Featuring Works by Choreographers: George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon
A Blend of Lyrical Beauty and Physical Humor Make All Stars a Ballet Everyone Can Enjoy.
I will be the first to admit that I do not often attend the ballet. I
have been to two ballets in my lifetime and found myself quite bored
with the experience after about twenty minutes. So when I ventured to
see the season opener for the Joffrey Ballet I was not quite sure what
to expect, and was prepared for a rather dull evening: Never have I
been so wrong. All Stars is a brilliant piece of work that can
be enjoyed by everyone. If you have never been to the ballet before,
this is the show to go to.
The show is comprised of three different acts featuring three very
different choreographers. The first part entitled, “Stravisinsky
Violin Concerto,” contains choreography by George Balanchine contains
two central arias bookended by two large group numbers. The dancers
wear spare costumes consisting of solid black and white with a blue
backdrop. The style is rooted in Georgian folk dance (the country, not
the state) and has a rather festive tone. I very much enjoyed that the
focus was on the dancers instead of the costumes and set pieces, one of
my big problems with previous shows I have seen. The ensemble danced
with great fluidity and poise, and although I am not well-versed in
ballet terminology, it was clear they did a wonderful job.
The second act begins with another piece by Balanchine called
“Tarantella” danced by Yumelia Garcia & Derrick Agnoletti. This was
a great way to bring energy back up after the first intermission. The
choreography was playful, the music was festive, and the dance solo of
Agnoletti was one of the highlights of the evening. After a brief
change things shifted into, “After the Rain,” choreographed by
Christopher Wheeldon. This piece, a Joffrey Premiere only twenty-two
minutes in length, provides the greatest moments of the evening. The
mood shifts from blue to gray, the music becomes bleak the choreography
becomes darker. To me it was what purgatory might feel like. Suddenly
the light shifts into a soft pink and soloists Victoria Jiani and
Fabrice Calmels deliver one of the most beautiful duets you will ever
see. The music is lyrical and the images will stick with you for a long
time. It grips and your heartstrings and brings a sense of hope and
majesty that brilliant contrasts the first half of the piece. I would
recommend seeing this production solely for “After the Rain.”
The third act is called, “The Concert (Or, The Perils of Everybody),
choreographed by Jerome Robbins and is an oft hilarious farce of dance
itself. The presence of an on-stage pianist gives great opportunity for
physical comedy and various caricatures such as The Angry Woman, The
Shy Boy, and the Husband and Wife litter the environment. The sequence
where the ladies continually screw up was especially amusing to me
considering my preconceptions of ballet. It plays the part of a
light-hearted satyr play that brings a joyous close to the program.
Even though there is plenty of physical humor, there is also wonderful
technique and choreography that rivals some earlier parts.
While I would say my highlight of the evening was “After the Rain,”
all three pieces are beautifully choreographed, danced, and lit. The
musicianship of Chicago Sinfonietta was amazing and needs to be
mentioned along with the dancers. The lighting plays such an important
role in these pieces so Mark Stanley and Jennifer Tipton deserve a
mention as well. To me this was a perfect marriage of dance, music, and
design bringing forth a truly wonderful evening.
What sets this apart from other ballet I have seen is that what you
are seeing is constantly changing. The program explores different
styles of music and dance so each act has a different feel. Each act
lasts about 35 minutes, so the audience is allowed to stretch their legs
and get ready for the next part of the evening. Ladies, if you have
been trying to get your husband to the ballet, this is the one to bring
him to. It clocks in at a timely two hours and fifteen minutes with two
intermissions, the dancing is brilliant, the music is perfectly chosen,
and it offers some wonderfully humorous moments. I never thought I
would say this, but I absolutely loved this ballet. Go and see it!
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