The Joffrey Does Othello

April 26, 2013
Everybody DanceNow
Natalie Cammarata


What better way to end Chicago Dance Month (thanks Rahmy!) than with a melodramatic, dark, scornful, intense ode to one of Shakespeare's more famous stories, brought to life by Chicago's most beloved ballet company? Othello. The Joffrey. Your nightmares will thank you for the beautiful inspiration.

The Joffrey Ballet opened its last (for the foreseeable future) Othello production on Wednesday evening to a packed crowd. The company is set to retire Othello next weekend from its active repertory, making this the last chance to see Lar Lubovitch's Shakespearean-translated choreography by the Joffrey.

For those of you unfamiliar, Othello is a story of love, jealousy, passion, race, religion, trust and violence. Lubovitch portrays all of these intertwining themes in a three act ballet that takes the audience through Othello's exasperating emotional journey. Who can he trust? Is his jealousy justified? Who must he enact vengeance upon?

Fabrice Calmels, Joffrey's golden boy, plays Othello, the Moorish general who struggles to trust his closest confidantes. Calmels' strength and stature make him perfect for the role, not to mention his ability to emote through movement. It's clear this is a role that feels good to Calmels as he flings April Daly (playing wife Desdemona) through the air, lifts her, holds her close to his chest and then produces his own gravity-defying jetes.

The genius of the choreography extends far beyond Calmels. The main players include evil influence Iago (Matthew Adamczyk), Cassio (Aaron Rogers), Desdemona (April Daly), Emilia (Valerie Robin) and Bianca (Anastacia Holden), who on opening night proved Othello is not a one-man show. Even more so, in the second act the corps showed a fine ability to turn 20 dancers into a powerful ensemble during the tarantella (a dance that gets faster and faster) in the Cyprus seaport, where Othello became commander.

The opening night cast brought a stellar performance to Auditorium Theatre, and I wouldn't be surprised if the remaining shows are just like the tarantella--each one more intense and riveting than the last. For info and tickets, visit