Saying goodbye to Rio
Riolama Lorenzo’s final performances
Pushing Boundaries bill: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude | 11:11 | Keep
Philadelphia, Merriam Theater
12 February 2012
Philadelphia’s dance community and a legion of dance fans have been filling the Merriam Theater this week to catch the final performances of Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Riolama Lorenzo. Pushing Boundaries is great programming to mark the occasion and to show the future of this company, going into its 50th season next year. Rio, as she is affectionately known, started out as a member of NYCB, but chose to move to Pennsylvania Ballet. Her final bows came on February 12.
Since joining the company in 2002, Lorenzo has created roles in several of the company’s new works. And without doubt, Rio has distinguished herself in many classical roles here ~ the short list includes Giselle, Swan Lake (Wheeldon), Carmen and Prodigal Son.
Barbara Weisberger, who founded PB in 1963, was among those standing for the thunderous ten-minute ovation. PB artistic director Roy Kaiser came onstage with a huge spray of flowers and embraced the star, gesturing her repeatedly to center stage under waves of lusty applause. Her husband and four-year-old son laid flowers at her feet and roses rained down on the stage of the Merriam Theater as Rio’s colleagues kept coming on to say goodbye.
Starting the program with a bang was William Forsythe’s maniacal ballet The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude set to music by Franz Schubert. The unrelenting scherzo pacing keeps it double time for dancers — Rachel Maher, Brooke Moore, and Barette Vance Widell, in hard-disc, primary-color tutus, and Daniel Cooper and Andrew Daly in cooper singlets — the bold costuming letting you see all of the quicksilver footwork this requires. This quintet had precision and attack, but they kept it, admirably, supple and full of esprit de corps.
Next was Neenan’s 2005 ballet 11:11, set to six songs by Rufus Wainwright and a definitive millennial company classic. The lead-off couple, Julie Diana and Zachary Hench, are married in real life, and the intimacy they achieve during Vibrate is just sublime. They got a big laugh every time when the ballerina is tossed offstage at the end, in the unexpected twist.
Speaking of chemistry, Rio appears in Greek Song as the elusive pick-up of Francis Veyette, with great unexpected variations. Lorenzo’s trademark, diamond-hard arabesque flashes, and there is such flow in this pas de deux with these dancers. The full ensemble finale of Oh What a World is a riveting stage picture. Wainwright samples Ravel’s Bolero, with a rush of dancers streaming onstage with Lorenzo marching slowly through them. The last song was a bit scrambled because of a technical glitch — a curtain panel was supposed to make dancers vanish, but the effect didn’t go smoothly.
Keep choreographed for Lorenzo in 2009, is postmodern classicism with few Neenanism and very romantic scenarios scored to String Quartets by Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov, played with pulsing clarity by four members of the ballet orchestra. The robust partnering for the four supporting couples featured standouts Amy Aldridge/Francis Veyette and Brooke Moore/Ian Hussey. Rio appears in silhouette, role as the sultry dancer floating around the stage in a gorgeous, scallop-skirt yellow flamenco dress. At one point, her partner Zachary Hench had his head on her shoulder and it was symbolic picture of her exit. We know how he feels- Lorenzo has been simply luminous in her technical and dramatic artistry- the complete dancer.
Eventually all eyes were on Rio’s every move, knowing they would be her last moments with the company. You had to love that fact that Neenan leaves her spinning on a bar stool, because yes, we all need a drink to think about life without Rio on the stage of the Pennsylvania Ballet.