One was Russian and Georgian, another British and the third sprung as much from the Borscht Belt as ballet.
George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Robbins all found
a home at the New York City Ballet, where their discipline and
intelligence still illuminate and their work sets a high bar for the
In inspired programming, Joffrey Ballet artistic director
Ashley Wheater has put together four works by this trio: Balanchine's
"Stravinsky Violin Concerto" and "Tarantella," Wheeldon's "After the
Rain" and Robbins' "The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody)." It's a
risk and makes demands on artists and audience alike. But balletgoing
rarely gets more rewarding, and the dancers reach for — and often grasp —
new levels of achievement.
Unexpectedly, it was upstart Wheeldon
(only 37) whose work proved most electrifying Wednesday, thanks in no
small part to Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels' spellbinding
rendition of its pas de deux. This is hardened, fleshy, intense and
breathtaking duet dancing, a couple who've maybe fallen out or even lost
a child — disturbing and poetic. Jaiani looks like a completely
different woman than the one seen earlier in Balanchine's "Stravinsky,"
here reedlike, fragile and anguished, her hair loose and wild, sometimes
clouding her face. To the hypnotic, mournful Arvo Part score,
beautifully played live by Chicago Sinfonietta and conductor Scott
Speck (among the program's stars), Jaiani and Calmels are sexy,
impassioned and paradoxically enchanting, their intricate moves and odd
shapes coalescing into unforgettable drama. (Casting will vary through
"The Concert" is in every way a diametric
opposite, a very funny, though lilting comedy that Robbins created when
working on "West Side Story," set to Chopin and a surreal, send-up of
serious concertgoing. The "audience" (actually the dancers in witty
attire) gather on stage to listen to Paul James Lewis at the piano,
only to transmogrify into creatures of a madcap fantasy world peopled by
subconscious escapees and dotted with one haunting umbrella-fueled
elegy — as if the Marx Brothers and Evelyn Waugh teamed up for
choreography. Some of the best moments come from John Mark Giragosian
(as a nerd) and pianist Lewis himself.
Both Balanchine works were
nicely presented, altogether differing looks at his enduring genius and
musical mastery, performed with confidence and verve.
When: Through Oct. 24
Where: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Tickets: $25-$145 at 800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com
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