The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
DANCECleveland, a Knight Arts grantee, is always looking for a new and hip group to present to area dance audiences. And once a year lately, the group has been bringing a stellar dance troupe to the Akron area. No exception this year, for it is bringing the Philadelphia-based contemporary company, BalletX, as its start-off dance concert this year.
From reading up about them, BalletX gets a huge part of its reputation because of a couple things — a large and varied repertory, and along with or as the input to that, representative pieces by some of the best among contemporary choreographers — Edwaard Liang, Jodie Gates, Darrell Grand Moultrie, to name a few. As Neenan said recently in a telephone interview, the company, which was founded in 2005, has added four to five choreographers a year, in addition to his own choreography and co-founder Christine Cox's work. In fact, Neenan added that the company will be adding six new works by various artists this year. That's a heap of dances. And it goes to BalletX's philosophy to focus on the "emerging and established" contemporary dance makers.
Matthew Neenan, co-artistic director, BalletX. Photo from www.milwaukeeballet.org
For his own creations, Neenan has various dance influences. He danced with Pennsylvania Ballet and was exposed to the vocabulary of the legendary George Balanchine, enough so that Neenan's first works had that "Balanchine look." Other role models (if that's the right word) are Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, Israeli dance creator Ohad Naharin, and New York-born William Forsythe (whom Neenan recently met for the first time, he said).
BalletX will present one of Neenan's newer works — "The Last Glass" — for the Akron performance. This work is set to the music of indie-rock group Beirut. A friend suggested that the choreographer listen to the band, figuring that he would like it. He did; he found their music, as he said, "very choreographable."
"The Last Glass" has been well received in performance, and it has been set on probably four casts of dancers over the years Neenan said, so that it has become for the company a "staple," a kind of signature work, but certainly something that they can pull out whenever they need to. Although the work is light and lively (especially compared to other works on the program) it has, as Neenan described it, a "dark undertone," specifically "grief."
This work will be presented after the audience sees Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Still@Life and Alex Ketley's "Silt." Ketley's is the darkest in tone of the lot of dances, so it is being surrounded by the other two because, as Neenan said, he wanted that work "bookended with livelier works." Overall, though, the program "shows maturity," Neenan added, and is quite diverse in technique and intent.
BalletX will perform for DANCECleveland at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 5 in the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, 198 Hill St., Akron; 330-972-7570; www.ejthomashall.com. Tickets start at $10.