1. A Day in the Life: Francesca Forcella

    BX Dancer Francesca Forcella takes us through a typical rehearsal day in the BalletX studio for #WorldBalletDay

    8:00 AM

    My alarm goes off, and I begin my day. The first task of my day is always to make coffee…I’m a bit of an addict and need my French press and freshly ground coffee to wake up. 

    8:15 AM

    I make breakfast. Usually an egg, cream cheese, and Sriracha sandwich on toasted Tuscan bread is on the menu. (Inspired by former BalletX dancer Jaime Lennon.)  If I am in a rush, I will typically just have cereal. However, I prefer the egg breakfast because it is more likely to keep me full until lunch. 

    8:45 AM

    I prefer to pack my lunch and snacks. Most of the time I make a sandwich, but sometimes I will bring dinner leftovers or some kind of salad depending on how heavy my rehearsal schedule is that day.

    9:00 AM

    I pack my dance bag, throwing in a couple different rehearsal outfits to ensure I feel fresh throughout the day. Then I throw on street clothes, do my hair, and put on some makeup. 

    9:20 AM

    I start my walk to the studio. I live about a mile away, but I prefer the 15 or 20-minute walk over taking public transportation. I find it is a good pre-warm up before class. It can be a bit rough in the winter, but if the weather is really bad, Philadelphia definitely isn’t sparse on cabs!   

    9:40 AM

    This is when I usually arrive to the studio. It gives me time to quickly change into my dance clothes, and have about 20 minutes to prepare for class. To warm-up, I usually start with my feet, using a TheraBand. I then do a mixture of Pilates, yoga, and basic stretching before putting on either my ballet or pointe shoes to begin class. 

    10:00 AM

    BalletX company class begins. We have a daily classical ballet class to maintain a foundation underneath all of the contemporary work we do.

    11:15 AM

    Class ends, and there is a 15-minute break before rehearsal starts. Within this break, I usually change into dry clothes and grab a quick snack. If we are rehearsing or learning a new piece of choreography, I will also use this time to go over what were taught the day before. 

    11:30 AM

    Rehearsals start. Right now, we are working on a piece titled Malasangre by Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto. The movement is very detailed, strong, and sassy, danced to fun Latin music. It is always exciting to learn new work and styles because it expands my dance palate and challenges me.

    2:00 PM

    Lunch time! Most of the time I will stay at the studio to eat lunch with the other dancers, but sometimes I like to eat outside to get some fresh air. 

    3:00 PM

    I head back into rehearsal. 

    6:00 PM

    Generally, this is what time I finish my workday. At this point, I will either walk home, or grab dinner and drinks with fellow company members. We are all very close, which I think is part of what helps us work well together. 

    6:30 PM

    If I head straight home after rehearsal, this is about the time I get home. The first thing I do when I walk in the door, is take a shower. If it has been an exceptionally long day filled with new choreography, I will also soak in an Epsom salt bath to try to prevent the inevitable soreness. Once freshened up, I will begin to cook dinner. I usually try to make something quick and easy for myself. But if my boyfriend comes over for dinner, I will sometimes get creative in the kitchen and try a new recipe. I always find it more fun to cook for two rather than one!

    8:00 PM

    After dinner, it is time to start working on school. Since last January, I have been enrolling in one or two college courses each semester. I was not able to get a college degree before diving into my dance career, but I have set a personal goal to achieve one. I feel like it will benefit me in the future. 

    10:00 PM

    I begin to wind down. I’ll read a book (I’m currently trekking my way through the Game of Thrones series), or catch up on missed TV shows.

    11:00 PM

    Good night! 

    Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy of the Vail Valley Foundation

  2. movementaddiction:

    Ballet X, Philadelphia ♥ http://ift.tt/1q72GFd

    (via pointe-in-time)

  3. On September 9th, BalletX dancer Richard Villaverde and members from the band Murmuration joined forces to present an improvisational performance at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery. Inspired by the work on display, these artists captured the creativity of each painting through spontaneous performance.

    There are still two more gallery performances this weekend featuring BalletX dancers Zachary Kapeluck and Chloe Felesina. The Benefit Exhibition at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery runs through October 4th, and 20% of the proceeds benefit BalletX!

    BalletX Gallery Performances:

    Friday, September 12th at 7PM

    Sunday, September 14th at 1PM

    Photos by Bill Hebert.


  4. Stay in touch with the latest BalletX news. Read The Letter X for information about our free Fringe performances, The 2014 Benefit Exhibition at the Bridgette Mayer Gallery, and meet three new BX dancers!


