Joffrey Ballet's latest collection is a contemporary mix

February 18, 2014
Northwest Indiana Times
Eloise Marie Valadez


The latest program from the Joffrey Ballet offers a blend of works that are not only entertaining but compelling and thought-provoking.

"The Joffrey has always been an eclectic company and our programs are as well," said the troupe's artistic director Ashley Wheater.

The Joffrey Ballet continues its "Contemporary Choreographers" program through Feb. 23 at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. On the dance program are works by Delphi, Indiana native and "rising star" Brock Clawson and acclaimed choreographers Christopher Wheeldon and Alexander Ekman.

Wheater said when looking at the three pieces, it's interesting to see the blending of "classical ballet in a contemporary form" throughout the works. The artistic director said, while stressing the mission of the company, it's important to "keep moving forward but to honor the past and our rich history."

He said all three choreographers' works are innovative and display a unique energy.

The works which star on the program are Clawson's "Crossing Ashland," Wheeldon's "Continuum" and Ekman's "Episode 31."

For Delphi's Brock Clawson, who now lives in Chicago, it's exciting to showcase his choreography on the acclaimed troupe.

"It's a huge honor to be on the program with these renowned choreographers," Clawson said.

Clawson's "Crossing Ashland," artistic director Wheater explained, is a metaphor for looking beyond your immediate environment and puts an emphasis on change.

According to Clawson, who lives in Chicago's Graceland West neighborhood, and often walks near Ashland Avenue, in "Crossing Ashland," he wanted to stress just by taking a different route you open yourself up to new thoughts and ideas.

"I wanted to incorporate pedestrians crossing the street and show how (we sometimes) go through life closed and guarded," Clawson said.

In honing the choreographic craft, Clawson said three years ago he decided to study garden design, which he interestingly saw as something that could help him in creating dance moves.

"Landscape design and choreography are (about) a lot of the same skills. You see how things come together and the skills really relate to one another."

He received certificates in ornamental plant horticulture and garden design.

While Clawson has also been a performer and dance teacher, he said there's something special about choreography.

"Choreography is where dance makes sense to me," he said.

FYI: The Joffrey Ballet presents "Contemporary Choreography" through Feb. 23 at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway. Tickets are $31 to $152. For more information, call(800) 982-2787 or visit