Celebrating the Pennsylvania Ballet
The Pennsylvania Ballet may have turned 50 this year, but it’s still very much alive and kicking! This weekend, the company is preparing to celebrate the end of its 50th season from June 12th through June 15th with a finale performance at the Merriam Theater. The performance will feature four distinct pieces of choreography: In the Night, La Chasse, Penumbra, and in the middle, somewhat elevated,two of which are original PA Ballet works and choreographed by resident choreographer, Matthew Neenan.
Amidst all of the celebration and splendor, this weekend’s performances will also present the final performances of dancer Jonathan Stiles, who has been dancing with the PA Ballet for 15 years. Stiles will be leaving the company to pursue a career in arts management, which he earned a graduate certificate for from the University of Pennsylvania. Stiles performs in Neenan’s original work,Penumbra, which was commissioned from Neenan by the PA Ballet in 2008. As the performance press release claims, the piece is a “favorite of the dancers to perform.” Penumbra features five dancers: two couples, and one soloist, who interact in a variety of ways that are described as “intimate.”
Penumbra is a particularly significant piece for Stiles. He says, “It’s very special to me because its one of the few featured roles that was really choreographed on me in my career here.” Neenan originally choreographed the role in which Stiles plays with Stiles as a dancer in 2008. In this way, the performance will always contain remnants of his presence, as the choreography was molded to his form and stylistic inclinations. Additionally, the performance is special to Stiles because he is performing with dancers whom he has become very close to during his time with the company. He states, “The cast I am performing with, I am fortunate enough to call all of those people very good friends and that is incredibly special. It’s been incredibly special to share your last rehearsals with people that you respect as professionals and as dancers that you’re very close to in your personal life.”
During his time with the company, Stiles has enjoyed great success and has gained numerous positive experiences with the PA Ballet. One of his most cherished memories with the company occurred last weekend, on June 6th through June 8th, when he performed Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. “It was a really great weekend. My wife, Martha Chamberlain, who is a former principle dancer with the company and my daughter were able to come see the shows. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is really special to me—it was the first ballet I performed with the company, 15 years ago, so to be able to perform that one last time, on tour, with my wife and daughter in the wings was really incredible.”
Clearly, the PA Ballet has made a dramatic impact upon Stiles’ life, as he has many personal contacts affiliated with the company. It is doubtful that he will soon forget the fulfilling experiences the company has helped him to accomplish. Come and see Stiles’ last performances this weekend and celebrate the past and future of Pennsylvania’s premier dance company. You can only turn 50 once, so why not help the company end their season in style?
Photos courtesy of The Pennsylvania Ballet and Alexander Iziliaev.