Winter Fire – Joffery Ballet

“In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” by William Forsythe – Joffrey Premiere

“After the Rain” by Christopher Wheeldon

“Infra” by Wayne McGregor – U.S. Premier

  At Auditorium Theater

Winter Fire warms Joffrey Crowd

While the setting for the Joffrey Program Friday, Feb. 17 at times showed a dimly lit stage, every dancer’s exuberance burned brightly to light up a marvelously exciting evening of dance.  In addition, with one relatively newer pieces and two premieres, the Joffrey’s program of Winter Fire, offers much for every type of viewer.

A modern or rather technical theme arises from the electronic booming music in the first piece to the large LED strip in the backdrop of the third piece, Infra,” with life size white shadowy people walking across it throughout.  And sandwiched in between is probably one of the most enchanting pas de deux’s that you will remember for a very long time.

winter fire - joffery ballet

The first work, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” should thrill the traditional ballet fan, amaze the modern dance fan with unusual moves seldom seen; and surely please all others.  During intermission, the middle-aged man seated behind me asked the perfect question.  Is this ballet?  Yes…yes.  The mechanical stiff moves blended with wavelike flexibility en pointe.  As the title suggests, the ballet executed the combination of classical training with traditional and modern dancing.  The dancers matched the very loud booming bursts of the electronic music by Dutchman Thom Willems with many small bursting dance explosions…not in a bombastic way, but controlled and exciting!  The choreography included a fascinating variety of groupings and positions…quite brilliant.  Rudolf Nureyev commissioned this in 1987 for the Paris Opera Ballet.  Could that have something to do with this masterpiece?   The music is very loud and pounding, but surprisingly not annoying, because of the close match to the dancers’ every movement.  (Ear plugs are available at the office for the more sensitive folks.)

winter fire - joffery ballet

“After the Rain” began with three couples in a neutral/grey black setting,  and the live music by Arvo Part.  (New to me was  Part’s three note triad which he labels tintinnabulation, used in the latter half of the work.)  Then with a refreshing but subtle pink backdrop, Christine Rocas in a pale pink leotard, and a very healthy shirtless Temur Suluashvili danced you into another world.  In the beginning, this couple’s slow exquisite moves to Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel’s haunting piece focused the viewer more on the single violin notes than their moves, but they continued together twisting, turning and inter winding.  As they melted with the music, you wanted them to go on and on watching the beauty of it all flow sumptuously.

winter fire - joffery ballet

Max Richter composed the music for “Infra” in 2008 and Wayne McGregor’s work premiered with the Royal Ballet of London, returning by demand in 2010.  A complete change of atmosphere occurred with a variety of black, grey and white costumes, and the electronic band of life-sized moving figures crossing high on the black backdrop.  This U.S. premiere by the Joffrey of “Infra” continued with a repetition of many duets… perhaps not well placed after the second work of the rapturous duet.  Also “Infra” may have been better appreciated, if it had been switched with the first piece.  The dramatic messages sent by “Infra” push one to wonder, “What does this mean?”  but moves along very well to explain.   The program noted that Infra “exposed the agonies of indecision, doubt and hope.”  One could see indecision and doubt….hope…not so much.

The first and third works mainly used  neutral colors and a relatively dark stage with minimal costuming.  This assumes an experienced and sophisticated audience…perhaps a slightly faulty assumption, especially if the company wants to expand its reach.

Somehow the Joffrey dancers continue to get better and better each year, if that’s possible!   Winter Fire is no exception with another amazing program that breaks new ground with two premieres for Chicago viewers; overflows with excitement and creativity; and feeds your soul with sumptuous beauty.  If you can, do try to see this very special program.

Highly Recommended

Margaret Eva

Date Reviewed: February 17. 2012

 At Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.  Chicago, IL. Feb 23, 2012 – 7:30pm, Feb 24, 2012 – 7:30pm, Feb 25, 2012 – 2:00pm, Feb 25, 2012  -7:30pm, Feb 26, 2012 – 2:00 pm, Total running time is 2 hours 10 minutes including  two intermissions.

 TICKETS BY PHONE:  Joffrey Ticketing – 312.386.8905; Ticketmaster -800.982.2787,TICKETS IN PERSON: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University M–F 12–6pm, Box Office: 50 E Congress Pkwy and all other TicketMaster outlets.  Wide price range.