An American icon, the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago is the Windy City’s
own increasingly respected jewel in the world of contemporary dance
since the company relocated from New York and L.A. to Chicago in 1995.
Excitement runs high as the company opens its 2010-2011 season at the
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, from Oct. 13 to 24, with
live orchestral accompaniment by the Chicago Sinfonietta.
Titled “All Stars,” the program is a daunting, challenging tribute to
the genius of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Christopher
Wheeldon, three choreographers whose innovative artistry made the New
York City Ballet (NYCB) one of the most highly respected contemporary
dance companies in the world.
The Joffrey owes much to the internationally acclaimed NYCB, founded
in 1948 by Balanchine, considered the world’s foremost contemporary
It was back in 1956 that Robert Joffrey, with Gerald Arpino as
artistic director, formed the Robert Joffrey Company and began touring
the country. The first performance in a major city as the Robert Joffrey
Theatre Ballet was in Chicago in 1957.
The company made its home in New York, but when it was forced to
reinvent itself after losing its patron in 1965, it became the Joffrey
Ballet Company. To help the fledgling company get on its feet, NYCB
choreographers Balanchine and Robbins generously offered their talents.
Also contributing to the Joffrey’s artistic welfare was Wheeldon, a
member of England’s Royal Ballet who came to New York in 1993 and served
as resident choreographer at the NYCB from 2001-2008.
Ashley Wheater, a former Joffrey dancer who left his position as
assistant director and ballet master of the San Francisco Ballet in 2007
to become only the third artistic director of the Joffrey, dedicates
this series of performances “to the creative force of the New York City
Ballet, in gratitude for the support we have received through the years
from these choreographers.”
And what a star-studded repertoire this “All Stars” program promises
to be with the capable dancers on the Joffrey roster presenting three
Joffrey premieres: Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto,” Robbins’
“The Concert” (or “The Perils of Everybody”) and Wheeldon’s “After the
Rain,” along with Balanchine’s “Tarantella,” which was premiered by the
Joffrey last spring.
In the Stravinsky piece, revised in 1972 from a 1941 endeavor,
Balanchine forms two contrasting pas de deux, one soft and lyrical, the
other sharply angular, that are rooted in the folk dance traditions of
Georgia, then a part of the Soviet Union.
Wheeldon’s “After the Rain,” an exquisite piece set to the minimalist
classical music of Arvo Part, is the first time Wheeldon has awarded
the rights to perform the entire piece to a company other than his own.
Again, there are striking contrasts. The first section is marked by
three couples in steel-gray costumes, creating bold lines and intricate
lifts; the second shifts to a tender relationship as dancers explore the
space between them in an emotional push and pull. Set to the music of
Frederick Chopin and played onstage by a pianist, Robbins’ “The Concert”
is a light-hearted satire of dance in a series of vignettes.
Balanchine’s “Tarantella” (1964) is an explosive pas de deux set to the
“Grand Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 67,” by Louis Moreau
Tickets are available at the Joffrey box office, 19 E. Randolph St., at (800) 982-2787 or online at ticketmaster.com.
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