Pennsylvania Balletís 2010-2011 season opened Thursday night with a magnificent dance banquet. Two luscious appetizers began the feast: PAB traditionally tips its hat to great company godfather George Balanchine, so the celebration began with the masterís Concertjo Barocco from 1940, set to Bachís Concerto in D Minor for two violins. Balanchine had set 11 women and one man moving in linear patterns to this great music, and 70 years later, it looks brand-new. Wearing white tutus, set against a blue backdrop, the dancers looked like a beautiful human puzzle with lines and bodies intersected, joined and separated in multifarious patterns. Meanwhile Julie Diana, Martha Chamberlain and James Ihde performed solo roles in front of, behind and inside the fluctuating lines of dancing ladies.
The company moved on from Balanchineís neo-classicism to Matthew Neenanís very-21st-century rethinking. Penumbra is a work for five dancers, and uses music of Argentinian experimenter Alberto Ginastera. Men lifted women and carried them offstage with their feet in the air ó the complete opposite of a ballet lift. Instead of dancing on pointe, the ladies splat around, flat-footed. This isnít a ballet send-up, nor a comedy, but a reimagining of ballet and a perfect complement to Balanchineís earlier innovations.
The main course, of course, was the delicious Carmen, French choreographer Roland Petitís 1949 rendering of Bizetís opera into ballet, getting its first-ever performance by our local troupe. Petitís aesthetic insisted that ballet be theatrical and use every stage device available ó including props, sets and voices. The cast gave it their all, stomping out the ďLa Habanera,Ē smoking cigarettes and occasionally singing or chanting. Riolama Lorenzo and Sergio Torrado were astonishing in their abandonment and lust, smoking and slamming out their ultimately ill-fated romance. Itís dramatic, corny and great theater ó and, best of all, not a swan in sight. Oct. 21, Academy of Music.