We (me, Dolphingirl, hubby, the younger dancing daughter, and four friends courtesy of Joffrey's "free ticket with every subscription" offer) went to the closing performance of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago's "Taming of the Shrew" this afternoon. What a gem of a ballet!
It's my new nomination for Really Accessible Ballet -- one to take the kids to, as well as every friend who ever swore that they "just don't get" ballet. The story is easy to follow, due to a wonderfully integrated mixture of ballet and pantomime (Kate employs a grand battement, for example, to deftly deter unwanted attention). The theme is horribly un-politically correct, of course -- Petruchio subdues Kate rather than winning her, and how she can display affection toward him after all that outright abuse is beyond me -- but as it's an old, old story we'll forgive it.
Maia Wilkins was stunningly Right On as Kate. A combination of persuasive body language, mime, and incredibly crisp dancing convinced even those of us at the back of the theater that this was no demure mouse. Angry, dismissive, combative -- Wilkins conveyed her character through a series of abrupt, yet precise and very powerful, moves. I really can't say enough good things about her performance.
Davis Robertson was commanding and powerful as the caddish Petruchio -- and also amusing as the drunk, denuded and debauched Petruchio. Did I mention that this ballet is simply a hoot? I can't remember ever laughing so much at the ballet. Choreographer John Cranko inserts tons of unexpected plays on classical movements, which simply induce guffaws and giggles. (Can anyone enlighten me as to whether the men's rock-concert thrusts are in the original choreography or updated? I thought they looked more modern than the 1969 premiere suggests.) The cast deftly carries off the comic aspects of the production.
Every ballet must have its tender moments, and those were supplied by the lovely, lyrical pas de deux between Lucentiuo (Samuel Pergande) and Bianca (Suzanne Lopez).
When the Joffrey dances this spectacularly, I don't care what other Famous Companies don't stop in Chicago. But I do wish that more of you could have the opportunity to enjoy this truly delightful company, and particularly this truly delightful ballet.
The Taming of the Shrew -- JBC
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