Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Ashton's "Dream" on October program


Recommended Posts

I've read that Anthony Dowell has set Frederick Ashton's "The Dream" on the Joffrey for a run beginning this week. That's pretty big new in my book, and yet the Joffrey gets very little play on Ballet Talk.

Anyone going to this production? Any comments or thoughts about the program and performances?

Here's a link to an article on Dowell's work with the company:


Joffrey/ Ashton's Dream

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bart, that's a "preview" more than a review. The show opened last night. I'll be going on Sunday.

(Hedy Weiss may be a "theater critic", but I think she's the better of the two dance reviewers in town, the other being Sid Smith of the Tribune. He tends to talk more about the stories and the history, and his writing seems a little esoteric. Weiss seems to have more working knowledge of dance forms and terms, and has a better eye for the execution of the steps.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here are the reviews:

Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune

Hedy Weiss in the Sun-Times

They are an interesting study in contrasts -- not least for their respective descriptions of Fabrice Calmels as Oberon:


(Kepley's) unforgettable partner is Fabrice Calmels, a statuesque dancer who is 6 foot 6 inches tall and yet never gangly, awkward or less than charismatic. He beautifully survives Ashton's exhausting turns, and his clean technique and classic form gleam with grace. Who better to play a mythical Colossus?


Coached by former Royal Ballet star Sir Anthony Dowell and Christopher Carr, the production featured Julianne Kepley -- a dancer of pristine technique and enormous joie de vivre -- as the willful fairy queen, Titania, and the tall, elegant Fabrice Calmels (still getting his legs in the role) as King Oberon.

Do you suppose they attended the same show????

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for the links. I hope that we get lots of reviews from Ballet Talk members as well.

People of my generation remember when the Joffrey -- still based in New York -- was considered to be in the Top Three ballet companies in the States. Their revivals and reconstructions were "must see" events, and their pop artistic Arpino stuff were much discussed.

I hear good things about their dancing and productions now -- and they appear to be ambitious. But they seem eclipsed by other big city American companies (San Francisco, PNB, Boston, Miami, Houston, etc.). With a history like theirs, I hope this does not conitnue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People of my generation remember when the Joffrey -- still based in New York -- was considered to be in the Top Three ballet companies in the States.  Their revivals and reconstructions were "must see" events, and their pop artistic Arpino stuff were much discussed.

Bart, I'm interested in your response to the article about the Joffrey in yesterday's Sunday Tribune. But, I'm going to open another thread for that so that this thread can be about the current performance.

I am happy to say that I have switched my tickets to the first Sunday of each two-week run. No longer will my reviews be of the "wish you could have seen" variety.

The Dream is the raison d'etre for this performance. Yes, it's true that the trio of dances (Kylian's Return to a Strange Land and Arpino's Celebration are also on the program) showcases the Joffrey's diversity and eclecticism, but this is the piece that is really worth going to see. It simply is charming.

First of all, it is a wonderful length for a story ballet. Everything that happens onstage is integral to the story -- no national dances plopped in, no dream sequences, no tutus. Just a nice, straightforward condensation. So straightforward that one can follow the story even if one (ahem) arrives as the curtain goes up and doesn't have time to read the program notes, and is so illiterate as to never have read the original Shakespeare. :unsure: A great deal of credit goes to the fabulous acting and mime. I don't think of this as a strength of the company, perhaps because story ballets are not their bread-and-butter. But the gestures and expressions were all crisp and crystal clear, eloquent and amusing.

I saw the cast that is mentioned in the reviews (the Joffrey usually has just two casts, except for Nut). The casting was terrific. Calmels is a wonderful Oberon, grand and jealous and charming all at once. I guess I ended up agreeing with both reviewers: while not rock-steady in this choreography, Calmels is commanding and a treat to watch. Given his height -- albeit lovely, classical proportions -- the wonder is not that he does it well, but that he does it at all. Keppley was energetic and engaging. Their pas de deux was beautiful.

But, it was Calvin Kitten that stole my heart. If he was to retire tomorrow, I could happily say I saw him in the role he was born to dance. His insouciance shone in this impish role, and his astounding bounds and leaps -- quick and precise -- were simply a treat. His diminutive size played off perfectly against Calmel's height, just as Puck's spritely charm bounced in, around, and off Oberon's commanding demeanor. Kitten's performance was one for the record book.

Special mention goes to the corps of fairies (my gosh, the Joffrey has an actual corps? 16 dancers strong!) who flitted and flew, and stopped on a dime to listen attentively, and generally set the stage for the main action. And special mention also to Ally Shives, daughter of dancer Willy Shives, who is all of 6-8 years old and who hit her musical cue exactly after feigning sleep for a good 10 minutes.

Return to a Strange Land was certainly a contrast. Everything in The Dream is lush -- the set, the orchestration, the costumes, the choreography, the story -- and everything in Strange Land is stark. The lighting is dim and dappled, the costumes are simple tights and leotards, the music a single piano, and the choreography is reduced to pure movement, form, and emotional essence. Maia Wilkins and Victoria Jaiani have the right kind of plasticity to enhance the fluidity of the choreography. At times, the cantilevered forms and careful shapes that echoed one body to another were breathtaking. Wilkins and Shives displayed once again the organic dance relationship that allows them to transcend the choreography -- ANY choreography -- and transform it into something beyond the mere steps and shapes that define it.

Celebration, if I remember the program notes, premiered at the Joffrey's 25th Anniversary celebration in 1980, was last performed in 1981, and was revived for the current celebration. Note to planners of the 75th: don't even think about it. There's a reason it's been shelved all these years. Let's start with the Shostakovitch score. It's in a minor key, for starters. This is a celebration? Second, the music's not even all that danceable. Third, both Shostakovitch and Arpino seem to have been enticed by Broadway, only I'm not sure if the result is more appropriate to Man of La Mancha or Fiddler on the Roof. At any rate, I really thought the choreography was pretty boring. It didn't flow, didn't climax, didn't do anything. It just seemed like a bunch of steps thrown together, albeit a mix of classical ballet and ethnic (mostly Russian) folk dance. The costuming didn't help, either; where a mix of lively folk-oriented costumes might have helped to differentiate the scene, instead we got a single palette of lovely but bland rose-colored dresses and tunics. The dancers performed well, but in the end, there wasn't much in this piece to draw them out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...