On Stage: Pennsylvania Ballet starts season with a classic

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort” at the Pennsylvania Ballet

Year after year, the Pennsylvania Ballet has been able to present a season schedule that has just the right balance between the old and the new …the right mixture of traditional and contemporary.

The Pennsylvania Ballet and Artistic Director Angel Corella kicked off the 2018-2019 season at the Academy of Music with a classic ballet — Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo & Juliet.”

From December 7-13, Corella and his talented dancers will return to the Academy of Music to celebrate the company’s 50th season of performing “The Nutcracker.”

In between the two productions of timeless ballets, the Pennsylvania Ballet is presenting a contemporary program comprised of three ballets — Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort,” along with world premieres from award-winning choreographer and Pennsylvania Ballet company member Russell Ducker, and Gallim Dance founder and artistic director, Andrea Miller. The program will run from November 8-11 at the Merriam Theater.

The piece by Ducker, which is the show’s final number, is titled “This Divide.”

Ducker, who is from Basingstoke, United Kingdom, graduated from the Royal Ballet Upper School, Covent Garden in 2007. In 2006, he won the Pamela Self Award for dance. While in school, Ducker performed with the Royal Ballet in its productions of Swan Lake, Onegin, The Nutcracker. (He joined Pennsylvania Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in the 2014/2015 season and has since danced in a range of classical and contemporary works, including Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake.

Prior to Pennsylvania Ballet, Ducker performed with Angel Corella and Friends. He later joined Corella’s Barcelona Ballet, where he danced various soloist and principal roles. He also choreographed several ballets for the company, many of which enjoyed international premieres. His choreography with Barcelona Ballet includes Built to Fall Apart, Argon, Epimetheus, and In the Wake of Bliss.

“I worked with Angel in Spain for eight years,” said Ducker, during a phone interview earlier this week. “When he took a position in Philadelphia, I was able to follow.

“I’m lucky that he’s had confidence in my choreography. For this show, he approached me. I had choreographed a couple pieces for the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Second Company and he felt it was the right time for me to have a go with the major company.”

That was the birth of “This Divide.”

“Angel said he needed it to be a ‘closer’ – the piece that would close the show on a high note,” said Ducker. “He wanted a high energy piece – something that contrasted with the first two pieces, both of which are subtle with nuances.

“‘This Divide’ is about division and conflict. I divided the dancers into two groups and divided the stage into two levels with a movable staircase. The dancers dance on the stairs. There is also a third level with dancers in the pit. I wanted to have an interesting way to use the space on the stage..”

Ducker looked to a Pennsylvania composer for the piece’s score – the late Glenn Branca.

“The score is a piece composed by Glenn Branca, who was from Harrisburg,” said Ducker. “I first learned of him when I read his obituary on New York Times back in May. This is paying homage to him. He was a modern composer whose roots were in rock music. I was impressed by his music and went through his whole back catalog. He was radical.

“My piece has two sections. One is a heavy drum line and the second section is very atmospheric. It’s 22 minutes running time with no pauses. It’s quite demanding for the dancers. I’s a very physical piece that features 15 dancers. The ballet will be a journey for the dancers.”

The program’s showcase piece will be Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort.”
Created for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1991 in honor of the Salzburg Festival on the second centenary of Mozart’s death, Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort” is danced to slow segments of two of Mozart’s most beautiful and adored piano concertos, Nos.21 and 23. The choreography incorporates subtle sexual imagery, exploring the concept with characteristic wit, humor, and eroticism.

According to Corella, “Petite Mort is one of the true masterpieces of the 20th century — beautiful, romantic, and moving all at all once. It’s wonderful to see our dancers truly immerse themselves in movement that creates poetry with their bodies, making this the perfect opening to our November program.”

The third piece will be a world premiere by Andrea Miller.

Known for her imaginative and visceral work, Miller is a world-renowned choreographer and creative director. She has developed a recognizable artistic voice of thrilling physicality, insatiable curiosity, and riveting emotion that pushes the boundaries of performance by continually discovering connections between movement and other forms of expression.

Miller’s works have been performed across the world – from London and Paris to New York City. Two years after graduating from Julliard, she founded Gallim Dance, a New York-based company whose mission has been described as realizing the “endless human capacity for inspiration.” Miller was also the 2017-2018 Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the first choreographer to hold this position.

According to Miller, “After attending Pennsylvania Ballet’s mixed repertoire program last November, I was very moved by the company. I look forward to working with the dancers to create a demanding and powerful piece that ranges from explosive power to subtle stillness. Together we will explore new movements that bring us out of our comfort zone.”

Video link for Pennsylvania Ballet’s November program — https://youtu.be/J9G23le-rW8.

The shows at the Merriam Theatre are scheduled for November 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m., November 10 at 2 and 8 p.m. and November 11 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35-$79.

There is another show beginning a multi-day run in Philadelphia on November 8.

The UniverSoul Circus

The UniverSoul Circus (52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-345-7000, www.universoulcircus.com), which opens on November 8, will be treating circus fans to a very different experience.

