It’s no secret that we love the arts, and that Philadelphia is a fantastic city to enjoy them in. One of our favorites has always been BalletX. This year’s Summer Series at the Wilma Theater was ballet like you’ve never seen it before.
In collaboration with Klip Collective’s video design, both performances of the night used technology to elevate the artistic experience into unexpected territory. Using a central character to take us on completely different journeys, choreographers Matthew Neenan (BalletX co-founder) and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa challenged the audience to escape Philadelphia into different worlds.
The night began with Neenan’s Identity without Attribute, an interpretive passage through the progression ofAlzheimer’s disease. The dance was dedicated to the late Toni Hamilton, a friend of BalletX who suffered from Alzheimer’s for almost five years.
Gracefully led by Caili Quan, each scene was like a memory that Neenan brought to life from Hamilton’s journals and manuscripts, which he had acquired from a close family member. Some memories were vivid and vibrant, allowing us to feel the raw energy of the repetitive movements; though some were soft and slow in the shadows. Regardless of their familiarity with the disease, all hearts in the room could feel the depth of emotions that were beautifully unfolded through this dance.
Intermission let the weight of the first performance sink in and allowed the audience to digest it. But unbeknownst to them, the second act of the night was set to quickly whisk them away to a faraway land.
Inspired by famed artist Rene Magritte, Ochoa’s dance revolves around the title character named Bonzi, played phenomenally by dancer Edgar Anido. Bonzi is a door-to-door salesman whose days drag from one to another, a feeling that many people can sadly empathize with. As his little bowler hat is magically lifted into the air, he finds his world turned on its head.
Doors magically appeared in front of him and whirled around. Behind them, mysterious adventures were waiting to happen. With whimsical movements and bold, digital images to bring this fantasyland to life, the tongue-in-cheek performance had the audience smiling and laughing for the entirety – something I’ve never experienced at the ballet before.
BalletX’s Summer Series 2016 was a never-before-seen experience that ended on a happy high note. Both Neenan’s Identity Without Attribute and Oacha’s Bonzi had captured the audience’s attention, and emotions, for the evening. The juxtaposition of the first dance, based on a true story, and the wild imagination of the latter had everyone in awe.