Joffrey Ballet's 2010-11 season ends with the entertaining program
Rising Stars, which includes world premieres by choreographers
Edwaard Liang and Yuri Possokhav, and a company premiere by Julia
Adam. And while the choreography in the three pieces seemed
strangely similar to me, the program brought the audience to their
feet on opening night in a well deserved round of 'bravos.'
The evening began with an odd video in which the choreographers talk
about their work. This revealed that two of the dances would be
about dreams, and one about memory. I found this to be a
strangely didactic piece that seemed like a public service
announcement..."here is what you are going to see, in case you
don't have time or interest to read your program." Once
the dancing got going, the evening improved.
First up was Julie Adam's work about dreams and nightmares
unimaginatively titled "Night". Anastacia Holden,
clad in turquoise and white, was spell-binding as the lead dancer
interacting with an ensemble that seemed to represent the joys and
terrors of the night. And while I found the dancing
entertaining, I found the power of Adam's work strangely undercut by
her designers. Benjamin Pierce's costumes, as lit by Lisa
Pinkham, are an oddly unattractive wash of mauve. Pinkham
further undermines the piece by lighting Holden with a harsh white
follow spot, meaning those who partner with her are continually
coming in and out of our focus. Matthew Pierce's score is
bright and entertaining. But overall, despite the excellent
attack of the seven men and four women in the company, I felt the
piece lacked freshness.
Yuri Possokhov warned in the opening video that as a memory of
Russia, his piece "Bells" would be depressing. I felt
it was anything but. From the opening chords struck by the two
pianists Mungunchimeg Buriad and Paul James Lewis playing live,
"Bells" is a triumph. Sandra Woodall's costumes
features beautifully patterned burgundy tights for the men that
embody Russian tradition, with complimentary bodices for the
women. The outfits are completed with sheer skirts for the
women and sheer shirts for the men that in various scenes came on and
off bringing speed, movement, and sensuality to this program.
But the dancing supersedes the designs. Whether featuring the
entire company of 10 or smaller duos or groupings, every episode was successful.
Full of romance, athleticism, sexuality and regret, I wondered how
Possokhov would bring "Bells" to fulfillment, when suddenly
the dancing stopped. As the pianists continued their excellent
work, the company of ten stayed perfectly still, silhouetted against
the cyc, which ever so slowly faded to black while the music completed.
It was a great, unexpected effect.
The program ended with "Woven Dreams" by Edwaard Liang, the
only piece which featured a greatly appreciated scenic element - an
enormous drop of interwoven pieces of fabric, which could be used on
the floor, overhead, or elegantly draped across the dancers.
Coupled with Jack Mahler's dynamic lighting design, the visuals are
gorgeous in "Woven Dreams". My only reservation about
the design was the oddly shiny aqua-marine leotards for the men (with
sheer backs for some reason) and unflattering outfits for the women.
As in "Night," the dancers are excellent, with the duo
pairing of Christine Rocas and Temur Suluashvilli particularly
elegant, only to be superseded by excellent work in two duets from
Frabice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani. The dancing of the entire
company of eighteen left the audience moved, invigorated and cheering.
The Joffrey has been a pillar of the Chicago arts scene since moving
here from New York in 1995. Rising Stars will please its fan
base, and be an excellent introduction to the company for those
seeing the Joffrey for the first time.
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