Joffrey Ballet Presents ACROSS THE POND Review – Up And Coming Choreographers from the U.K.

Joffrey Ballet presents Across the Pond, a mixed repertoire program at the Auditorium Theatre, featuring two world premieres and one Chicago premiere by prominent choreographers in the United Kingdom.

From Andrew McNicol’s heavenly and picturesque blue hues in Yonder Blue to Liam Scarlett’s nuanced and proper Vespertine and closing with Andrea Walker’s contemporary world premiere HOME,  each work in Across the Pond brings a new element to the stage and each is unique in its setting, and theme.

Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND Performance begins with Yonder Blue

Andrew McNicol’s Yonder Blue begins the evening, the stage opening up with white marley flooring and white walls projecting various hues of blue and green.  The stage is transformed into a wide open ocean or blue sky on a summer day. The chorus of dancers become waves or floating clouds inside this infinite landscape.

Peter Gregson’s score is at times serene and calming, especially in moments when the dancers engage in intimate duets, but wide and expansive when the full chorus of dancers arrives on stage doing large lifts and leg extensions gliding across the stage.  In some moments it seems as if they are floating on air. The dancers are the embodiment of nature, un-human, yet still expressive like waves on a calm ocean, or a breeze moving the clouds through the sky.

Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Victoria Jaiani, Rory Hohenstein
Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Victoria Jaiani, Rory Hohenstein
Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Victoria Jaiani, Greig Matthews

Vespertine

In Vespertine, choreographer Liam Scarlett’s dancers are very much human. Inspired by the Baroque period, the dancers emerge on stage wearing elaborate and lavish red dresses and overcoats. There are large chandeliers hanging from the rafters that turn on and off like spotlights as dancers move across the stage.  These chandeliers further set this elegant scene and place the dancers in time.The dancers are prim and proper, their movements calculated and precise, mimicking the nuanced score by Bjarte Eike, John Dowland, Arcangelo Corelli, and Francesco Geminiani. Then, in an instant the primness vanishes as the dancers drop their garments revealing themselves in just nude colored leotards and dance belts.

Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Victoria Jaiani, Alberto Velazquez

In this reviewer's’ opinion, this is where the dance gets a little muddled. Dancers in dresses and overcoats intermingle with those who have ridded themselves of their costumes and the importance of the red costumes seems lost. What do the costumes represent? Are they a symbol of economic status? Are the dancers shedding the weight of society? And why do some remain dressed while the others are not?

The choreography itself pairs well with the music. While the movements are sometimes delicate and small, sometimes just the slight lift of the heel or step to the side, they command attention. It feels regal and transforms the dancers into high-society characters.

HOME

Andrea Walker’s world premiere HOME is by far the most contemporary and commercial piece of the evening. Walker was inspired by his personal journey as an immigrant to the U.K., paired with the many stories of immigrants in America that fill our everyday lives in the news and social media feeds. The curtain opens to dancers with their hands across their hearts as a chorus of children say The Pledge of Allegiance.

Intense music and strobe lights fill the stage, one dancer singled out in a spotlight as a chorus of dancers move around him. They do a step dance, moving their arms in staccato and robotic motions. The audience can sense this soloist’s loneliness as he wanders through the crowds of passing dancers looking for someone to relate to and for the the place where he fits in.

The piece ends exactly how it began. Dancers standing with hands to their hearts, The Pledge of Allegiance blaring through the speakers. While it certainly new and different, and an interesting departure into a more commercial way of moving for the Joffrey Ballet, this piece felt a little incomplete to this reviewer.  It seemed to promise to make a statement, but we couldn’t read it.

Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Fernando Duarte
Joffrey Ballet ACROSS THE POND
Fernando Duarte and ensemble

Perhaps some elements of Across the Pond felt more successful and meaningful than others.  That said, bringing new choreographers to Chicago and to the U.S.to provide a fresh take on ballet is always a welcome and positive experience.

Recommended

Casting:

Yonder Blue

Victoria Jaiani, Rory Hohenstein, Amanda Assucena, Greig Matthews

Brooke Linford, Valentino Moneglia Zamora Anais Bueno, Alberto Velazquez Christine Rocas, Edson Barbosa Leticia Stock, Xavier Núñez Jeraldine Mendoza, Dylan Gutierrez Anna Gerberich, Stefan Goncalvez

Vespertine

Victoria Jaiani, Alberto Velazquez, Amanda Assucena, Edson Barbosa,

Anais Bueno, Anna Gerberich, Yuka Iwai, Brooke Linford Fernando Duarte, Stefan Goncalvez, Hansol Jeong, Graham Maverick

Home

Fernando Duarte, Fabrice Calmels

Valeria Chaykina, Nicole Ciapponi, Lucia Connolly, Yuka Iwai, Yumi Kanazawa, Brooke Linford, Julia Rust, Joanna Wozniak, Derrick Agnoletti, Edson Barbosa, Evan Boersma, Stefan Goncalvez, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Hansol Jeong, Graham Maverick, Xavier Núñez, Aaron Renteria, Valentino Moneglia Zamora

Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here— 

When:

Now playing through May 5
Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2pm & 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm

Where:

The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605

Tickets:

$35.00+
Full price tickets are available for purchase on Joffrey Ballet’s website

Photos by Cheryl Mann

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 Marketing Manager. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com

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