  5. Want to know what the BalletX dancers have been up to in Vail? Daniel Mayo gives us an inside look at the Vail International Dance Festival:

    BalletX is here in Vail, CO for the Vail International Dance Festival, and it has been an amazing whirlwind so far! We are this year’s resident company at the festival which has afforded us the opportunity to not only perform tried and true pieces in our repertory, but to premiere an incredible new work by Matthew Neenan that will include New York City Ballet principal dancers Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild. Our rehearsal process preparing for the festival has been very intense, but also rewarding. Upon completing the premiere and run of Sunset, o639 Hours at the Wilma last month, we went right back into the studio two days later to get working on the pieces for Vail. Most of our rehearsal time went into Matt’s new work Increasing, which is full of intertwining solos, duets, quartets, and group sections. How Matt has been able to create such an intricate piece in just a few weeks right after being in the theater for Sunset is beyond me. His creative juices seem to always be flowing. We had the unique challenge of rehearsing this new work with spatial holes for Robert and Tiler, since their parts in the piece are being created and melded with the rest of the choreography while we are here at the festival. Although this challenge added some pressure, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable process. Working alongside Robert and Tiler has proven to be a joy.

    In addition to dancing alongside Robert and Tiler, we have had the rare opportunity to be in class and on stage with some truly remarkable performers. The first to come to mind is the one and only Alessandra Ferri. Being able to take class with and watch such a legend perform has been a pleasure that I know each of us will remember forever. Other artists in attendance include this year’s artist in residence Herman Cornejo, Cory Stearns, Isabella Boylston, Lauren Cuthbertson, Jeffrey Cirio, Misa Kuranaga, not to mention the unique Lil Buck. The list goes on and on.

    The reception BalletX has received from both the audience and fellow performers so far has been tremendous! There is so much established and well respected choreography being performed at the festival that we all love to watch, but I feel that BalletX has brought a freshness and excitement to Vail that really resonates with everyone who sees the company perform. As our time here comes to a close, I can’t think of a better way to finish off a busy summer with BalletX. Between the sold out run of Sunset, o639 Hours and our residency in Vail, it has been a rewarding couple of months. Just a few more days in Colorado and then back to Philly!

     -Daniel Mayo

  6. Last night’s world premiere of Matthew Neenan’s Sunset, o639 Hours flew into the hearts of the audience. Don’t miss your chance to see this full-length ballet with original music played live onstage by The Sunset CLub, July 9-13 at the Wilma Theater.

    Photo by Bill Hebert


  7. What’s happening at BalletX this month? Read the BalletX Newsletter to find out!

  8. Preparing for my last show as a performer with BalletX is bittersweet. Honestly, my body just cannot handle the long, grueling days of rehearsal like it once could, so I am looking forward to focusing on teaching and other aspects of my artistry. On the other hand, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that I won’t be involved in the whirlwind of the creative process any longer as a performer, or experience the special camradere that forms within the group.

    I am very happy, however, to have my last performance in Philadelphia with BalletX be a new work by Matt. The first pieces I ever performed with BalletX when I joined in 2008 were two original works by Matty, so it seems fitting to end it here with one of his as well. It has been a huge honor and a pleasure getting to know him throughout the years as an artist and a friend, and I am really grateful to have bared witness to the evolution of his work throughout that time. 

    Though I am transitioning away from dancing full time, I am by no means retiring from the stage. I plan to keep dancing in certain capacities of which I am fit, and to focus on choreographing on myself and others. I will also stay involved with the company, overseeing the new Dance eXchange program in Philadelphia Public Schools and teaching company ballet class. So in this way, this time is really very joyous for me. I’m very grateful for the many years my body has given me, and I am taking this time to soak in all of the details of company life one last time. But when one chapter ends, another begins, and I’m excited for what lies ahead…



  9. Sunset, o639 Hours Program Note

    Matthew Neenan loves ballet, and it shows in everything he does. Early in his career, training at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York and dancing with the Balanchine-inspired Pennsylvania Ballet, Neenan absorbed the technique of the Russian-trained master who transformed classical style into something uniquely American: fast, focused, simultaneously accessible and imperial. As a choreographer, he has a particular knack for storytelling that we associate with early “ballet theater” choreographers like Jerome Robbins and Agnes De Mille, and he acknowledges being excited by Nederlands Dans Theater, where Jiri Kylian made his reputation, and by contemporary ballet choreographers like Ohad Naharin, Nacho Duato, and William Forsythe.