The world-class circus’ performances, which will be held in the UniverSoul Big Top next to the Mann Music Center, blend traditional circus attractions with urban culture, hip hop tunes and world beat music. It’s the lively music that elevates the show to another level.

The UniverSoul Circus is a top-flight live entertainment attraction that has captured the hearts and imaginations of a new generation of families.

Celebrating its 25tht Anniversary, UniverSoul Circus has come full circle in its influence in the international entertainment marketplace – garnering the distinction of being known as a one-of-a-kind, must see attraction.

Since its first performance in 1994, The UniverSoul Circus has presented more than 10,000 performances to live audiences, exceeding 20 million people, and has been seen in more than 60 million households on both local and national television networks. The Emmy-nominated HBO special remained in rotation for more than six years.

UniverSoul connects with progressive, upwardly mobile, urban pop cultures from around the world. It embraces and celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of global cultures and ethnicities into a stellar production that blends circus arts, theater and music.

Celebrating 25 years under the big top, UniverSoul Circus features music, theatrical performances, incredible circus acts and loads of fun. The show features acts from around the world including flashy Caribbean dancers, acrobats and high-flying trapeze artists, mind-boggling contortionists, funny clowns, lions, zebras and much more.

The circus will be in town from November 8-December 2 at its site in Fairmount Park.

Video link for UniverSoul Circus — https://youtu.be/UatZSn1JJbQ.

The show at UniverSoul Big Top will run from November 8-December 2 with early afternoon, late matinee and evening performances. Ticket prices start at $22.

Another multi-date show started this week in Philadelphia.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The National Tour of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is being presented now through November 18 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-731-3333, www.kimmelcenter.org) as part of the Kimmel Center’s 2018-2019 “Broadway Philadelphia” series.

The tour features Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka, James Young as Grandpa Joe and Amanda Rose as Mrs. Bucket.

The story was originally inspired by Roald Dahl’s experience of chocolate companies during his schooldays. Cadbury would often send test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions on the new products.

“This is a show about hope,” said Young. “There are some real good lessons in it – like pulling everyone together. The film came out in the early 1960s. It’s pretty iconic. The show stays very close to the movie but has been modernized a bit.

“There is a dark edge but it’s still good for children. We haven’t heard any kids crying out there. The original novel is probably darker, Roald Dahl is a pretty dark writer.

“Audiences like this show because it’s a wonderful story – a story of hope. It has good life lessons. It’s a very joyful, fun production.”

Video link for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – https://youtu.be/x0nN99ljvFk.

The show is running now through November 18 at the Academy of Music. Ticket prices range from $25-$139.

David Cook

David Cook, who will be headlining a show on November 8 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com) has a CV that is similar to that of many of acts that perform at the venue and, at the same time, very dissimilar.

Cook is a singer-songwriter who is equally at home performing with a band or doing solo shows with just him and his guitar. That’s the similar part.

On the other hand, not many acts can match some of Cook’s other entertainment accomplishments. He was the winner on Season 7 of “American Idol” in 2008. Earlier this year, Cook played the leading role in the Broadway production of “Kinky Boots.”

Cook immediately launched to stardom following his Season 7 American Idol title. He broke several Billboard chart records when 14 of his songs debuted on the Hot Digital Songs chart and 11 of his songs debuted on the Hot 100 and went on to sell more than two million albums — including his certified platinum eponymous album. His 2015 studio album, “Digital Vein” debuted in the Top 5 on the Billboard Pop Chart.

When Cook performs at the World Café Live, he will not be an American Idol reliving his past, a Broadway star or a sensitive singer-songwriter sitting on a stool accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. He will be a rock musician touring in support of a recently-released EP. His new record “Chromance” was released in February 2018.

“‘Chromance’ is my most recent collection,” said Cook, during a phone interview last week. “I’m certainly still pushing that one. But, at the same time, the momentum is heading forward – on to the next one. I’ve got a band behind me on this tour – but it’s still an acoustic tour.”

Cook suffered a bit of a setback recently that almost jeopardized the tour.

“I broke my hand two weeks before the tour started,” said Cook. “I’d like to have an exciting story about how it happened, but it just took place when I was letting the dogs out. I broke my left hand – and I’m left-handed. Fortunately, I avoided needing surgery.”

On February 15, 2018, it was announced that Cook would be making his Broadway debut playing Charlie Price, in Kinky Boots on April 3, 2018, and would play a limited run through May 5. Cook returned to Kinky Boots for a second limited run from July 17-September 9, 2018.

A few weeks ago, Cook announced that he would release his brand-new single “Death Of Me” on October 26 to coincide with his highly-anticipated fall “Acoustic Tour.”

“I finished my Broadway run with ‘Kinky Boots’ and went home to Nashville,” said Cook. “I wanted to write a song, record it and out it out to accompany the tour. I got in the studio in Nashville and it took just three days for the whole thing. It was self-produced. I try to bring in universal themes. This song is about rebellion.

“This tour is kind of a mix of new stuff and older material that we’ve been playing for 10 years. Trying to re-work the older songs for an acoustic tour was a fun challenge. And, it’s fun to get to perform these songs in a fresh light.”

