Dreams, dreamers, and phantasms populated the Joffrey's “Rising Stars” spring season. The program featured two world premieres, Woven Dreams by Edwaard Liang and Bells by Yuri Possokhof, and the company premiere of Julia Adam’s Night (2000).
Master dream-weaver Liang knit all elements—from Jeff Bauer’s
magnificent set piece to music by Britten, Ravel, Gallasso, and
Gorecki—into a seamless wonder of abstract ballet built around the
multi-layered concept of weaving. Bauer’s fabric web crisscrossed the
entire stage, a constant visual reminder of Liang’s theme. It served
alternately as canopy, backdrop, and giant prop, ingeniously changing
levels and angles to alter spatial design and mirror the dancers’
movement. Jack Mehler’s lighting caught Bauer’s irridescent blue
costumes like threads dashing across the loom.
Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani began the first of two brilliant
duets suspended from the upstage web. Attitude lifts en tournant took
one’s breath away as the two appeared to levitate in tandem against the
backdrop of the web. In their second pas de deux, Calmels and Jaiani
wrapped themselves around each other, her pliant spine practically
singing longing and passion. Liang’s startling use of rhythm in a
quintet for men, set to the familiar pizzicato section of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,
transformed the music with visual surprises, including a series of
death-defying falls from tours en l’air. As the piece built to its
finale, the full ensemble returned to a darkly driven tango feel.
Couples, women draped backwards on the men, formed weird creatures of
interwoven body parts. The work culminated in a return to the circular
formation of the beginning, the web’s ceiling descending over the
dancers in a dramatic finish.
Possokhov’s Bells, set to Rachmaninov, evoked his
Russian roots. Folk forms—snapping fingers, flexing feet, crossing
arms—invaded contemporary ballet movement like phantoms of the past.
Weeping arms and distressed postures alternated with frolicsome group
sequences. Of particular note was the duet danced by Jaiani and Temur
Suluashvili. Jaiani’s incredible lightness and elasticity were part of
her character in this dialogue of abandon and submission. She used her
extraordinary technical facility and range of expression to create the
drama of conflict, not simply transcending technique but elevating it to
sublime expression. A spectacular lift sent her flying, until
Suluashvili caught her in a breathtaking moment that defied belief, an
exquisite instant of human interaction.
Adam’s Night provided light entertainment, with Anastacia
Holden as a fresh young sleep-dancer journeying through a night of dream
encounters with men in fluffy blue faun-pants. Intriguing ensemble
patterns, while fun to watch, became a steady-state experience and
ultimately disappointed with their lack of development. Matthew Pierce’s
music, which did build drama, wasn’t enough.
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