    In the 17 years since his first major commission for Pennsylvania Ballet—Vicissitudes (1997) to the music of Samuel Barber, which premiered when he was just 23—Neenan has made 13 more pieces for Pennsylvania Ballet, 14 for BalletX, and nearly 20 others for a dozen companies around the country. Founding artistic director at BalletX since 2005 and resident choreographer at Pennsylvania Ballet since 2007, Neenan is now in great demand, making new dances on troupes across the country.

    Neenan’s 2010 masterpiece, The Last Glass, shown across the country and still active in BalletX repertoire, marked a leap in his stylistic growth for its theatricality and technical diversity. To raucous tunes by the band Beirut that combine elements of indie rock and world music, the dancers, in what might be a post-prom haze, swirl and swivel, stumbling through spherical movement, some of them on pointe, some in flat shoes. A central couple—she in pants, he dressed all in white—seem to spend the whole piece breaking up. Critic Alastair Macaulay, in the New York Times, called the dancers “touchingly impulsive” and picked this work as one of his top-ten favorites of 2013, after BalletX performed it at New York’s Joyce Theater last summer.

    How do steps communicate feeling? How does the body speak? Neenan’s strength is bringing a contemporary feeling to ballet, finding ways to let the human side of his dancers come out, to let them look more like who they are. He thrives on a collective creative process, he says, “because my choreography revolves around people.” His process gives his dancers an opportunity to open themselves up.

    Audiences can read the stories Neenan knits into his choreography. Recently he’s been “into duets and small groups and building relationships; creating a narrative with the dancers.” He’s also collaborating with musicians, venturing into commissioned scores and live music. Earlier this season he made There I Was on BalletX, for which company member Colby Damon played original compositions on guitar. In the spring, for Milwaukee Ballet, he launched his retro, swinging Something Borrowed to songs by the band Pink Martini. Sunset, o639 Hours is Neenan’s second collaboration with New Zealand-born, Philadelphia-based composer Rosie Langabeer; they first joined forces in 2011 on Proliferation of the Imagination, a vaudeville dance theater piece with BalletX and The Wilma Theater.

    Macaulay recently called Neenan “one of the freshest and most remarkable American ballet choreographers based outside New York.” “I’m liking the journey I’m on,” Neenan says. “When ballet is done right, when the acting is grade A, the dancing is grade A, it’s really magical.”


    BalletX Summer Series 2014 July 9-13 at the Wilma Theater.

    Tickets available now

  10. Composer Rosie Langabeer takes us through a typical day in the creative process. Rosie and her band, The Sunset Club, are creating an original score for Matthew Neenan’s world premiere ballet Sunset, 0639 Hours that will be played live onstage with the dancers. Step inside the studio and experience a BalletX rehearsal:

    Neil Feather makes instruments that are sculptures that sound like engines. Andrew Marsh sings, improvises and generally obsesses. Josh Machiz plays in (pretty much) every band in town. Isaac Stanford and his lap steel are giving people dreamy dreams all over the country. Nick Kourtides is a sound (master) designer. And I have all these folks in a studio with me composing music for BalletX’s new ballet “Sunset, o639 Hours”!

    The following is a typical conversation at the office:

    ANDREW: How about the line goes “…my baby is a sinner and she’s eating last night’s dinner in the morning…”?

    ROSIE:  We really need to have a hui about the magnapooters.

    ISAAC: Did you just say hooey? About magnapooters?

    NEIL: The Swedish neurotica needs a new battery 

    NICK: So… (Something intelligent and deep wherein he solves a complicated problem) do you know what I mean? 

    ROSIE: Let’s take this upstairs and play with the dancers.  And I think it should be improvised: beefheart, funny, mostly staccato…. quiet……. strict, short loops…in key and time with the quarter note pulse, but in a different meter to what the others are playing.

    (10 minutes later)

    ROSIE: Wow that sounds really cool…How did you do that? 

    ANDREW: I think it was H9, I7, D5 and 8, in that order

    ROSIE: Sweet as!

    JOSH: Hey, why don’t you do a hocket there

    ROSIE & ANDREW: Huh? (both google hocket) …Oh, yeah!

    BalletX’s Summer Series 2014 featuring a world premiere ballet Sunset, o639 Hours by Matthew Neenan with music by Rosie Langabeer. July 9-13 at the Wilma Theater. Tickets available here.