The Joffrey Ballet's third collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra
over the weekend at Blossom Music Center presented five contemporary
dances, set to music that stands outside the orchestra's usual
repertoire, making for a doubly satisfying evening.
Conductor Tito Munoz was in the pit for the proceedings. Munoz,
currently music director of the Lorraine National Opera and the
Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy, was assistant conductor of
the Cleveland Orchestra from 2007 to 2010.
Although a labor dispute earlier this summer threatened to derail the
performances, cooler heads prevailed, and the Chicago-based Joffrey
took the stage Saturday and Sunday nights at Blossom, with the Cleveland
Orchestra out of sight but not out of hearing, just below the front of
The program opened with "Night," choreographed by Julia Adam, to a
commissioned score by Matthew Pierce, and with costumes (by the
composer's brother, Benjamin) provided by the San Francisco Ballet,
which gave the work its premiere in 2000.
Anastacia Holden danced the role of the Small Woman, a dreamer whose
nocturnal adventures are overseen by the Tall Man, danced by Dylan
Gutierrez. At times alert and focused, at other times limp and seemingly
asleep, Holden delineated the strange logic of dreaming in a narrative
whose meaning lay beyond the understanding of waking thought.
Her nocturnal companions were alternately playful, kind and
threatening, in costumes that suggested a connection with the animal
world -- the six men wore trousers decorated with ruffles that looked
like shaggy flanks, and the three women, who made their entrance loosely
bound together by a dark translucent veil, wore skirts that were
A short excerpt from Lar Lubovitch's three-act ballet "Othello," to
brooding music by Elliot Goldenthal, served as a tantalizing preview; a
full performance with the Cleveland Orchestra has been suggested as a
possible feature for a future collaboration. Fabrice Calmels captured
the passion and anguish of Shakespeare's tortured hero in Lubovitch's
graphic portrayal of Desdemona's strangulation.
Christopher Wheeldon's "After the Rain" was less successful. Estonian
composer Arvo Part's ominous "Tabula Rasa," for two violins, prepared
piano and strings, overshadowed Wheeldon's mirror dances for three
couples. And the sensual and intimate pas de deux, to the
violin-and-piano duet "Spiegel im Spiegel," seemed out of place with
Part's chaste music.
Two dances by George Balanchine rounded out the evening, the
"Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" and the 1970 version of "Stravinsky Violin
Concerto," which Balanchine originally choreographed in 1941. The "Pas
de Deux" (1960) was a pleasant divertissement, with Balanchine's
streamlined take on classical ballet's vocabulary providing a showcase
for the lyric grace of April Daly and the impressive athleticism of
Cleveland Orchestra associate concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee was
outstanding as the soloist in Stravinsky's Violin Concerto in D major.
Balanchine's understanding of Stravinsky's playful and emotionally
complex score resulted in a finale that was delightfully contrapuntal
and, in the two pas de deux, profoundly moving.
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