Cook’s songs and his diverse career stages have brought him fans from all walks of life.

“With ‘American Idol’ and ‘Kinky Boots,’ it’s been a unique career path,” said Cook. “What ‘Idol’ has done for my career has been immeasurable. ‘Idol’ at its best is a great avenue to find new talent.”

Video link for David Cook — https://youtu.be/koKubQMiQe4.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Matt Hires as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Darwin Deez on November 9, Steve Forbert on November 9, Jennifer Knapp on November 10,

KT Tunstall on November 13, Elliott Murphy on November 13 and Alan Doyle and Whitney Rose on November 14.

Sister Sparrow

When Sister Sparrow takes the stage for a show, it’s like a modern version of a soul band fronted by a female vocalist like Aretha Franklin – or a concert by the Tedeschi Trucks Band minus the guitar fireworks of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi.

Sister Sparrow, a rocking soul band fronted by Sister Sparrow (a.k.a. Arleigh Kincheloe), just released a new album, “Gold,” and will be perfomoing songs from the LP at a show on November 9 at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com).

“I’m back home after just doing a Midwest tour,” said Kincheloe, during a phone interview from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley. ‘Getying a little bit of fresh air here is helping. It’s nice to come back to someplace quiet.

“On tour, it’s me and seven guys. We have Matt Osborne on keyboards, Jackson Kincheloe on harmonica and lap steel, Josh Myers on bass, Dan Boyden on drums, Phil Rodriguez on trumpet and Brian Graham on sax. We’ve been playing with a few different guitar players. Right now, it’s Mark Marshall. In the earlier days, guitar was more upfront. This time, it’s more piano sound.”

Kincheloe first put the band together in 2008 and released the debut album, “Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds,” in 2010. But, Kincheloe’s music history goes further back than 2008.

“My parents are musicians,” said Kincheloe. “My dad is a drummer and my mom sings. My dad has a band called Blues maneuver. I’d tag along to their shows. He let me sing onstage when I was nine. I just had a natural way about it. My dad still plays drums in that band – but he’s also a full-time history teacher. My brother Jackson and I have always played music together.”

“Gold,” which was released on October 12 via Thirty Tigers, is Sister Sparrow’s fifth album. The band released “Pound of Dirt” in 2012, “The Weather Below” in 2016 and a live album, “Fowl Play,” in 2016. The new album was produced by Carter Matschullat.

Together, they took the classic brass-fueled Dirty Birds sound and turned it into something altogether new — a soul-blasted contemporary pop sound both timeless yet utterly now. Most of the band’s earlier records were done with more of a live vibe.

“I met Carter during a writing session for the song ‘Gold,’” said Kincheloe. “I really liked working with him on that one song. So, we decided that he should produce the record. We did it in Brooklyn at a studio in Greenpoint.

“We started making the album before my pregnancy. I worked on it during my pregnancy. Then, we did the bulk of the work after my son was born. I only had a few hours a day because I had a young baby to take care of so Carter worked a lot on it on his own without me.”

Now, Sparrow and her bandmates are bringing the new songs to life as they tour back-and-forth across the country.

“About one-third of our live show is songs from ‘Gold,’” said Kincheloe. “We’re also doing songs from all our records – including ‘Untie My Shoelaces’ from our very first record.”

Video link for Sister Sparrow – https://youtu.be/9vs3zpNj8nk.

The show at the Theatre of the Living Arts, which has Levee Drivers, as the opening act will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.

Other upcoming shows at the TLA are Max on November 10, Saves the Day on November 11, Tasha Cobbs on November 12, Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians on November 13 and Hobo Johnson on November 14.

Ha Ha Tonka

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295http://www.kennettflash.org) presents Brian Filone’s Bowie Experience – A Tribute to David Bowie on November 9, Ha Ha Tonka and Apache Trails on November 10, and We Kids Rock Guitar Lesson Showcase on November 14.

The Steel City Coffee House (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com) will host Jutaun and Lily Anel on November 9, “The Beatlws Breadbasket: Benefit for PACS” on November 10 and the Philadelphia Main Line Ukulele Group on November 11.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389www.ardmoremusic.com) will host Marcus Miller with special guest Daniel Weatherspoon on November 8, Star Kitchen featuring members of Disco Biscuits, Eric Krasno Band, Lauryn Hill on November 9, Yonder Mountain String Band with special guest Brad Parsons on November 10, and The Travelin’ McCourys with special guest Hezekiah Jones on November 14.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650www.keswicktheatre.com) hosts Iron & Wine on November 8, Lucia Micarelli on November 9, Richard Thompson on November 10 and Gary Trudeau on November 13.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808www.st94.com) will present Norman Taylor on November 8, Humble Pie on November 9, Trout Fishing In America on November 10, Joe Conklin on November 10, Celtica: Pipes Rock with First Highland Watch on November 11, Survivorman: Les Stroud on November 12, and The Alarm with Velvet Shelter on November 13.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will have Rik Emmett & Dave Dunlop on November 9, John Byrne Band on November 10, and Andy Cabic (Vetiver) and Eric Johnson (Fruit Bats) on November 14.

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