Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Debuts Bold Moves

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DH and I received press tickets to the Bold Moves, the season opening of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet (are tickets to Hamilton next?!). Bold Moves is playing at the Auditorium Theatre through February, 21, 2016.

As my senior cultural correspondent, DH shared his take on the Joffrey's latest. 

The first piece, Forgotten Land, began with a cluster of dancers in baggy clothing, including floor-length dresses. Not a tutu in sight. Nor was there much walking around on their toes by the women. I’m sure there’s a dance name for that, but it doesn’t really matter.

The dark stage had a backdrop that looked something like a Great Plains supercell was waiting to happen. The sound effects of violent wind whipping around the dancers reminded me of the arctic cold outside. One by one, and sometimes in pairs or trios, they wriggled like leaves falling off tree branches, blown around the stage and coming back to rest in their original spot. When the orchestra began, the music (Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem Opus 20) was disturbing. It was not a pleasant, joyous sight to watch the dance, but it was hypnotizing nonetheless.

I don't see a lot of live dance performances, but I immediately GOT IT. I sat there thinking that I understood perfectly what the performers were trying to convey. The entire first piece seemed to be about desolation. Like early North Dakota settlers in an 1870 blizzard, stretching to be free of the confines of their primitive huts, where they were snowed in for the winter. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking, but I was still chilled from walking to the theater.

The choreographer, Jiri Kylian of the Czech Republic, said it was based on a painting by Edvard Munch of women staring at the sea. In some ways, though, the ballet evoked the desperation and anxiety of The Scream.

But on a more pleasant side, it’s amazing to watch human beings who spend their days stretching and dancing (as opposed to sitting at desks writing) their limbs all over the place. The women kicked the hems of their long dresses higher than human thighs ought to allow. And the men casually lifted and carried their partners all over the stage. Typical ballet stuff, but it’s still impressive to watch.

Tipping Point, British choreographer Ashley Page’s piece, was even more intriguing, although still unsettling. All the performers, men and women, wore similar sleeveless, legless outfits. In some cases, this greatly accentuated the difference in stature between, say, a male dancer well over 6 feet tall, and his much smaller female partner. In fact, throughout the entire piece, I felt we were forced to focus more on the dancer’s movement because their costumes made them harder to distinguish from one another.

Bold Moves will end its run at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University on February 21.

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