All Stars – Joffrey Ballet

October 14, 2010
REVIEW by Chicago Critic
Jake Lindquist

Content

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!

Highly Recommended