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Joffrey tours: (2010 to THE PRESENT ....)


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#1 bart

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 12:59 PM

The last time the Joffrey came to town Ashley Wheater had just been appointed the Joffrey's Artistic Director, so he probably wasn't responsible for the light-weight, not to say jejune, program they cobbled together: Tharp's Deuce Coupe, (to the Beach Boys), Donald Byrd's "Motown Suite," and Laura Dean's "Sometimes it Snows in April," to music by Prince. The program was simply too much of one thing.

For the 2010 tour, the program was varied and much more interesting:

-- Gerald Arpino's 1971 ballet, "Reflections," a pale version of a Balanchine Tchaikovsky ballet
-- "Mobile", by Tomm Ruud, a striking 1969 work for 3 dancers, in the style of Pilobolus
-- Lar Lubovitch's "... smile with my heart" (2002) to a piano score based on well-known Richard Rodgers melodies
-- Edward Liang's "Age of Innocence," created for the Joffrey in 2008

Reflections is Arpino trying to be classical, with choreography that illustrates the surface of the notes instead of capturing the music. Just one example: almost every marcato in the much-marcato'd score is expressed by either a grand battement or abrupt arabesque. The dancers did their job rapidly and efficiently. The speed and technical level are impressive, though somehow -- for me -- the wonderfully performed individual steps and combinations did not add up to compelling dancing.

An exception was Christine Rocas, dancing with Miguel Angel Blanco, in Variation VI. Rocas has a flexibility, a yielding quality, and an ability to finish a gesture or combination beautifully before moving on. She brought poignancy and a touch of romance to her role.

Mobile, set to the Adagio from Khachaturian's "Gayane Ballet Suite," opens with a stunning pose in which the man (a serene and solid Michael Smith) somehow suspends his 2 women (Elizabeth Hansen and Erin McAfee), horizontally from his body, one to the front, one to the rear. The dancers, in silver leotards, remain mysterious and aloof. Their transitions from position to position are seamless. It's hypnotic, and not just for the acrobatic elements.

"... smile with my heart" is a favorite from mine from watching performances by Ballet Florida a few years ago. I still have fond memories of Cristina Hampton and Mauricio Canete dancing the light-hearted and slightly comic "Sweetest Sounds" and Tina Martin and Darian Aguila in "My Funny Valentine," so I found myself thinking about those dancers while the Joffrey performed. It's a work that should be danced by personalities. Best, I think, were April Daly and Fabrice Calmels, in "Valentine," who captured the spirit of the music and created genuine characters from the choreography..

The Edward Liang piece -- danced to an overwrought score by Philip Glass -- is said to be "inspired by the novels of Jane Austin." HUH???? It's an absurd claim to make, although there are elements of courtship and formal group dancing that could, I suppose, be associated with almost any European period from the early Renaissance to Young Victoria. At one point, when 2 pairs of men are in combat, I thought that "Age of Innocence" might actually allude to Edith Wharton, or at least the cutthroat capitalism that underpinned the elegant upper class world of Wharton's period. A more likely reference would be the highly charged street and ballroom scenes in Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev. But Jane Austin? Has anyone at the Joffrey actually read her works?

I enjoyed the Liang piece thoroughly, especially like the way he moves his large cast around the stage in the ensemble portions. There's a structure to the ballet, with a pleasing and well-earned conclusion in which the couples pair off and walk, backs to audience, upstage. I would have liked to see the work several times. The main negative, for me, was that I found myself becoming distracted from time to time by all the rushing around. (On two occasions, a man moves energetically at one side of the stage while a woman, on the other side, performs a serene balance on point, kneeling with one leg extended backward. Unconsciously, I found myself focusing on the woman.)

There was, however, one stunning performance. Fabrice Calmels -- tall, lanky, strong, handsome, charismatic -- made it difficult to watch anyone else on stage when he was dancing. He had nuance and delicacy in the court dances; he showed speed and power in a thrilling series of barrel turns ; he was a courteous partner and could manipulate his lady through the numerous difficult and complex lifts . I found myself thinking of an earlier Joffrey dancer, Maximiliano Zamosa. Calmels has something of Zamosa's imposing physical presence and star quality, but he's faster, lighter, more agile, and much more classical.

