Joffrey Ballet sets sights forward with dream-centered showcase

May 10, 2011
REVIEW by Chicago Theater
Scotty Zacher

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By Julia Adam, Yuri Possokhov, and Edwaard Liang
at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
through May 15  |  tickets: $25-$145  |  more info 

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

By May, whatever sense of pride we Chicagoans feel for having endured another grueling, road-destroying, finger-blistering, mind-numbing winter begins to fade and is replaced by a mild delirium. The high season for introspective, cerebral work comes to a close–we can’t take it anymore. After the thaw, it’s time to play, not to think.

Just as nights along the lakefront are starting to become more balmy, the Joffrey Ballet presents this appropriately-timed spring offering, showcasing visceral and percussive variations on dreamscapes, sexual awakening and unbridled joy.

Works by choreographers Edwaard Liang, Julia Adam and Yuri Possokhov are prefaced with a short video introduction featuring interviews with the artists and rehearsal footage (see videos below). The stories and themes explored in their dances are pleasantly accessible and do not require blatant explanation–didacticism doesn’t appear to be the goal, though. It looks rather that artistic director Ashley C. Wheater and the Joffrey are making an attempt to enrich its audience and welcome them in to the process of a notoriously mystified art form. The effect is disarming. I found myself openly considering and accepting the individual pieces where I might otherwise have been drawn to decipher them.

Marc Chagall’s vibrant, fantastical paintings are the inspiration for Adam’s “Night,” a so-called dance of flight. Matthew Pierce’s perceivably simple, sustained music composition adds to the piece’s sense of exploration and wonder, luring and enticing a young woman to drift, float and soar through her subconscious. Like its theme, the dance is tangential and flows delightfully from one impression-like image to the next. Dreams, literal and not, are a thread through each of the works. That idea is furthered and deepened in Liang’s grand “Woven Dreams,” set to Ravel and Michael Galasso, a large-scale work that considers and plays with the notions of malleable realities and shared-dreaming. Where Liang and Adam provide fantasy, Possokhov basks in drama. In “Bells,“ Rachmaninov underscores a series of unabashed, intensely-sexual duets (with enough conviction, apparently a thigh-slap can suddenly seem R-rated and ballet can look S&M) where relationships are born and die in the same firestorm.

      Rating: ★★★★