American Lineage: the Joffrey Ballet's Winter Program

February 13, 2013
Gapers Block
Britt Julious


The Joffrey Ballet always delivers. This is not just accounting for taste or the level of expertise and refinement in their dancing. All of those things may be true, but one fundamental difference with the company is that they are always a little surprising. They deliver on performing challenging, modern, creative, and entertaining works. When one thinks of the ballet, one often thinks of something stuffy or inaccessible, but the Joffrey has consistently produced shows that look and feel differently. This same aesthetic will be evident during the premiere of the company's "American Legends" series tonight at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (50 E. Congress Parkway).

The performance features four pieces, including works by Gerald Arpino and Twyla Tharp. Like any Joffrey program, the company will play with the old and the new. In Jerome Robbins' 1945 piece Interplay, the dancers will perform a playful, youthful, and bright work. The piece also includes elements of later choreography that Robbins used for the musical West Side story. More importantly, the company has not performed the work since their premiere in 1972.

In many ways, the Joffrey excels by bringing back the old, examining how the dance world and society as a whole has changed since the work was first produced. "You're looking at many generations of American choreographers and composers that have contributed to the art form," said Joffrey Artistic Director Ashley C. Wheater. "Let's celebrate some of the best of the bast but also shoe new works as well."

The "American Legends" program will also feature the Chicago premiere of Stanton Welch's new work, Son of Chamber Symphony. The company previously performed its world premiere at the Jacob's Pillow Festival in August of 2012. The work itself references classic ballets while providing a unique and modern perspective to the choreography. For the program as whole, it comes full circle.

What easily becomes apparent is the linearity of choreography, how, even though dance aesthetics move forward, there is something familiar and understandable, perhaps even comforting in works of the past. And much like how the program works to showcase a history of American ballet and dance, bringing back something from the past and showing how it is still fresh lets audiences know that there is nothing wrong with lineage.

"American Legends" begins tonight and runs through February 24. Tickets range from $31 to $152 and are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet's official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower (10 E. Randolph Street), as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787, or online.