Joffrey stars shine on tour

January 21, 2013
World Arts Today
Karen McDonough

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The Joffrey Ballet’s enormously gifted principal Victoria Jaiani left her delicate mark on two modern works presented by the Chicago-based company in Dallas, presented by TITAS, on its spring tour.

Jaiani and her partner Fabrice Calmels illuminated the Winspear Opera House stage Jan. 18 in Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence and in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, a piece originally created for New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan, considered a contemporary classic.

Joffrey Ballet also presented Vaslav Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) marking the work’s 100th anniversary. The company was the first to recreate the original version of the ground-breaking The Rite of Spring some 26 years ago.

Liang’s sweepingly beautiful Age of Innocence, created as company piece in 2008, shows why the Joffrey has earned its outstanding reputation. A light and airy work, inspired by Jane Austen novels, also demonstrates the strength of its star partners Jaiani and Calmels.

Age, set to music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, features clean smooth lines, gentle partnering and modern movement that seamlessly blends with classical steps. The eye flows from one serene moment to the next. White billowing costumes designed by Maria Pinto and luminous lighting by Jack Mehler and Mark Stanley add to the effervescent quality. Liang was a former NYCB dancer and influences of Jerome Robbins can be seen in this work.

Jaiani and Calmels in their pas de deux demonstrate sublime partnering and her super flexibility. She is simply radiant and together they create an ethereal quality, especially in his effortless lifts with her flawless port de bras (carriage of the arms) and her signature gentle back bend all the way to the floor with delicacy and ease.

Wheeldon’s After the Rain (2005) is a gorgeous work set to two pieces by Arvo Pärt, Tabula Rasa and Spiegel Im Spiegel. In the first section, Jaiani, Valerie Robin and April Daly partnered Calmels, Matthew Adamczyk and the accomplished Rory Hohenstein.

In the second, Calmels and Jaiani, in a flesh-colored leotard and long loose hair, bring their own artistry to the romantic role. She captures the emotion and intimate surrender with slow, sinuous movement that carries a celestial quality.

The draw of the program came in the second half with Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). His original choreography, which was believed lost, was reconstructed by dance historian and choreographer Millicent Hodson 1987 for the Joffrey.

Nijinsky’s collaboration with Igor Stravinsky, marking 100 years in May, caused a major stir when it debuted in Paris because it broke with all convention for dance as well as music. The Rite of Spring, with its avante-garde, pagan-like ritualistic movement is so foreign to dancers with the turned in, pigeon-like foot position – opposite of ballet’s turn out ­­– and heavy landing of jumps. It outraged the Parisian aesthetic when it debuted, but today is considered a masterpiece.

Dallas was the second stop on the Joffrey’s 18-city tour that ends March 24 in Chapel Hill, NC.