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Joffrey Ballet Chicago

by Rita Kohn
April 9, 2011
Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University
4602 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-940-6444
4 ½ stars
Clowes Presents

This review was originally published as a shorter version in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Powerful on all fronts, 21 dancers of the Joffrey Ballet company of artists delivered with finesse four very different styles by four challenging choreographers.
Three couples embraced Jerome Robbins' In the Night (1970) as a visual treatise on three aspects of love, working into the heart of Chopin's music played live off-stage by pianist Paul James Lewis. Each closed with a surprise; all three demanded nuanced physicality and facial expression along with lifts to amaze. Christine Rocas and Mauro Villanueva, dressed in white, perfected youthful exploration through advances and pullbacks. April Daly in a flirty red dress and Miguel Angel Blanco in military uniform sizzled as "hot" lovers. Victoria Jaini and Fabrice Calmels made your heart wrench, showing how falling out of love affects even the casual onlooker. With all three couples on stage for the apotheosis Robbins teases us into thinking about where we are in the trinity. Anita Pociotti provided a meticulous re-staging.

If Robbins' approach to pas de deux is sublime, George Balanchine's is sly. He layers flirting onto the Italian folk dance Tarantella (1964), with two dancers relating viscerally as a dance within a dance taking off and landing in non-stop virtuosity and fancy footwork to the ever-changing tempos driving Gottschalk's music (arranged by Hersey Kay). Elyse Borne staged Abigail Simon and Graham Maverick in a tamer version of the original emotionally and technically charged Patricia McBride and Edward Villella "Wow" performances. A closer match to Balanchine's rhythmic abandon was staged by Victoria Lyras on Chris Lingner and Kristin Young for the May 22-23, 2009, Indianapolis School of Ballet program at the Scottish Rite Cathedral theater.

Christine Rocas and Jonathan Dummar as the friends/lovers destined to part, with Derrick Agnoleti, Rual Casasola, John Mark Giragosian, Lucas Segovia and Michael Smith representing broken-winged angels elevated Gerald Arpino's Round of Angels (1983) set on Mahler's Adagietta from The Fifth Symphony. Inspired by an etching by Caveliere d'Arpino, this work wrought with turbulence plumbs the depths of loss when we know loss is imminent. The sensitivity of the work reminded this reviewer of the 2010 Dance Kaleidoscope Indiana premier of For Jose originally choreographed by David Hochoy in 2001. Timothy June and Noah Trulock similarly brought dimension to grief and coming to terms with moving on.

Edwaard Liang's Age of Innocence (2008) set on music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman is a bold approach to the subtext of Jane Austen novels to vibrantly depict emotional textures in a regulated society where the ball in a grand house serves as the meeting and mating place. Three segments showing vignettes of an assignation and smaller groupings are book ended by a corps of eight men, eight women going through the motions of a stately dance suddenly pulled apart by pent up emotions. Not animalistic like Paul Taylor's Cloven Kingdom, presented March 25-26, 2011 by Indiana University Ballet Theater and previously by Butler Ballet with dancers in formal dress. Liang's commentary is heightened by Maria Pinto's costume design with men in briefs and women first in stately gowns and eventually in chaste undergarments.
Throughout the lighting was superb.

Artistic director Ashley C. Wheather's programming builds for the audience a foundation for understanding the progression of ballet throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Building upon the past, new choreography touches on social issues and dares us to look around us with a more seeing eye and listen more attentively. Joffrey Ballet's acuity to the world around us helps sharpen our senses.

In pacing their program for comparisons with other works recently experienced, Joffrey Ballet brought to the fore the essential quality of their mission to open audiences to think about dance as an essential part of our lives and to stimulate conversations about how what we experience on stage affects us emotionally and intellectually. Because Joffrey dancers are technically superb and the repertoire is constantly challenging, audience members are pushed to support their local dancers and companies to attain higher levels. At the very moment when national and states funding for the arts is in jeopardy, Joffrey Ballet in its 45th touring season proves why we on every local level have a stake in our circumscribed destinies. Absorbing the immensity of Arpino's Round of Angels and reflecting on Hochoy's For Jose this reviewer felt overwhelmed by the idea that the inexplicable loss is our art, the better part as partner.
Joffrey Ballet's 'Round of Angels' Dancers: Victoria Jaiani & Fabrice Calmels

Joffrey Ballet's "Round of Angels"
Dancers: Victoria Jaiani & Fabrice Calmels

Photo © & courtesy of Cheryl Mann


Dance Kaleidoscope's 'For Jose', by David Hochoy Dancers: Tim June and Noah Trulock

Dance Kaleidoscope's "For Jose", by David Hochoy
Dancers: Tim June and Noah Trulock

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Dance Kaleidoscope's 'For Jose', by David Hochoy Dancers: Tim June and Noah Trulock

Dance Kaleidoscope's "For Jose", by David Hochoy
Dancers: Tim June and Noah Trulock

Photo © & courtesy of Cheryl Mann

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