Joffrey Ballet Presents MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Review – A Wild Dream

The Joffrey Ballet brings their 2017-18 season to a close with the North American Premiere of Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Auditorium Theatre.

Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman brings together theater, dance, and comedy in a wild and thrilling version of the classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but no, this production definitely isn’t Shakespeare’s version. Taking inspiration from his roots in Sweden where the summer solstice is celebrated each year and drawing from age-old traditions, Ekman takes us on an immersive adventure through his dream world.

Read what Joffrey Ballet dancer Valeria Chaykina had to say about working with Ekman on Picture this Post-- Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM Insights – Interview with Valeria Chaykina

Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Photo by Hans Nilsson

 A single dancer, The dreamer played by Temur Suluashvili, lies sleeping in a bed at the front of the stage. A blaring alarm wakes him just as dancer, Victoria Jaiani, walks in humming along as she dresses him, makes the bed, hands him a handful of hay, and ushers him through the curtain.

Is this a dream or reality?

The curtain opens to the stage covered in hay and 40 Joffrey dancers on their knees moving in unison with hay in their hands creating dazzling visuals by rhythmically hitting the hay on the ground, tossing it in the air, and swinging it around their bodies. They shout and laugh, a scene of whimsy and innocence.

Two lovers, Jeraldine Mendoza and Greig Matthew. emerge from the crowd and do a playful duet rolling through the hay, throwing at each other, and slow dancing on top of hay bales.

Ekman plays on these traditional scenes, sometimes poking fun at them.

During one scene, the dancers stand in one long line at the front of the stage smiling and staring at us, glasses of champagne raised, a nod to the lavish parties of the summer solstice. The scene is both comical and slightly uncomfortable, the audience unsure of exactly how to respond to the dancers staring them down in silence.

Humor is sprinkled throughout the ballet through a variety of recurring characters including a tourist constantly snapping shots of the dancers with his camera, a male chef who is at first seen grilling in sunglasses at the front of the stage and later returns naked except for an apron, chefs hat, and pointe shoes, and two headless men who bring elements of physical comedy to the ballet.

Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Courtesy of Royal Swedish Opera
Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Photo by Hans Nilsson
Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Courtesy of Royal Swedish Opera

Ekman also uses humor in other production elements such as phrases projected on the curtain before the show and during intermission. “Welcome to Sweden,” “I lost my shoe,” “I prefer Christmas,” “A roll in the hay?” “A dance?” These phrases emulate the playfulness and lightheartedness of the world Ekman creates.

If Act 1 is a dream, then Act 2 of Midsummer Night’s Dream becomes a wacky nightmare. Suluashvili, the dreamer, is awakened this time to strobe-lit scenes: two dancers without heads, a man falling from one of the banquet tables now suspended into the air, and bales of hay hopping along the stage on their own.

Act 2 also shows off the Joffrey dancers’ technique, a large group section for the troupe’s female dancers is especially mesmerizing. They create patterns across the stage, strutting in their pointe shoes, creating beautiful lines with long extended limbs.

Enhancing the performance is Mikael Karlsson’s musical score, played live by musicians from the Chicago Philharmonic, perfectly complementing the ballet. The music is a combination of folk and electronic music that feels both whimsical, classical, and contemporary at the same time. Swedish Indie music sensation Anna von Hausswolff sings live throughout the ballet moving across the stage, sometimes interacting with the dancers. Her radiant voice and presence on stage adds an extra unexpected element.

Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Photo by Hans Nilsson
Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Royal Swedish Opera Photo by Hans Nilsson

Ekman lets his imagination go wild in Midsummer Night’s Dream, taking us along for the ride. We are immersed in a magnificent world of fantasy, sometimes joyful and humorous, and sometimes disturbing but extremely entertaining and engaging all the same. While it isn’t Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it isn’t a typical story ballet, Ekman’s contemporary ballet and theater combination is something completely new, and completely thrilling.

Read what Joffrey Ballet dancer Valeria Chaykina had to say about working with Ekman on Picture this Post-- Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM Insights – Interview with Valeria Chaykina

When:

Now playing through May 6.

Evening performances begin at 7:30pm, matinee performances begin at 2pm.

Tickets:

$34.00 - $159.00

For tickets and more information visit the Joffrey Ballet website

Where:

The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605

Photos:  All slider photos by Cheryl Mann; all other photos courtesy of Royal Swedish Opera

Hayley Ross

About the Author:

Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Communication Coordinator. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *