As one of the premier ballet companies in the country, Philadelphia Ballet (formerly known as Pennsylvania Ballet) has been bringing quality ballet shows for nearly 60 years now. The company has done everything from Cinderella to Nutcracker to The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Thus, it sits among the world’s most outstanding ballet companies in delivering quality shows to ballet enthusiasts in the country. This year, Philadelphia Ballet takes in-person performances once more after almost two years of staging virtual performances brought about by the pandemic’s restrictions. Today, the incredible ballet company members of Philadelphia Ballet will dance their way to the Academy of Music for a series of performances that will leave spectators at the edge of their seats.
“Pennsylvania Ballet’s strength and vitality of their dancers is striking. They dance with an abundance of, well, resilience.”– bachtrack.com
“Pennsylvania Ballet’s production achieved everything it set out to achieve today. The sets, the music, the costumes, and the dancing were perfect. The hidden magic and surprise, though, was the secret in the story that only the company of Pennsylvania Ballet could concoct in their magical elixir that cast a spell on all of us today.”– CriticalDance
Established in 1963 by the late Barbara Weisberger, a protégée of George Balanchine, the Philadelphia Ballet initially aimed at developing regional professional dance companies. Originally named Pennsylvania Ballet, the dance company started with a Ford Foundation grant and was focused primarily on presenting the Balanchine repertoire.
The company’s first notable appearance that gained national recognition was its 1968 performance at the New York City Center. This debut was met with positive responses from both critics and dance enthusiasts. Thus, it led to a decade of national touring, appearances on PBS’s “Dance in America” series, and a stint as the official company of the Brooklyn Academy of Music during the 1970s.
The ballet company was also notable for being the first major American ballet company to promote an African-American woman, Debra Austin, to a principal dancer rank. It also forged an alliance with Milwaukee Ballet in 1987 in an unprecedented venture to create one company. Although the merger only lasted until 1989, it was a monumental endeavor as it was the first in the country to offer its dancers year-round employment.
The year 1995 also proved to be another monumental year for the dance company as its very own member, Roy Kaiser, became its first home-grown artistic director. Under his leadership, the company has expanded its Balanchine-based repertoire to include new works from both established and emerging choreographers.
Renowned choreographers Merce Cunningham, Christopher d’Amboise, Trey McIntyre, Matthew Neenan, David Parsons, Val Caniparoli, Benjamin Millepied, and Christopher Wheeldon were able to showcase their works for Philadelphia dancers to perform all over the country. The latter was commissioned for the company’s 40th anniversary, which featured the highly acclaimed “Swan Lake.” The ballet company made its international debut at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2005, and in 2007, the world premiere of Matthew Neenan’s “Carmina Burana” became a highlight for the company.
Today, Philadelphia Ballet is led by its new artistic director, Ángel Corella, who took over in September 2014. They continue to tour Pennsylvania and the East Coast to venues such as New York City Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In July 2021, Pennsylvania Ballet rebranded and became Philadelphia Ballet. The change was made to promote a stronger sense of ownership by the city and capitalize on Philadelphia’s international reputation built by its orchestra, opera, and museums. As the Executive Director points out, most ballet companies take the names of their cities.
This spring, Philadelphia Ballet will conclude its 2021-2022 season with the acclaimed Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen’s “Humankind.” In this program scheduled between Thursday, May 12, and Sunday, May 15, van Manen’s fascination with interpersonal relationships is brought to the forefront in a series of most celebrated ballets. Set to Beethoven’s music, “Grosse Fuge” is an intense exploration of the push and pull of attraction and rejection that exists between humans. This theme is reflected in the shifting emotionality of the dancers as they move from flirtatious to erotic, from tender to threatening.
“From his bold choice of music, Van Manen creates a work of riveting intellectual tension and expressive power.”– The Guardian
“Manen’s choreography exemplifies a repertoire that represents ballet in pure minimalist form but always with scope to illustrate the many facets of human interaction.”– bachtrack.com
Aside from van Manen’s production, the Academy of Music will also feature exciting shows from the Philadelphia Ballet in its 2022-2023 season. The ballet season will open with the production of “Cinderella” on October 13 and will run for 11 straight nights. The ballet company will also stage George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.” The family-favorite show will run from December 9-28.
Rounding the line-up of shows for 2022-2023 include “New Works,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Ballet Imperial/Agon/Who Cares?,” and “Coppelia.”
“New Works” is the continuation of the highly-popular series of Philadelphia Ballet by the three renowned choreographers, Juliano Nunes, Hope Noykin, and Andonis Foniadakis. It will run from February 3 – 11, 2023. The program features world premieres from the recipient of the Danza Award for Best Choreography, Andonis Foniadakis, acclaimed Bessie Award Winner Hope Boykin, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Juliano Nunes.
The classic ballet production of “Sleeping Beauty” will be witnessed from March 2 – 12, 2023. Like previous years, the program will transport the audience to a magical kingdom through a spellbinding tale filled with fantastic fairies, ravishing romance, ornate costumes, and exquisite sets. Spectators will surely be inspired by the remedy that cures all things—a true love’s kiss. “Ballet Imperial/Agon/Who Cares?” on the other hand, will run from March 16-19 and will feature the groundbreaking genius of George Balanchine’s trio of virtuosic ballets: “Imperial,” “Agon,” and Who Cares?”
Finally, “Coppelia” is the final program that will be featured in the Academy of Music. From the composer Léo Delibes, it is based on a famous story by E.T.A Hoffmann, which is packed with fantasy, wit, and laugh-out-loud antics that will surely entice the entire family.
“The inimitable joy of live and in-person performance is something we do not take for granted. Joy is the right word to describe our 2022/2023 season. We hope that audiences will join us to experience moments of surprise, delight, and awe that will linger long after the final bow.”– Angel Corella, Philadelphia Ballet Artistic Director
With all these exciting shows lined up, Philadelphia Ballet is being true to its promise of commitment to its history, inspiration, and identity. So, mark your calendars and plan your trip this year and the next, as there’s no stopping these world-class ballet dancers from giving you a superior show that will make your jaws drop. Secure your tickets now and prepare to be enthralled by these world-class productions from the one and only Philadelphia Ballet.