New work is all too rare in ballet, so it's doubly impressive that
the Joffrey Ballet is greeting our lagging spring with two original
creations during its engagement at the Auditorium Theatre.
One of them, "Bells," is by Yuri Possokhov, a onetime Bolshoi Ballet
dancer who wound up at the San Francisco Ballet, where he eventually
premiered a dozen works. "Bells" is his first Joffrey effort but by no
means will it be his last: He returns this fall to fashion the troupe's
first "Don Quixote." Meanwhile, "Bells" is luxuriantly, passionately
Russian, its various movements set to piano music by Sergei Rachmaninov,
its invigorating ensemble opening a kind of elaborate riff on the
trepak of "The Nutcracker." Throughout, Possokhov mixes classic form
with seething intensity and a love of odd gesture — Valerie Robin
twitching her outstretched leg as if in a spasm or Elephant Man-like
jerks and contortions from one of the men. In an entertaining trio
starring Victoria Jaiani, she executes a series of turns, employing her
heel instead of her toe in just one of them. Possokhov embraces an often
exhilarating tradition only to tease and tickle it whenever the mood
He sometimes goes too far, odd for oddity's sake (a fine silhouette
ending, for example, is marred by a needless and ineffectual arty
prolongation of the fall of the curtain). But "Bells" boasts two fine
pas de deux, Robin and Fabrice Calmels in a gloriously technical but
contentious one, she stepping over his rolling body with a sneer at one
point; and Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili in an angular, sensual,
magnificently driven portrait of blistering romance.
Edwaard Liang's "Woven Dreams" is also driven and passionate,
inhabiting an extravagant landscape beautifully defined by Jeff Bauer's
giant woven set. Liang is painterly and deep, ending many of the seven
movements with jarring images — the women held and leaning over, their
legs stretching up and behind them in living sculpture. Though two duets
for Jaiani and Calmels prove too much, "Dreams" is ambitious and
striking, its male quintet stately in design and split-second timing.
Julia Adam's "Night," from 2000, is a richly designed dream ballet
and a great showcase for rising Joffrey dancers, most especially
Anastacia Holden, a delightful, winning lead.
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