The Joffrey Ballet's Spring Desire

April 26, 2012
REVIEW by Chicago Stage Style


Ending a ravishing season, “Spring Desire” is the Joffrey Ballet’s salute to the season.  Two favorites and an inebriating world premiere are on lovely display at the Auditorium Theatre through May 6.  As always, our Chicago troupe perform movements so instinctual it’s hard to imagine the rehearsals that created them.  What springs to mind springs to body even more quickly.  In this program the social context that makes dance human gets particular attention.

The big news is “Incantations,” a lyrical new work by San Francisco-based Val Caniparolli.  Set to a shimmering, gossamer-like, and highly percussive score by Russian composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, this swirling work sends 12 dancers into fluid undulations, spins, spirals, leaps and lifts.  Combining classical, social, ethnic and modern movement, “Incantations” unleashes its own vortex of perpetual motion, the performers unburdened with heavy costumes and looking as natural as if they were doing this in the buff at home.

Before it came Jerome Robbins’ 1970 charmer “In The Night.”  Set to Chopin selections perfectly performed by Paul James Lewis, it deserves to be danced.  Consisting of three richly contrasted duos, it’s a reflection of restrained rapture, exquisite as the couples seemed to audition for a closer contact, dancing through every possibility before the inevitable.  More than a showcase because the skills displayed serve a higher cause than showing off, “In The Night” presents the permutations of love that dance depicts—adoration, tentativeness, passion and endurance.  When the six dancers combine, it’s as if Chopin had written just for them and not for a 12 fingers and 88 keys.

Opening the evening was a reprise of Edwaard Liang’s 2008 premiere “Age of Innocence.”  Inspired by and imitating the complex amorous negotiations of a country ball in a Jane Austen novel and set to the rather different sounds of Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, this psychological work all but inventoried the miracles and mistakes of a complex cotillion.  Passion sublimated in ritual, it specialized in swirls and rapid reversals, as if a conversation had gone awry or too much was told too soon.

Rhapsodic in white costumes, the 16 dancers tested the limits of decorum, with whiplash reactions, sudden clinging, lifted arms, courtly bows with a tad too much ardor, and one amazing feat in which Fabrice Calmels’ partner falls backward into his arms as if a pivotal moment had to be rewound.  Framed by red velvet curtains and spun-sugar lighting, these variations on a Regency ball (though performed in costumes that would be racy in 2012) argues well that dance doesn’t need words to create pictures deeper than the eye but not the mind.  Photos by Herbert Migdoll.