My impression is that Wheater's Joffrey is a young, technically strong, remarkably energetic company which still has a bit to learn in terms of artistry if it wants to be, as their website claims, "America's Premiere Dance Company."

"Joffrey" is still a big brand name with a devoted following going back to the old days in New York. Chicago is lucky to have them and to get the chance to watch them grow.

#2 vrsfanatic

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 06:10 PM

I loved the show bart and look forward to more in Miami. :) :wub:

#3 bart

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 06:20 PM

vrsfanatic, wish I had known you were there. Hope you like the Miami program, which repeats Age of Innocence but replaces the other 3 works.

Miami, FL
Friday, March 26
Saturday, March 27
Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

Confetti
Aria
Valses Poeticos
Age of Innocence

Washington D.C.
Friday, June 18, 7:30 PM
Sunday, June 20, 1:30 PM
Kennedy Center

BALLET ACROSS AMERICA
Age of Innocence


By the way, I just noticed that the Arsht Center website has a nice 2-minute clip from Age of Innocence.

http://www.arshtcent...ew.aspx?id=5989

#4 vrsfanatic

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 04:38 AM

Thank you for posting the program bart. The Kravitz was sold out. Let's hope the Arsht can do the same! I will enjoy seeing the Age of Innocence again. I am not free to go to DC, but it would be a lovely trip.

#5 Birdsall

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 04:45 AM

I saw the Joffrey Ballet last night here in Gainesville, FL. They danced 3 ballets: Night, After the Rain, and Pretty BALLET. I enjoyed it very much and also noticed Fabrice Calmels (like bart did) who stood out big time. Just his physical presence is incredible, but then you add talent to the physical frame, and you have a great dancer. It was like watching a sculpture come to life.

I liked Pretty BALLET the best, and it has an almost Balanchine style to it, in my opinion. Maybe that is why I liked it. The dancers would sometimes dance in opposing directions like cogs in a wheel (my interpretation), b/c the notes said it is about art and technology work together. Night was the most modern piece, and I have to say I am not a fan of flexed feet during lifts (as opposed to pointed feet during lifts). It seems jarring. But there was a lot of humor and cuteness to the choreography, so I guess it worked in the context of this modern piece. After the Rain is a very moody piece, and it was nice too. I think I would enjoy seeing After the Rain and Pretty BALLET again one day. On the fence about Night.

#6 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 05:39 AM

Thanks for the report, BB. I would have gone to the performance, but working schedule didn't allow me to...

#7 bart

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 01:14 PM

[MOD BEANIE ON] This thread started last year. I changed the title to "JOFFREY TOURS (2010 TO THE PRESENT) rather than the 2012 posts to a new thread. Please continue to add your thoughts, comments, and reviews here.[MOD BEANIE OFF]

The Kravis is indeed sold out, which is fantastic news. (Last year they had a good and enthusiastic crowd, but not a sell-out.) West Palm Beach's program is the same as Gainesville's:

Night (Julia Adams, to music by Matthew Pierce, created for San Francisco Ballet)

After the Rain (Christopher Wheeldon, to music by Arvo Part, created for NYCB). Have always wanted to see this.)

Pretty Ballet (James Kudelka, to music by Bohuslav Martiu; created for the Joffrey) It's a closer with 24 dancers; should be fun, based on Bart Birdsall's report.

On a note of local patriotism, it will be good to see Yumelia Garcia -- former Ballet Florida ballerina -- dancing here with the Joffrey.

#8 vrsfanatic

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 01:23 PM

I saw a different program in Tampa last Saturday. The company looks good. It will be interesting to see a different program in West Palm. I will look for you Bart. Posted Image

#9 Birdsall

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Posted 29 March 2012 - 05:48 PM

vrsfanatic,
I noticed that they were doing a different program in Tampa (where I used to live), and so I was going to go to Tampa and see that show also, but it happened to fall on a date when we were having a party here in Gainesville, and I ended up thinking it might not be great for one of the hosts to not show up to his own party! LOL Let us know how you liked the Tampa program. I am surprised they did a different program in one city and have the same program for the rest of the cities they are touring this time around.


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