Dancing off the beat

Scene 1: Lights up. Two men. Two women.
Rigid dance moves. Whisper. Stretch. Female character likes male character. Male character lives with mother. She causes problems.

Jealous. Jealous. Jealous.

Did you understand that? Didn’t think so. BalletX, created in 2005, was part of “Philly’s Live Arts and Fringe Festival,” held Sept. 1-16, and is made up of two separate dance pieces each orchestrated by two different choreographers.

Artistic directors Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan created this ambitious art form in an attempt to bring modernity and athleticism to classic ballet. However, it may have been a bit too modern for my taste.

The first piece, choreographed by Jorma Elo, an esteemed Finnish dancer, was anything, but normal. Four dancers: two men and two women opened the show, each representing a character in the larger, underlying story. They had rhythmic dance moves and opening lines that, unless executed on time would not work.

The original four were later joined by three other dancers who were also players in this supposed story, but the central theme of the piece seemed to be nonexistent.

Confusion aside, the dancing was a combination of ballet, jazz, modern and even some break-dancing. The dancers, minus one or two, were absolutely incredible. Jermel Johnson stood out from the rest with a powerful presence which demanding the attention of the crowd.

Each move fit intricately into the next as if the seven dancers were one.

Grace would have been achieved had all seven dancers been in time with one another, but the ensemble came across awkward when one dancer was a second behind, and that happened often.

Midway through this piece, Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D-minor for solo violin began to play. The simple music and plain attire in this piece really worked because it let you focus more on the dancing.

The second set, entitled “Broke Apart,” choreographed by Neenan, was a more traditional dance performance.

The thing that set this performance apart from others I’ve seen is that the men danced with each other, as if one was playing the female role.

Trained in musical theater, I am used to seeing shows that have a beginning, middle and end. But I am not a fan of deciphering what a choreographer is trying to get across through confusing body movements.

Plain and simple, the dancing was entertaining but if there was a message to be had, I missed it.

Caitlin Murphy can be reached at cmurph33@temple.edu.

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