Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon,
|Joffrey Ballet presents|
Review by Lauren Whalen
Ballet is an ethereal art form, and the Joffrey Ballet Chicago strives to make it accessible while retaining all of the form’s inherent artistry. If anything, their efforts make programs like this spring’s New Works even more delightful. The four pieces of New Works – two Joffrey premieres and two choreographed specifically for Joffrey dancers – comprise two hours of sheer artistry and a wide range of emotion.
New Works opens with In Creases, a short ballet choreographed by Justin Peck, currently both a dancer and choreographer with the New York City Ballet and the subject of the recent documentary “Ballet 422”. Not only are there two pianists onstage, but the eight dancers interact with them, adding a fun layer to the breathtaking patterns, ripples and structures. Solos and duets intersperse with group work, and Peck’s choreography, lovingly interpreted by four Joffrey women and four men, is both intricate and intimate. The music of Philip Glass is an apt score for a ballet that’s both dreamy and intellectual, and Peck’s simple costume design brings George Balanchine to mind. Dancers don’t need miles of tulle to captivate, and when every muscle is on display the process is all the more fascinating. Everyone in the dance world is whispering Peck’s name these days, and work like In Creases leaves me eagerly anticipating his next move.
The next piece, Liturgy, was also choreographed for the New York City Ballet, by world-renowned dancemaker Christopher Wheeldon. As is the case with all of Wheeldon’s work, Liturgy turns traditional ballet on its neatly-coiffed head. While Liturgy is a pas de deux in the sense that it involves one male and one female dancer, similarities to other “steps for two” end there. It’s almost unorthodox how the two must rely on one another, with strenuous moves and lifts that demand every iota of flexibility and physicality. The piece has a sacred feel rather than a romantic one, and according to the program note was made so the audience may draw their own conclusions about the story and relationship of the couple. The result is a haunting and unforgettable experience, strong evidence why Wheeldon is one of the ballet world’s foremost choreographers.
In contrast, Evenfall does have a distinct plot – and is particularly personal to the Joffrey Ballet. Choreographed by ballet master Nicolas Blanc on five current company members, Evenfall premiered in 2013 in Montauban, France at an evening honoring French artists with American careers. The ballet follows the journey of a couple (represented in their older and younger years by two different sets of dancers), through the eyes of a poet. I could have done without the opening voiceover poem, only because Max Richter’s reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, Blanc’s set design (which incorporates large frames that are also used as windows and mirrors), the stunning choreography and the dancers’ pure beauty add rich layers to a simple but powerful love story. Evenfall has the potential to be legendary, and it’s exciting to know it started right here in Chicago.
Incantations closes the evening, a stirring spectacle that is grand from beginning to end. Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky’s score is a wonderful fit for Val Caniparoli’s intense, vivid choreography and Sandra Woodall’s bright spiral-patterned leotards add an aura of magic. With ten dancers, Incantations is a stunning illustration of the Joffrey’s power as an ensemble – the piece was choreographed for the company in 2012 – and a fitting end to an epic spring program.
Due to the NFL draft, New Works is featured in the Cadillac Palace Theatre rather than the Auditorium. However, the Joffrey Ballet would be compelling in a church basement. Whatever the theater, their performances are not to be missed, and New Works is no exception. The quartet of ballets are positively majestic in both style and execution, and the dancers flawless in physicality and emotion.
New Works continues through May 3rd at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map). Tickets are $41-$164, and are available through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Joffrey.org. (Running time: 2 hours, includes two intermissions)
Photos by Cheryl Mann
Note: casting will vary according to performance.
Matthew Adamczyk, Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai, Amanda Assucena, Artur Babajanyan, Edson Barbosa, Guillaume Basso, Miguel Angel Blanco, Ogulcan Borova, Anais Bueno, Fabrice Calmels, Raul Casasola, April Daly, Fernando Duarte, Cara Marie Gary, John Mark Giragosian, Dylan Gutierrez, Elizabeth Hansen, Rory Hohenstein, Anastacia Holden, Dara Holmes, Victoria Jaiani, Brooke Linford, Graham Maverick, Caitlin Meighan, Jeraldine Mendoza, Jacqueline Moscicke, Amber Neumann, Alexis Polito, Christine Rocas, Lucas Segovia, Aaron Smyth, Temur Suluashvili, Elivelton Tomazi, Alberto Velazquez, Jennifer Wang, Mahallia Ward, Joanna Wozniak, Kara Zimmerman
behind the scenes
For the Joffrey Ballet:
Ashley C. Wheater (Artistic Director), Greg Cameron (Executive Director), Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino (Founders), Scott Speck (Music Director, Conductor), Gerard C. Charles (Director of Artistic Operations, Ballet Master), Nicolas Blanc (Ballet Master, Principal Coach), Graca Sales (Ballet Master, Principal Coach)
For “In Creases”:
Christopher Wheeldon (Choreographer), Arvo Pärt (Music), Jason Fowler (Staging), Holly Hynes (Costume Design), Mark Stanley (Lighting), Jack Mehler (Lighting Design Recreation)
Nicolas Blanc (Choreographer, Costume Concept, Set Design), Max Richter (Music), Marianne Marks (Costume Concept Collaboration), Jack Mehler (Lighting Design, Set Design Collaboration), Josh Schmidt (Composer, Sound Designer – Poem)
Val Caniparoli (Choreographer), Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky (Music), Charla Metzker (Assistant to the Choreographer), Sandra Woodall (Scenic, Costume Design), Lucy Carter (Lighting Design), Jack Mehler (Lighting Design Recreation)