Main Liners need not travel far to experience top-notch professional contemporary dance. Paoli based dance company Ballet 180 brings the elegant art form of contemporary ballet to the Philadelphia suburbs with their main stage performances at Rosemont College’s Rotwitt Theater. Founded in 2009 by artistic director Kelly Murray Farrell, the company puts on three shows each season with a shared theme. With an overall commitment to the community and enriching lives through dance, Ballet 180 is accessible, family friendly and culturally enriching.
This year, the company, comprised solely of professionals who have studied dance and/or have performed in other professional dance companies, will bring to life three beautiful shows with an overarching theme of transformation. “Transformation can mean a lot of things,” says Farrell. “We’re focusing on taking action and possibilities. We’ll be exploring those themes in different ways for each show.”
Unlike traditional ballet, which can be long, Ballet 180’s shows are a very manageable length, making them ideal for younger and older audience members alike. Farrell understands that it is both physically and mentally demanding to sit through long performances. To give versatility to the shows, Ballet 180’s performances typically last an hour and a half and include an intermission. “Having a shorter show and shorter pieces within the show really helps audiences to stay engaged. You can get a lot more out of a show by seeing various messages and themes,” Farrell says.
Not only is the show length different, but the concept of contemporary ballet is different and one that often can’t be found in the region. “It’s a blend between classical ballet and contemporary dance. The movement is technical in foundation but fluid in sense of line,” says Farrell, who has been dancing since she was three. “Classical ballet is performed to classical music, on a stage with lots of scenery and props, whereas contemporary ballet is usually more minimalist and can be set to a variety of music genres.”
Farrell has also made an effort to celebrate individuality in her company. “Many dance companies have a certain body type they look for in their dancers. We really celebrate the individual personalities of each of our dancers and promote positive self-image,” Farrell adds. That’s a positive message for not just the dancers, but the audience.
Beyond choosing engaging music and diverse dancers, the performances diverge from traditional ideas of ballet in that dancers sometimes go barefoot or wear socks. The same goes for the content, which, unlike classical ballet, has vignettes and often will see several shorter pieces performed in a single show, instead of one single, longer storyline.
Those subtle but significant differences will be evident as the Ballet 180 dancers bring to life A Charlie Brown Christmas in December, set to Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts soundtrack. “It’s a jazzy ballet, really high energy, fun and very family friendly,” says Farrell.
Later in the season, the theme of transformation truly takes center stage in the company’s performance of Transformed, which includes work by guest choreographer Colby Damon, who has a multitude of experiences, including BalletX and Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia. The company will complete the season in May with an enchanting interpretation of A Secret Garden. “We’re exploring growth, rebirth and sense of belonging. It should be a very visually stunning piece,” says Farrell.
Off stage, Ballet 180 gives back to the community through outreach and education programs, through its program Move 360, which encourages people to be active through dance. “We really try to connect with the community by organizing programing and making dance accessible. We try to connect our outreach to what we’re doing in the theater,” says Farrell.
The company puts a great deal of focus on mind, body and soul, for both its dancers and its audience. “We feel it’s important to educate our audience. We try to make all of our programs as educational as possible by connecting them to larger, lofty themes that people can relate to,” says Farrell.
Together, those elements combine to make dance accessible both on and off the stage, making it a great introduction to a modern art form for those unfamiliar with it, and a treat for those who already have an intimacy with dance.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.Ballet180.org.
1708 Lancaster Ave., FL 2
â€‹Paoli, PA 19301