Joffrey's 2015 Choreographers of Color Awards Caps Off With "Winning Works"

March 6, 2015
Gapers Block
Miriam Finder


The Joffrey Academy of Dance takes the stage to present four world premieres during the "Winning Works" program, taking place March 7 and 8 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.


"Winning Works" showcases pieces by the winners of the 2015 Choreographers of Color Awards: Jennifer Archibald, Abdul Latif and Stephanie Martinez. The Choreographers of Color Award recognizes minority choreographers, while providing them a platform to show their work.


Joffrey Academy Artistic Director Alexei Kremnev choreographed the fourth piece. Members of the Joffrey Studio Company and the Joffrey Academy Trainee Program perform the program.


"For the fifth year, the Joffrey is honored to recognize the country's most promising diverse choreographers and provide this opportunity to set their works on dancers at the cusp of their professional careers," said Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater in a statement. "Audiences are rewarded with a first look at the high caliber of artistry presented by these talented and dynamic choreographers."


After spending two weeks working with the choreographers, the dancers showcased their performance March 3 at their first dress rehearsal.


The performance begins with Kremnev's Windy Sand, a whimsical piece both playful and sweet. It evokes the wakening up and quieting of the day and is inspired by Lake Michigan's beauty.


Archibald lives in New York and is the artistic director and founder of the Arch Dance Company. Her piece ties together the story of each dancer. The dancers manipulate each other with motion and impact each other's movements with their own. The dancing is strong and athletic and mixes ballet, hip-hop and modern dance. The interactions between dancers grab attention and intrigue.


New York-based Latif dances with The Group, a contemporary ballet company, and The Works, a contemporary company, and has performed on Broadway in The Lion King and Hairspray. His piece, A Year From Now Ago, deals with the passage of time and death. The dancing mixes ballet and urban contemporary. The movement started off slow and picked up pace in time with the music. It felt somewhat disjointed, however. There was a certain element of purposeful discomfort that felt both interesting and unsettling.


Martinez is a Chicago-based dancer, who has performed with River North Dance Chicago, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater and more. Her piece considers the multicultural experience. There were moments of stoicism, moments of intensity and moments of playfulness and romanticism. The choreography explored these eclectic experiences in a thoughtful and captivating way.


Together, the pieces make up a diverse and engaging program, pairing emerging choreographers with promising Joffrey dancers to provide a glimpse into the future.


"'Winning Works' is an example of our commitment to nurturing and empowering the diverse voices and talent of young choreographers," said Joffrey Ballet Executive Director Greg Cameron in a statement. "The creative language of the choreographers, our committed Joffrey Trainees, and Chicago's enthusiastic dance audience will all be enriched as three Joffrey premieres grace that stage of the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA."


The program is sold out, but a waitlist has been instituted. An hour before the program begins, patrons will be given numbers on a first come, first serve basis. Numbers will be called from the waitlist as spots open. Patrons should stay close by, as to not miss their names being called. Show times are March 7 at 3pm and 7:30pm and March 8 at 3pm.