Balanchine for Joffrey's Fall Outing

October 8, 2010
Chicago Tribune
Sid Smith

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George Balanchine is remembered for his mastery of ballet, an art he refined and even purified. 

But there are unmistakable hints of a different tradition -- Gregorian folk dance -- in Balanchine's classic "Stravinsky Violin Concerto," one revival on tap for The Joffrey Ballet's fall outing Wednesday throough Oct. 24th at the Auditorium Theatre.

If proof were needed, it can be found in the expert testimony of Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili, who are cast together in one of the key pas de deux that anchor the work.  As it happens, they are both husband and wife and relative experts in georgian folk: They met as youngsters growing up in the Georgian town of Tbilisi, where their school included not only ballet but folk dance as well.

"You see it in the portebras, a freedom in the carriage of the arms, and in a lot of footsteps, a walking rhythm that's very like Georgian folk dance," Jaiani said. "It's especially true in the finale, which is like a celebration, with everyone on stage."
"For men, in Georgian folk, the feet move very fast, and that's reflected in this ballet," Suluashvili said.

"There's a sliding motion of the feet on the floor, too, that seems Georgian, and the pas de deux is more grounded.  In Georgian folk, you're taught to be gentle with your partner, but be in charge. 

A kind of Georgian machismo, in other words?

"Exactly,: Suluashvili replied.

Balanchine is routinely described as Russian, but that overlooks the fact that his father was a well-known Georgian composer.  Expect the influences here to be subtle, however.  "Square Dance," his homage to that great American pastime, is ballet with nuanced folk strains.

"We're having a lot of fun in rehearsals," Suluashvili said of this partnership.  (They haven't teamed up for the Joffrey since "Giselle" in 2007.)  "I wouldn't call it romantic," Jaiani cautioned.  "It's tougher.  When I look at Temur in this dance, I see him as a tiger."

The program also includes Balanchine's "Tarantella," Jerome Robbins' "The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody)" and Christopher Wheeldon's "After the Rain."

For tickets, contact 800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com.