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Treefrog

"American Masterworks" program

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The Joffrey's spring season opened this past Wednesday. On the very eclectic mixed bill: Balanchine's Square Dance, Tudor's Dark Elegies, and Robbins' NY Export: Opus Jazz. Has anyone been yet?

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Cliff, I'm waiting for your review! :clapping: In the meantime ...

The program certainly was eclectic, and yet ... there were threads that drew it together. I think calling it American masterworks is a stretch. The Robbins piece was certifiably, undeniably, exuberantly American. And I will give credit also to Square Dance, which draws on such a rich tradition of American social dance even though the Corelli and Vivaldi music, and the neo-classical technique speak to another time and place. The Tudor? Nothing discernably American about it. As someone (Mel?) revealed on the Dark Elegies thread, this piece was created before Tudor moved to the US. The music is German -- words and composer -- and the feel of the scene is Welsh or English.

What brought the program together? Both Square Dance and Dark Elegies draw on the movements and figures of social dance -- squares, circles, and contras. In Square Dance, that's one of the points of the piece. In Dark Elegies, the movements are very subdued, and emphasize the feeling of community. This is not social dance as entertainment, nor even as mourning; it is an allusion, a conveyance of people being together. (Just to round things out: I think NY Export: Opus Jazz evn had a few contra-like arrangements, but I wouldn't say they dominated ...)

Casting: Julianne Kepley and Willy Shives danced the leads in Square Dance. Loved them. I remembered the description of the footwork as "devilishly difficult", and concentrated on watching that this time. Kepley handled it beautifully.

Valerie Robins was the mother in Dark Elegies, with solos also by Maia Wilkins and Willy Shives (pdd), John Gluckman, Erica Lynette Edwards, and Calvin Kittin. Robins was particularly soulful. (This piece is especially moving because the traditional movements of grief are incorporated very subtly -- alluded to, but never used tritely or overbearingly -- and in a very stylized, sharp way.) I wondered how Edwards would do, because I think of her as an energetic, exuberant dancer. She often dances the Russian dance in Nutcracker, for example. She handled this role beautifully. As a side note, I do wish I understood German, or that the songs had been translated in the program. Mahler certainly had his reasons for setting the poems to music, and Tudor had his reasons for using the songs instead of unscripted melodies. I can't help but think that something of the richness of the whole piece was lost to me.

Opus Jazz was certainly a change of pace! Snazzy, pure fun. Led by April Daly and Fabrice Calmels, the company showed once again that it will not be bound by convention (Daly is tiny, Calmels a graceful giant).

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