Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of All Stars

October 15, 2010
Making Chicago Home

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It’s Friday and that means you are ready for the weekend and ready for the absolutely BS Hallmark-made holiday, “Sweetest Day”. Have you heard of this holiday? I hadn’t until yesterday when a co-worker stressed how important it is for your guy to treat you to something special. If it gets me a free chocolate then I am in! :o)
But Sweetest Day or not, the Joffrey has something incredibly special going on: It’s called their 2010-2011 Season and it is starting with All Stars. From tonight (October 15) until October 24, you can laugh, cry and be entertained by Joffrey ballerinas performing what is arguably, their most diverse and moving collection of performances. Seriously, guys, this one is not to be missed.

 

"After the Rain" ft. Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels - Photo by Herbert Migdoll

 

Of course since I rave about the ballet every time I attend, I feel it necessary for me to elaborate as to why this particular set of performances it not to be missed.

 “After the Rain” is not performed until after the first intermission, but it was easily the best performance of the night. It nearly moved me to tears. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer, “After the Rain” was incredibly sensual and resembled Love in ballet form. Parts of the dance looked more like figure skating as the women were swept across the floor, limp in the mens’ arms, toes still on the ground. Every magnificent leg stretch that the women executed made the audience sigh with awe, and the men were there to act as supportive, loving, kneeling rocks.  The pas de deux was exquisite and featured the very lithe Victoria Jaiani and “the Tank” Fabrice Calmels (ran into him on the street today, by the way, the guy is MASSIVE!).  The pas de deux been described as air and earth falling in love. For me, it looked like two lovers taking their first breaths after a coma, and reuniting.

 

"After the Rain" ft. Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels - Photo by Herbert Migdoll

 

While every move was slow, calculating and possessed the technically demanding side of classical ballet, Wheeldon is able to mix in a greater range of movement, allowing for both dancers to stretch and entangle themselves into each other. It was absolutely the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

“The Concert”, set to music by Chopin and choreographed by Jerome Robbins was hilarious and the perfect way to end the night. The performance begins with a pianist coming onto the stage (there is a piano set up) and entertaining the audience by preparing to play. One by one (or in some cases, two by two), different characters come onto the stage to set up chairs and listen to the concert. The whole cast of characters is there: A crotchety old woman who is caught scratching her backside; a group of giggling, rowdy gals; a dreamy music enthusiast who insists on hugging the piano; a wimpy man and his controlling wife and others. You just have to see it to understand why it is so absolutely funny!

The night started out wtih “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” choreographed by George Balanchine. The choreography perfectly complemented the expressive and haphazard music of Igor Stravinsky, and the dancers looked like marionettes, fluttering across the stage with exaggerated extended limbs. Some of Balanchine’s choreography looked awkward, like the crazy hip gyrations in Toccata or the mime-like dance that occurred in Aria 1. The pas de deux in Aria 1 was especially odd to me, and almost painful, since I prefer the more classical, rigid ballets. But in classic Balanchine style, this pas de deux was wildly animated and April Daly and Miguel Angel Blanco resembled that eccentric couple who lives on your cul de sac: They looked slightly bizarre, but somehow it worked. The best part was a sequence of Daly folding herself backward into a bridge, just to roll over, stand up straight and do it again…and again…and again. How people can move like that is beyond me!

Tarantella, another Balanchine creation was distracting right from the beginning, and the least impressive of all the dances. The dancers themselves were flawless, but Balanchine’s choreography calls for dancers in this pas de deux to be carrying tambourines, and it came off so cheesy, it hurt. I was almost waiting for someone to come out with a confetti gun! Costume choices for this piece were bizarre, too. A pirate getup for the guy? A gal in a peasant hat and tutu? No thanks.

All in all the night was a complete success and I left Auditorium Theatre completely blown away by opening night of the 2010-2011 season. After that performance I am thrilled to see everything that the Joffrey puts on and can only hope that you take the time to see All Stars for yourself.