Jeffrey Gribler

Jeffrey Gribler

by Michael Caruso

The Philadelphia Dance Theatre (PDT) welcomes Northeast Regional Dance America to town this weekend with the “Philly Loves Dance Festival” May 21 through 23. Joy Delaney-Capponi is the artistic director of PDT.

“Emerging Choreographers” will be presented Thursday, May 21, at 5:30 and 7 p.m. in ArtsBank, 601 S. Broad St. in center city. There will be a “Concert Performance” featuring the best choreography and dancers Friday, May 22, at 7 p.m. in the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater.

The Festival will be brought to a celebratory finale with a “Gala Performance” featuring the best of the best Saturday, May 23, 7 p.m., again in the Perelman.

The Festival is bringing together young, pre-professional dance talent from all over the Northeast, and West Mt. Airy’s Jeffrey Gribler is the sole adjudicator for the Northeast region. Gribler is best known to local lovers of dance in general and ballet in particular for his 39 years of involvement with the Pennsylvania Ballet. For nearly four decades, until his recent departure from the company upon major artistic and administrative changes, Gribler worked as a dancer, rising to the rank of principal, and then balletmaster.

Gribler explained that there are five regional festivals sponsored by Dance America. The Northeast region included Ohio, his home state. “Dancers, choreographers and directors from all over Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey will be taking part in the Festival here in Philadelphia,” Gribler said. “I look at all the programs offered by all the area companies and choose the best so that we can present three full programs for the run of the Festival on Memorial Day weekend.”

Participating dance companies must be non-profits, and the dancers must be at least 12 years old to perform. “Most are in either middle or high school,” Gribler said. He recalled that when he was a teenager, he took part in the Festival, and George Balanchine, the legendary choreographer and founder of both the New York City Ballet and its affiliated American School of Ballet, was in attendance.

Barbara Weisberger was a student of Balanchine’s in New York City, and he encouraged her to establish a regional ballet company, which she did five decades ago here in Philadelphia. Gribler was one of the last active links with that gloried past, when the Pennsylvania Ballet was one of only a handful of companies permitted to dance Balanchine’s choreography. It’s an apostolic succession now almost entirely broken.

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The Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Chestnut Hill, celebrated Choral Evensong Sunday, May 3. The choir of St. Martin’s Church was joined in singing by the chancel choir of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lancaster.

The service opened with a finely wrought rendition of Herbert Howells’ “Prelude of Psalm 139: “Lord, you have searched me out and known me” for solo organ. Erik Meyer, St. Martin’s music director, evoked the rustic pastoral sounds of the early years of David, the shepherd who became king and wrote the vast majority of the Psalms. The sweet dissonances so delicately resolved of Howell’s music filled the church’s Norman Revival intimacy with tart yet engaging tones. One couldn’t help but be impressed by how seamlessly voiced and balanced an instrument St. Martin’s organ really is.

The unaccompanied settings of the “Magnificat” and the “Nunc Dimittis” were by Orlando Gibbons. Born in 1583, at the time of the final break between England’s Queen Elizabeth I and the Apostolic See in Rome and the subsequent establishment of the Church of England, Gibbons is justly considered to be one of the greatest of the first Protestant composers of sacred choral music written in the English language.

These two settings are splendid examples of his canon: full throttled emotionally and broadly conceived structurally. The combined choirs sang both scores beautifully,

St. Martin-in the-Fields Church will host its final Choral Evensong of the season Sunday, June 7, 5 p.m.