BECKET, Mass. – Jacob’s Pillow concludes its 80th anniversary season this week by presenting a company that offers what the Pillow has been so good at providing for so many years: customer satisfaction along with a little something unexpected to chew on.
In this case, the company is the venerable Joffrey Ballet, returning to the Pillow for the first time since 1965 with a group of impressively virtuosic dancers. The Chicago-based troupe, under the direction of Ashley C. Wheater since 2007, skillfully straddles the line between classical and contemporary.
The unexpected something was Stanton Welch’s “Son of Chamber Symphony,” which had its world premiere at the Pillow Wednesday. Mixing moods and allusions, the piece artfully matches the intriguing arrhythmia of John Adams’ composition of the same name. The opening is particularly powerful: four men, their limbs snapping and shuddering like overwound robots, surround a single spotlit woman (Yumelia Garcia) stretched in an arabesque, her disc of a tutu quivering around her hips. It’s as if aliens or humans from the future read about ballet and tried to reconstruct it without visuals.
The work doesn’t fully exploit the possibilities hinted at in those first moments, but it keeps throwing out images that are both awkward and captivating: a pas de deux between Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Blanco, with her tutu bunching and folding like a barrier between them; six women’s speedily scissoring legs contrasting with their slowly undulating arms; the four men in a square, each performing a different solo. It’s the kind of piece that will yield something new with each viewing.
As for customer satisfaction, Yuri Possokhov’s “Bells,” from 2011, set to music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, perfectly fits the bill. All float and flight, it showcases the dancers’ strength and flexibility without offering up anything especially newsworthy. Whirling through trios, ensemble sections and pas de deux in their sparkly, skintight red costumes, the dancers might be courtiers who’ve wandered off from some classical ballet.
The best piece on the program was Edwaard Liang’s “Age of Innocence,” from 2008. Despite the Edith Wharton title, the work is inspired by the novels of Jane Austen, and Liang conjures up the mood without overdoing it: Scarlet draperies suggest a 19th-century drawing room, while the dancers appear to be wearing elaborate undergarments of the period—but the contemporary music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman is a refreshing counterpoint. Liang gives us a charming take on traditional English dancing, with couples forming lines and weaving through each other, and then lets us peek into the shadowy corners of the ballroom, where lovers meet to share impassioned embraces. The movement is stately, sculptural and fluid all at once. Time to dust off that boxed set of “Pride and Prejudice” DVDs.
Tresca Weinstein is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.
THE JOFFREY BALLETWhen: 8 p.m. WednesdayProgram: “Age of Innocence,” “Bells,” “Son of Chamber Symphony”Length: Two hours and 15 minutes, two intermissionsRepeats: 8 p.m. tonight through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and SundayWhere: Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Rd., Becket, Mass.Tickets: $75Info: (413) 243-0745 or http://www.jacobspillow.org
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