Joffrey Ballet Presents THE TIMES ARE RACING Review – Ballet in Sneakers

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Joffrey Ballet Program of Mixed Repertoire

 Joffrey Ballet presents The Times Are Racing, a mixed repertoire program at the Auditorium Theatre, featuring five pieces from up and coming choreographers including New York City Ballet’s Justin Peck.

Seeing ballet out of context, especially in jeans and sneakers to techno music, is always fun, but especially so in Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing. From costumes, to music, to lighting, to movement, you too might think that this nonstop piece brings a freshness to the stage.

The ballet begins with a pulsing huddle of dancers in street clothes, a single dancer in the middle of the circle. The dancers burst from their circle and break out into a chorus of unison movement, almost like a flash mob on a city street.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Anna Gerberich and Temur Suluashvili

The Times Are Racing features two duets that captured this reviewers eye. The first is two men, both in jeans, one in a white undershirt and one in black, danced by Edson Barbosa and Greig Matthews. The two perform quick tap-inspired movements intermixed with movements that gracefully move the dancers across the stage. The second pair is Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez. The two shift together, one heel popped at a time, a small step touch contrasted with big lifts and leaps. As other dancers enter the stage, they weave in and out of the sea of sneakers.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Edson Barbosa and ensemble
Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Victoria Jaiani and Stefan Goncalvez

A Comedic Take

 Itik Gakili’s The Sofa brings a different type of fresh to the stage in the form of a comedic look at an uncomfortable topic. The piece begins with a big bright yellow sofa center stage. Two characters, a man and a woman danced by Temur Suluashvili and Anna Gerberich, literally come crashing into the scene. Like a scene from a movie, the man tries to sneak his arm around the woman’s shoulders, and she shuns him by slamming him backward into the cushion. The man’s flirting becomes advances, and the two throw their bodies and each other’s across the sofa. From the front of the stage they run towards the sofa, flipping it upside down. When the sofa is righted, a man, Fernando Duarte, appears on the couch next to Suluashvili, instead of Gerberich. The tables are turned and the duet is performed again, this time Duarte making advances towards Suluashvili.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Victoria Jaiani and Stefan Goncalvez

Tom Waits song Nobody contributes to the light and comedic take on this piece that according to the program notes “holds up a mirror to society” by “provoking mixed feelings of uneasiness, amusement, and enjoyment, through a light and non-judgemental angle.” The piece feels relevant even though it was choreographed 25 years ago, and the themes are relatable, giving the audience a chance to see a semblance of themselves on stage.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Evan Boersma, Brooke Linford and Stefan Goncalvez
Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING

Physical Finesse

Itzik Galili’s other piece on the program Mono Lisa is very different from The Sofa. The incredibly physical piece danced with ease by Victoria Janai and Stefan Goncalvez is choreographed to a soundscape of noises reminiscent of a typewriter. The two dancers in their own type of dance battle, show off their tricks for one another, walking across the stage with a sass that challenges their partner.

When the two dance together they perform breathtaking lifts—with Janai flipped around in every direction, featuring tricks that look like they should be part of Cirque Du Soleil. Thisdark, intense, and modern piece is, in this writer’s view, a testament to what the Joffrey Ballet dancers are really capable of.

Mesmerized by Music

Commedia choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and BLISS! Choreographed by Stephanie Martinez are both driven by classical scores by Igor Stravinsky. The score lays the groundwork for the various sections in each work, some tender duets, and others jubilant group sections.

Commedia is a play on commedia dell’arte referencing the various characters and their personalities in this classicform of theatre. The dancers are dressed in unitards with black geometric diamonds on them, at different points adding a skirt, a headdress, a mask, or a cape creating their own little play inside of the ballet.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Greig Matthews and Edson Barbosa

BLISS! Is danced by two women and six men, a different combination is each section. The women are dressed in bedazzled outfits that shimmer as they move, being lifted and twirled by the many men on stage with them. The movement reflects the score, sometimes quiet and melancholy, and other times joyous, as the title suggests.

The range of emotion, type of movement, and music used within The Times Are Racing show the diversity and range of what it means to dance or choreograph ballet and exemplifies how the art form pushes forward as the times change.

Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Edson Barbosa and ensemble
Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Joffrey Ballet THE TIMES ARE RACING
Fernando Duarte, Greig Matthews, Stefan Goncalvez, Evan Boersma, and Xavier Nunez

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Casting:

Commedia

Yuka Iwai, Gayeon Jung, Yumi Kanazawa, Brooke Linford, Yoshihisa Arai, Edson Barbosa, Evan Boersma, Stefan Goncalvez

Mono Lisa

Victoria Jaiani, Stefan Goncalvez

Bliss

Edson Barbosa, Evan Boersma, Fernando Duarte, Stefan Goncalvez, Greig Matthews, Xavier Núñez, Anais Bueno, Brooke Linford

The Sofa

Temur Suluashvili, Anna Gerberich, Fernando Duarte

The Times Are Racing

Jeraldine Mendoza, Dylan Gutierrez, Edson Barbosa, Greig Matthews Anais Bueno, Nicole Ciapponi, Christine Rocas, Xavier Núñez Lucia Connolly, Cara Marie Gary, Yumi Kanazawa, Julia Rust, Olivia Tang-Mifsud, Joanna Wozniak Evan Boersma, Stefan Goncalvez, Hansol Jeong, Graham Maverick, Aaron Renteria, Alberto Velazquez

When:

Through February 23, 2020

Friday, February 14 at 7:30 PM,
Saturday, February 15 at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM,
Sunday, February 16 at 2:00 PM,
Thursday, February 20 at 7:30 PM,
Friday, February 21 at 7:30 PM,
Saturday, February 22 at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM,
Sunday, February 23 at 2:00 PM.

Where:

The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605

Tickets:

$35+

Full price tickets are available for purchase on Joffrey Ballet website or call 312.386.8905

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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