The Joffrey Ballet presents a mixed repertory program, Modern Masters, at the Auditorium Theatre featuring the work of two ballet legends and two emerging artists.
Joffrey Ballet begin the program with Balanchine
Modern Masters begins with the Joffrey premiere of George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments first choreographed in for the New York City Ballet in 1944. The ballet, set to a score by Paul Hindemith, references the concept of the four physiological humors – melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic, and choleric.
The Four Temperaments expresses these physiological humors in four movements through the dancers emotive movements and the expression of the musical score. Each section combines a varying number of dancers in a small group, mostly combining a solo or duet with a small corps de ballet, or chorus, of four dancers.
Balanchine’s choreographic style in simple, structured, and angular. The women wear simple black leotards and pink tights and the men in black tights and white tops, similar to what a dancer would wear to a ballet class. The choreography departs from classical ballet with flexed hands, popped feet, bent knees, and small hip thrusts. The ballet ends in a large ensemble sections, dancers moving in different patterns across the floor and culminating with the group all in the same pose, reaching their limbs and looking out and across the stage.
The Four Temperaments is classic and simple while still elegant, and the Joffrey dancers move effortlessly through Balanchine’s structures.
Myles Thatcher’s Body of You Dreams brings a whole new meaning to “Fitness February.” This contemporary piece is wildly athletic and witty, playing on society’s obsession with quick and easy ways to get the best body.
The music for the piece is a combination of music by Ter Veldhuis, combined with sound bites from infomercials advertising fitness equipment repeating phrases such as “so easy!” “oh wow,” and “body of your dreams.” The set features two reversible walls with mirrors on one side symbolizing society’s emphasis on physical appearance.
The dancers’ movements are fun and energetic, sometimes playing on exercise movements such as sit-ups or boxing combined with stunning acrobatic lifts, tossing themselves across the stage, while still bringing light to the serious topic of body image. This world premiere was funny, mesmerizing, and a great example of where the future of ballet can go.
Voyage to a New World
Next in the program is Joffrey Ballet Master Nicholas Blanc’s Beyond the Shore. The ballet takes the audience on a journey to a new world through six movements. The first movement is smooth and airy, an ensemble of dancers in bare feet moving across the foggy stage. The following sections take the audience underwater, the dancers moving like fish or algae under the sea, more like creatures than humans.
According to the program notes, Blanc approached Beyond the Shore as a “metaphor for exploration inherent to human nature.” The lighting and set design also help to bring this vision to life with fog, blue and red hues in lighting, a large mural behind the dancers that almost resembles an underwater temple or Atlantis. Blanc achieves his goal of taking the audience on an explorative journey through his own point of view, the dancers’ mastering the intricate and other-worldly choreography.
Individuals in the Crowd
The evening ends with the large ensemble piece, Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins set to music by Phillip Glass. The ballet begins with dancers walking across the stage in all different directions, a mass of people crossing each other on a busy street. Suddenly, three couples of dancers in unitards emerge from the crowd, weaving through the pedestrians with smooth and angelic movements.
In the second section of Glass Pieces, a man and woman in the same unitards perform a duet, but in the background a mass of female dancers move slowly across the stage in different patterns, almost more mesmerizing than the two soloists.
Glass Pieces is about structure and patterns, and an individual moving amongst a crowd. Robbins creates a maze of human bodies weaving in and out of each other combining ballet with the pedestrian movements of our everyday lives timed perfectly to Glass’ score.
The Joffrey Ballet dancers move seamlessly through each of these pieces of varying styles and aesthetics, giving the audience something to marvel at during each ballet.
Now playing through February 18.
Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2pm & 7:30pm
Sundays at 2pm
$34.00 - $159.00
For tickets and more information visit the Joffrey Ballet website.
The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
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