Joffrey Ballet showcases works with a modern twist

March 9, 2013
Greenville Online
Paul Hyde

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The Joffrey Ballet, one of the most innovative dance companies of the past 50 years, will bring three works to the Peace Center Monday that display the troupe’s penchant for presenting traditional ballet with a very modern slant.

“We will be showcasing work created in the last 25 years, representing a 21st-century trajectory for the Joffrey Ballet,” said Ashley Wheater, a former Joffrey dancer who has led the company for the past five years.

The program includes American choreographer William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.”

“This is one of the most important ballets of the last quarter century,” Wheater said in an interview by e-mail. “William Forsythe found ways to bend and stretch the classical vocabulary. The work is groundbreaking, even today.”

Two of the most prominent young choreographers on the international dance scene — Christopher Wheeldon and Edwaard Liang — will be represented on the program as well.

“(Wheeldon’s) ‘After the Rain’ and (Liang’s) ‘Age of Innocence’ were created within the last 10 years and represent the lyricism and emotional power available within a contemporary and largely abstract idiom,” Wheater said.

Among the Joffrey dancers performing Monday will be Cara Marie Gary, who grew up near Greenville and studied ballet with the Greer-based International Ballet.

Among the nation’s great dance companies, the Chicago-based Joffrey often is considered to be the most quintessentially “American.”

Founded in 1956 by Robert Joffrey, the troupe in its early years endured countless struggles on the road to artistic success.

It’s a thoroughly American rags-to-riches story. Joffrey and co-founder Gerald Arpino, who served as artistic director and choreographed dozens of ballets over 50 years, created a dance company out of thin air, initially with six dancers traveling the country in a station wagon, pulling a U-Haul trailer.

Joffrey’s goal was to create a truly American company, featuring American themes and music.

The troupe was and is a melting pot of influences. Grounded in classical ballet, the Joffrey won acclaim for integrating modern and popular dance into its works and welcoming young and innovative choreographers.

The company’s embrace of pop culture and rock music drew legions of new dance fans to ballet.

The Joffrey Ballet is being brought to the Peace Center as a part of the Place for Everyone series, which offers many tickets at less than half the usual prices, beginning at $10.