracker

Allison Stadd
December 7, 2011
The Comcast Center Holiday Spectacular, a Philadelphia holiday favorite, includes new and enchanting scenes from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker performed by the renowned Pennsylvania Ballet, filmed this past October.
The dancers themselves made a surprise appearance at the Comcast Center this afternoon, providing viewers twice the holiday fun. Check out the video, below, of the impromptu performance, as well as another photo.
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