World-Class Music, Dance Join Forces for Second Time

August 26, 2010
The West Side Leader
Rojer Durbin

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CUYAHOGA FALLS — After successful performances last year, world-renowned and world-class companies the Joffrey Ballet and Cleveland Orchestra will team up again for performances at Blossom Music Center Sept. 4-5. 

The Joffrey Ballet will perform two new contemporary ballets in a program of five diverse works from the Chicago company’s repertory, according to Joffrey Ballet officials. The orchestra will play from Blossom’s orchestra pit under the direction of Cleveland Orchestra Assistant Conductor Tito Muñoz. The performances mark the final concerts of the 2010 Blossom Festival season.

The Joffrey Ballet is taking the event seriously. On the company’s website, www.joffrey.org, Joffrey Ballet Executive Director Christopher Clinton Conway is leading a bus caravan for ticket holders who want to see the performance. Not only that, but Artistic Director Ashley Wheater made a special trip to the area on a media visit to promote the performances.

Wheater talked about the love of the collaboration he foresees, speaking first and foremost about the opportunity to perform to live music, which the company persists on doing as much as possible, even when it travels, but also to perform to music played by one of the best orchestras in the world.

“It is a dream and an honor,” Wheater said.

Although schooled and rehearsed in classical dance training and style, the company performs a wide spectrum of dance, from classical story ballets through reconstruction of masterpieces (most notably for this group are works originally choreographed by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballet Russes), and contemporary pieces as choreographed by company co-founder Gerald Arpino.

Wheater said audiences can “expect to see the best the company has to offer” in a performance that covers the range of its capabilities.

Wheater also noted that last year’s experience has led to plans for some improvements. The Joffrey Ballet is used to the problems associated with performing in other cities and outdoors, but at Blossom Music Center, Wheater said this year they intend to use different lighting and more of the available stage.

With a chuckle, Wheater said he wants lighting that will take away from the dark background of the Blossom stage and give focus to his dancers. Audiences come, he said, “to see the dancers, not the walls.”

The concert will begin with Arpino’s work titled “Reflections,” which is set to the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. This piece has evolved into a well-crafted, perfect ballet. Arpino first created it in the 1970s. He later reworked it, and it didn’t start being performed by the company again until after 2003. This version, then, will read to audiences like a new work. Video clips that Wheater provided showed it to be classically inspired but with the energy for which the Joffrey Ballet is noted.

Other pieces to be performed are famed choreographer George Balanchine’s “Tarantella”; James Kudella’s “Pretty Ballet,” which Wheater described as “genuinely living up to its name”; a pas de deux from Marius Petipa’s classical work “Le Corsaire”; and former New York City Ballet artist Edward Liang’s “Age of Innocence,” which combines 19th century romanticism with 21st century athleticism, according to Wheater.

The works are various, but they represent the versatility of the Joffrey Ballet.

The performances will take place at 8:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $23 for lawn seats to $37-$53 for pavilion seats and can be purchased at the Blossom Box Office, the Severance Hall Ticket Office, by calling 800-686-1141 or online at www.clevelandorchestra.com.

Roger Durbin is professor emeritus of bibliography at The University of Akron and board director of the Dance Critics Association. To contact him, e-mail r [dot] durbin [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.