Abstracted Autobiography
Photo by Sarah Ferguson courtesy Richmond Ballet
Richmond native and former New York City Ballet principal dancer Philip Neal will retrace the steps of his career in Phoenix Rising, a partially autobiographical contemporary ballet he choreographed for the premiere of the Richmond Ballet’s 30th anniversary season.

“I was always the prince chasing the swan queen or waking up the sleeping beauty,” Neal says of the 23 years he spent with the New York company. “That was sort of my niche, so I’m trying to do something a little more contemporary.”

After retiring from the New York City Ballet in June 2010, the 45-year-old dancer was uncertain what to do next. Some soul-searching led him on the path of choreography. “I’m sort of starting all over again in terms of being a choreographer and trying to create my own vision and voice,” says Neal, who is now based in Miami.

Set to music by American composer Samuel Barber, the ballet centers on the lead male character, played by company dancer Fernando Sabino. “He’s going to be the Philip Neal character,” the choreographer says. “I think he is capable of taking you on an emotional journey.”

Neal, who studied from age 11 at the School of Richmond Ballet, has returned as a guest choreographer in the past. Most recently, he choreographed Gargoyles for the 29th season premiere.

Performances are set for Oct. 1 to 6. Following Neal’s piece, the company will perform Bow Out, an urban-inspired contemporary dance choreographed by Val Caniparoli. Commissioned by the Richmond Ballet in 1995, Bow Out is set to jazz performed by the Apollo Saxophone Quartet. Times vary. $34. Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre. 344-0906 or richmondballet.com.
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