Category In the News

 Joanne DiVito, LA Dance Chronicle 

June 26, 2024

Los Angeles welcomed The Joffrey Ballet in Leo Tolstoy’s classic Anna Karenina under the auspices of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center from June 21-23, 2024. Considered to be one of the great works of literature, in Tolstoy’s own words, it was his “first true novel.”  Ashley Wheater, the Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director, heads the historic and outstanding Joffrey company. Having worked with Royal Ballet’s great Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan and Micheal Somes, Wheater is no stranger to dramatic Story Ballets.

Anna Karenina has been created by the powerful Ukrainian-born choreographer, Yuri Possokhov, whose roots, experience, and artistry emanates from his very soul. What could be more perfect? Possokhov, not only brings deep love for this history, but is a genius for contoured complex staging, brilliant inventive movement, and the admission that music is the basis of his creativity. “Music is number one in Ballet, if I see that music, my steps make chemistry … and this is what makes me happy.”  It is this musicality that helps make the chemistry real for Joffrey’s soloists and corps performers. It is his inspired changes, reversals and gravity-defying steps, along with the highly facile dancers that makes the difficult look easy. Along with his aesthete, he has the good judgement for combining a masterful team.

The brilliance of Ilya  Demutsky’s music, flavored by the spirit of Prokofiev and Stravinsky, is a  young 21st Century composer just out of his thirties. He has the soul for haunting melodies, rageful dissonance, and soaring dramatic musical narratives. Demutsky inserts evocative and poignant songs reminiscent of Russian folk tunes. The feeling is as though it has always been in the air and is so beautifully performed by mezzo soprano Lindsay Metzger. Scott Speck, Music Director & Conductor, added the musical spirit and depth. The music and superior Joffrey dancers unearthed the relationships, social acceptance and rejection through Possokhov’s dramatic understanding of class in this ill-fated story. The dancer’s ability to technically execute and animate the complex choreography in weighty period costumes became the bedrock that impelled the piece into its own life and grandeur.

Amanda Assucena, playing Anna on June 22, grows with the role from comfortable wife of stature, to passionate lover, to distraught spirit. Her feet and legs were a miracle that grew beyond any barriers, her body lyrical, responding without resistance to Count Vronsky’s advances and love-making. Her sense of responsibility to the story converged, and she fully became the tortured character. Vronsky is played by José Pablo Castro Cuevas. He is a lovely flawless dancer, but without maturity enough for the sexual chemistry, seasoning and gravity that makes it clear why Anna would leave her comfortable marriage, wealth and even child with her traditionally rooted husband Karenin (Edson Barbosa), for the intoxicating and electrifying Vronsky.

The exposition of the story unveils the magnetic need between Anna and Vronsky in spite of Kitty, the daughter of the wealthy Shcherbatskaya family’s, hope to be his pick. The transformation in the second act with Anna and Vronsky’s passionate and contentious pas de deux consummates the relationship with a stunning supplication; an amazing athletic melding and yielding of their bodies which, Assucena in particular, carries the passion of the scene to a highly moving moment.

Read the full review of Anna Karenina at The Music Center here