The Joffrey's challenging season opener lays groundwork for future shows

August 26, 2010
Time Out Chicago
Zachary Whittenburg

Content

“Our fall program requires a lot of discipline,” says Joffrey Ballet artistic director Ashley Wheater. He’s not kidding: The three ballets he’s lined up for the two-week “All Stars” bill offer no flashy costumes or elaborate sets to hide behind. They’ll also prepare the Joffrey for future productions—dance all three pieces well each night, and you can do anything.

 

Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972)
Ballet doesn’t get simpler—or more complicated—than this. George Balanchine’s 25 minutes of genius on a bare stage is the dance equivalent of a bar exam. The counts of Stravinsky’s score must be completely memorized, and the steps are no less challenging almost four decades later.
Preps company for to-be-announced acquisitions for 2011–12 requiring “very serious technique,” Wheater says.

 

After the Rain (2005)
Like Violin Concerto, After the Rain opens with a rapidly shifting ensemble dance before focusing tightly on the duet form. Christopher Wheeldon is as in-demand as choreographers come but will join the Joffrey for a full week of casting and coaching.
Preps company for world premieres in May by Wheeldon contemporaries Edwaard Liang and Yuri Possokhov.

 

The Concert (1956)
The easiest way to screw up this comedic one-act is to distrust its bare bones. “I’ve seen when a dancer wants to add to it,” Wheater sighs, “and it just doesn’t work.” The Concert was Jerome Robbins’s release from the seriousness of West Side Story, which he was choreographing for Broadway at the time. Robbins expert Jean-Pierre Frohlich will stage the ballet for the Joffrey. “He’s a stickler,” Wheater says. “And he does an excellent job.”

Preps company for Ronald Hynd’s lighthearted The Merry Widow in February.