Choreographer Jerome Robbins was renowned for his work on the Broadway stage and in film. But audiences who love the thrilling dance sequences in “West Side Story,” “The King and I,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” or “On the Town” may be unaware of his equally acclaimed contributions to ballet. This weekend, Pennsylvania Ballet spotlights the late choreographer’s ballet work with “A Tribute To Jerome Robbins.”

The program features three pieces which PA Ballet artistic director Ángel Corella says echo Robbins’ innovative approach to Broadway. “It has a lot of the elements of a Broadway show,” says Corella. “There’s a lot of classical dancing but with modern movement that he uses to tell a story. It’s really exciting for the amount of acting that the dancers have to do.”

Corella, who was named artistic director last year, inherited the Robbins program from his predecessor, Roy Kaiser (the 2015-16 season will be the first programmed fully under Corella’s watch). But he is nonetheless enthusiastic about the program, having danced several of Robbins’ pieces during his tenure as principal dancer with American Ballet Theater and with his own Barcelona Ballet. 

“He was chameleonic,” Corella says of Robbins. “He could tell a completely different story in a completely different way and still be successful. This program is a perfect example of how broad his choreography was. I think that putting these pieces together is a perfect example of how much of a genius he was. He knew how to connect with the audience in a very personal way.”

'Fancy Free'
“A Tribute To Jerome Robbins” will feature the PA Ballet premiere of “In G Major,” a 1975 piece set to Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major” that is the program’s most traditional ballet piece. It will be followed by “Fancy Free,” which was later expanded to the Broadway show “On the Town,” which became the film of the same name starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The comedic piece features three WWII sailors on shore leave in New York City fighting over two beautiful women. Finally, “The Concert” is a comic masterpiece that paints a portrait of various characters in the audience at a Chopin piano concert. 

“I think it’s a perfect program for the whole family,” Corella says. “’In G Major’ uses the classical ballet vocabulary to show the technique and movement of what a classical dancer is. With ‘Fancy Free’ you feel like you’re watching a movie without words, and ‘The Concert’ is hilarious. It’s very sophisticated for the older generation and really fun for younger kids.” 

If you go
Pennsylvania Ballet: "A Tribute To Jerome Robbins"
May 7-10
Academy of Music
Broad and Locust streets