Captivating and meditative, Studies in Blue features original works by Liam Scarlett, Andrew McNicol, and a world premiere by Stina Quagebeur

January 15, 2024 (Chicago) – The Joffrey Ballet continues its 68th season with a captivating mixed rep program with original work choreographed by Liam Scarlett and Andrew McNicol, rounded out with a world premiere by Stina Quagebeur. Testing the limits of classical ballet with contemporary themes, scores, and breathtaking set design, Studies in Blue features deeply moving works that showcase the range of the Company’s repertoire with choreography by the most visionary artists in modern dance. Studies in Blue will be presented at the historic Lyric Opera House, 20 North Upper Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago, in ten performances only, from February 15–25, 2024.

The program begins with Yonder Blue by British choreographer Andrew McNicol, set to a score by Peter Gregson. McNicol creates a sense of vastness with minimalist costuming and unique lighting in this Joffrey-commissioned piece. McNicol draws inspiration from writer Siri Hustvedt’s illuminating book A Plea for Eros. In the book, Hustvedt describes “yonder” as a word that shifts and moves, implying distance between one place and another. The color blue similarly holds multiple associations, from honesty to melancholy.

The program continues with a world premiere by Belgian choreographer Stina Quagebeur titled Hungry Ghosts with music by Jeremy Birchall. Praised for her masterful blending of classical and contemporary ballet, Quagebeur intuitively communicates universal journeys, whether that be abstract or narrative. Quagebeur’s world premiere of Hungry Ghosts at the Joffrey conveys the blight of addiction, and the longing to feel connected amidst devastation. Meditating on the Opioid epidemic, one of the most seismic human tragedies of modern times, she describes the work as “the story that statistics can’t tell and that words alone cannot do justice to.”

Studies in Blue concludes with the Joffrey premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Hummingbird, a breathtaking expression of human emotion. Set to Philip Glass’s three-movement Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Scarlett articulates profound love and longing through the progression of three pas de deux. Surrounded by the striking artistry of John Macfarlane’s hand-painted stage design, Hummingbird invites audiences to embrace compassion, reminding us of what it feels like to be human.

"With Studies in Blue, we are delighted to present the world premiere of Hungry Ghosts and deepen our relationship with Stina, whom I believe is one of the most inspiring artists working today. Along with Andrew's transcendent Yonder Blue and Liam's tender reflection of humanity with Hummingbird, we see how today's choreographers express abstract ideas with remarkable clarity, inspiring Joffrey Company Artists to go beyond their perceived limits, recognize their ability to ignite conversations, challenge perspectives, and take flight," says The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE.

"As we reach the midway point of an exhilarating season, Studies in Blue points to the Joffrey's persistent success of illuminating visionary artists, and Ashley's masterfully curated a mixed rep program that does exactly that," adds President and CEO Greg Cameron. "This year continues to showcase our organization's dedication to artistic exploration, and through championing modern creators and advocating for their compelling role in shaping our community, the Joffrey continues to advance Chicago's dynamic and creative landscape."

Studies in Blue features live music performed by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.

Learn more about McNicol, Quagebeur, and Scarlett here.

The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2023–2024 Season Sponsors: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, Anne L. Kaplan, and The Florian Fund. Live Music Sponsors: Sandy and Roger Deromedi, Sage Foundation, The Marina and Arnold Tatar Fund for Live Music. The Joffrey also acknowledges our Season Partners: ATHLETICO and Chicago Athletic Clubs. 

With gratitude to Hummingbird Presenting Sponsor: Denise Littlefield Sobel, Hungry Ghosts Commissioning Sponsors: Anne L. Kaplan and Courtney C. Shea, and Studies in Blue Major Sponsor: Jewell Events Catering.