Company: Reviews: 2012: Ellen Dunkel for The Inquirer

For Jeanne Ruddy Dance, last bows, next steps

May 11, 2012

Many in Philadelphia’s dance community were stunned in November when former Martha Graham principal dancer Jeanne Ruddy announced plans to disband her modern dance company.

But Janet Pilla, a dancer with the company since 2001 and one of its two associate artistic directors, was less taken aback. She’d been through this before—three times, in fact.

“The truth is I’m never surprised about things like that,” she said, “because I’ve danced with a lot of dance companies. And for one reason or another … it’s just hard to keep going for too long.”

Audience members will get one more chance to see Jeanne Ruddy Dance this weekend, when it performs its final season at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. The program includes the 2004 piece Out of the Mist, Above the Real, in which Ruddy will perform; MonTage a Trois, which premiered in 2011 at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts; and a new work, Game Drive, based on Ruddy’s safari in Kenya, with a score by the Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon.

“You just try to be grateful for things when it’s there, and then try to learn from the experience after it’s gone,” said Pilla, 51, who has dance work lined up through October and another possibility for next year. And after that? “Every round you have to re-qualify yourself, re-quantify yourself.”

Even before the announcement, Pilla had seen signs that the end might be near.

“In the work that we’ve done, there has kind of been an arc. And it seems like the way it was presented to me was that Jeanne felt like she accomplished what she wanted to do and was ready to do new projects.”

Pilla is right, says Ruddy, 59. “I have feelings of sadness; it feels quite final in terms of the company. However, there are things that I am looking forward to.” These include outside choreographic projects, teaching, writing, and a long trip to China with her husband.

But even after the curtain comes down, Ruddy and her seven dancers have several months of work ahead of them, archiving the works set on the company over the past 12 years — 10 of Ruddy’s own choreography and seven pieces commissioned from others. This means dancing and describing their roles on video so future companies can restage the works.