Watching the U.S. premiere of Infra by Wayne McGregor was more like walking into a living, breathing art installation at the MCA and less of what we traditionally perceive as "ballet"--a term that stereotypically evokes images of pink tutus and satin pointe shoes.
The work was chaotic, minimalist, and aggressive. Limbs popped, straining to make gestures, but then surprisingly achieved release in an almost sexual burst of physicality. Max Richter's score wailed longingly in the background, violin strings pulled out in handfuls, and Julian Opie's digital pedestrian-themed animation scrolled along, setting the tempo visually for the entire piece.
This was no ordinary ballet--Infra, as well as the other pieces included in the Joffrey Ballet's presentation of "Winter Fire", were works of contemporary art. William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain both proceeded Infra on the bill. Together, the three pieces challenged dancers and audience alike to push the boundaries of ballet physically and conceptually.
"I want to change how we think about ballet," Artistic Director of the Joffrey, Ashley C. Wheater, replied when asked what motivated him to select the pieces that he did for the "New Generation" 2011-2012 Season. "It's important to understand that there are certain boundaries to what we define as ballet. And, it's very important that dancers today have really started to explore more and more the possibilities of dance. The possibilities are really endless."
"Winter Fire" will be followed by "Spring Desire" (aptly rhymed), opening April 25th and running through May 6th. The program also includes three works--Jerome Robbins' In The Night, music by the romantic Frederic Chopin; Edwaard Liang's Age of Innocence, music by legends Philip Glass and Thomas Newman; and a world premiere by Val Caniparoli.
"'Winter Fire', and 'Spring Desire', will make the audience understand the depth of this company," mused Wheater at the end of our interview. "Something's changed over the last five years. I have a really beautiful company, and it's a company that has a point of view, a thought process, and a freedom of communication...We want to show that to our audiences...showing people the value of the art form of dance. I think that the program visually, choreographically, musically, artistically has so much to offer."
Tickets for "Spring Desire" and other Joffrey performances are on sale here.
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