Joffrey delves into the human spirit

October 24, 2012
Northwest Indiana Times
Eloise Marie Valadez

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The Joffrey Ballet's latest program offers a diverse blend of engaging works.

Its autumn program "Human Landscapes" stands out for a combination of gripping choreography, strong social messages and commanding performances.

The production opens with a video featuring Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater talking about the works on the fall roster and giving audiences a bit of history on each piece as dancers are shown rehearsing the numbers. All of the works delve into the subject of the human spirit in various ways.

During the first dance "Forgotten Land," dancers perform with  sweeping movements to the music of Benjamin Britten. With choreography by Jiri Kylian, the work, first staged in 1981, is a powerful piece inspired by Edvard Munch's painting of women on a beach and conjures up memories of loss.

The work "Pretty Ballet," with choreography by James Kudelka, stars a blend of classical and contemporary choreography performed in four movements. Ballerinas don long white tutus in this piece which proves a stunning site as they dance swiftly across the stage. The pas de deux, starring dancers Fabrice Calmels and Valerie Robin, is dynamic as well with Robin wearing ruby-red toe shoes.

What stands out as the star piece in the program is Kurt Jooss' "The Green Table," sharing messages of war and how war affects the human spirit. In this election year, and that this is the 80th anniversary of "The Green Table's" creation,  it's an appropriate choice for the program roster.

Dancers begin "The Green Table" wearing masks and performing in front of a green table where they are engaged in a heated, political argument as the "Gentlemen in Black." Fists pound, performers lean across the table, do hitch kicks in the air, and put forth forceful body language. They then pull out guns and declare war. Throughout the various scenes in the dance, audiences watch as survivors and their loved ones experience the various aspects of war. Death also travels across the stage throughout the piece wreaking havoc. During the Oct. 21 performance, dancer Dylan Gutierrez proved a particularly menacing Death.

The Joffrey Ballet's "Human Landscapes" runs through Oct. 28 at The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Tickets are $31 to $152. For tickets, call (800) 982-2787 or visit ticketmaster.com