Joffrey's Latest Program: Ballet Made In The USA

February 15, 2013
Chicagoist
Michelle Meywes

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The Joffrey Ballet’s latest program, "American Legends," opened Feb. 13 and it’s filled with lovey dovey romance. The "Legends" theme itself celebrates American accomplishments in art and choreography, and through four different works, they explore love and its beauty.

We’ve gotten used to seeing the company perform more contemporary pieces, but this was a step back to the traditional with the lone exception of Stanton Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony. Though Welch is originally from Australia, he has served as the Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet since 2003. Created for The Joffrey Ballet last year, Son of Chamber Symphony contains subtle nods to classical ballets, but Welch pushes the edge, wanting “the audience to feel familiar with what they are seeing, but it is not important for them to know exactly why.” The piece is sharp and vivid with compelling visuals and musical tension. Angular shapes adorn the stage while stark orbital tutus are used to create a fresh and unusual contrast and highlight unconventional moves. There is still an element of passion though, especially in the pas de deux in the second movement.

The rest of the program is more straightforward, with more story-like qualities. The youthful exuberance of Interplay could have been another scene in West Side Story. After all, it was the second ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins, the man responsible for the award-winning musical. Sea Shadow is a telling of the classic tale of man and siren, with our hero falling in love with an irresistible sea nymph. Their movements are fluid and sensual, making for a steamy, lovelorn duet. It is performed in honor of its choreographer, Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino, who would have been 90 this year.

The program closes with Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs which watches seven different couples dance to the music of ol’ blue eyes. There’s the feeling of eavesdropping on intimate dates as the piece provides a glimpse into several different styles and stages of love from fiery to flirty to timid and clumsy. With costumes designed by Oscar de la Renta, the ballroom-style numbers are a beautiful representation of all the different emotions that can come with falling in love.

"American Legends" runs through February 24, and tickets range from $31 to $152. For showtimes, check the Joffrey's website. All performances take place at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. 50 E. Congress.