For sheer beauty, the Pennsylvania Ballet's Grace and Grandeur program is one of its best in the last few years. It opened Thursday night at the Merriam Theater.
It features lush geometric formations of dancers, familiar classical music, richly colored and intricately detailed tutus, and chandeliers on stage.
The program opens with Paquita, which featured Mayara Pineiro and Arian Molina Soca in the lead roles Thursday. A Marius Petipa ballet set to music by Ludwig Minkus, it was first danced at the Bolshoi in 1847 and has all the traditional elements: the diagonal line of dancers, soloist variations, corps framing the lead couple and shadowing them with smaller versions of the same steps, and jewel-toned costumes to die for.
Molina Soca is a regal partner and strong dancer, but incomplete turns are one of my pet peeves, and he cheated the takeoff in most of his air turns. Pineiro's footwork was precise and her performance spirited and fun, with extra turns and personality.
The corps was so lovely and synchronized it was almost a distraction from the main couple. The brightly colored tutus and delicate footwork would not be denied.
Next came Christopher Wheeldon's For Four, set to music by Schubert, which company artistic director Angel Corella danced in its 2006 premiere with three other stars — the so-called Kings of the Dance. He brought the piece to the Pennsylvania Ballet in 2016.
This Philadelphia outing of For Four was more successful than the first, featuring solid performances by Sterling Baca, Zecheng Liang, Peter Weil, and Jermel Johnson. Each took turns showing off his skill, which was especially breathtaking when a dancer would go from a fast set of steps directly into a very slow, controlled balance position.
The program finished with Theme and Variations, one of the few Balanchine ballets this year for this traditionally Balanchine-based company. It is one of that choreographer's more classical works, with more of those tutus, that diagonal line, those intricate formations.
Set to a score by Tchaikovsky, it was another feast for the eyes, with a breathtaking corps in lavender set off by a couple — Dayesi Torriente and Baca — in pink.
Torriente and Baca generally performed well, although a greater height difference would have made the partnering smoother in this ballet. Torriente seemed to just barely be able to keep up with the very fast steps in her solo.
There were some messy moments throughout the evening, but the program is so lovely that all was forgiven.