The verdict is unequivocal: In "All Stars," its magnificent fall
program at the Auditorium Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet (expertly
accompanied by the Chicago Sinfonietta) is dancing as it has never
Not only is the company meeting every rigorous technical and
stylistic challenge posed by the ballets of three master choreographers
-- George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon -- but in
learning these works (from exceptional coaches), they also have retained
the warmth and sheer joy of propulsion so characteristic of the
Joffrey, while assuming a truly starry quality.
• • Through Oct. 24
• • Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
• • $25-$145
• • (800) 982-2787: joffrey.org
The first supremely daunting test came with Balanchine's "Stravinsky
Violin Concerto," a ravishing neoclassical exercise in which two
staggeringly difficult pas de deux are framed by sharply executed group
sequences -- one quite formal and symmetrical, the other a playful
contemporary twist on the folkloric.
The pas de deux were danced by two of the company's most
accomplished, long-limbed beauties (April Daly, paired with Miguel Angel
Blanco, and Victoria Jaiani, partnered with great tenderness by
real-life husband Temur Suluashvili). Daly, with her wonderfully
confident, all-American ebullience, brought a sexy, independent panache
to impossibly serpentine moves and acrobatic backbends, while Jaiani, in
the more intimate and emotionally intense duet, was like a piece of
origami paper, constantly being folded and manipulated into the shapes
Bravura ballet technique and folk dance fever took a more traditional
yet wholly eye-popping turn in Balanchine's "Tarantella," performed
with brilliance and exuberance by two perfectly matched spitfires,
Yumelia Garcia and Derrick Agnoletti. Irresistible.
Then it was on to Wheeldon with "After the Rain," a hauntingly dreamy
work at once erotic and spiritual. Though Wheeldon pays grand homage to
Balanchine here, the ballet, to music by Arvo Part, is very much his
own heartstoppingly beautiful creation. It begins in a smoky gray haze
with a complex choralelike interplay of three couples (Jaiani and
Fabrice Calmels, Valerie Robin and Matthew Adamczyk and Daly and Blanco,
all in complete command of the work's tricky elegance and precision).
Then, in a duet of such otherworldly yet profoundly sensual beauty
that the audience seemed to be holding its breath, the vanishingly
feathery Jaiani (in flesh-pink leotard, her dark hair unpinned) was
partnered to soaring effect by Calmels. Held aloft in a perfect
horizontal plane, she was far more than a bird in mid-flight.
Sheer fun erupted in Robbins' ingenious "The Concert," a delicious
romp capturing the nutty fantasies of an audience at a Chopin concert.
Performed to perfection, it was a grand reminder of the Joffrey's
unmatched flair for character work, with a mischievous Paul Lewis James
at the piano.
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