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Dance Fri May 01 2009

Love and Marriage at the Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet has begun their Spring Program, and the evening is all about human interaction. This is a fantastic program for the dance lover, and a healthy challenge for the novice. Of the four pieces presented on opening night, only one truly "took me away," but, as ever, the talent and freshness of the Joffrey coursed throughout the evening.

Les Noces_11.jpgJoffrey's Winter Season included Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps (see my comments on that masterpiece), and in their tribute to the Ballets Russes, it follows that they would put on his sister Irina Nijinska's historic work, Les Noces, set to music by Stravinsky. This ballet depicts an arranged marriage between a Russian peasant man and woman, and Nijinska wanted to "convey the injustices that Russian women had long endured in their primitive surroundings." The movement quality, as in Sacre, reinforces this un-cheerful sentiment. The dancers' feet are always parallel rather than turned out, and their bodies remain rigid. It's fascinating to watch Nijinska's philosophy at work: the body and choreography convey the emotions, while the face remains blank, and no "acting" is allowed. This is an important ballet to keep intact, an important ballet for modern audiences to be able to see, and when all of the elements worked together, they worked very well.

Next was Valses Poeticos, a piece for a couple choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, with Enrique Granados's piano accompaniment played masterfully by a soloist onstage.

The inspiration for Valses was love letters, and the dancers are clearly dancing for and communicating with one another, allowing the audience some carefree voyeurism. The charm of the piece was vocalized by the woman in the elderly couple sitting behind me who turned to her husband and said, "I wish that were me dancing with you!"

Round of Angels_Patterson_Nicholas_03.JPGThe piece that truly took me away and made me forget where I was or what I was watching was Gerald Arpino's Round of Angels, set to the Adagietta of Mahler's 5th Symphony. The music is, of course, moving enough on its own. And it is a perfect marriage between music and dance that Arpino would have chosen Mahler when choreographing after the loss of a beloved friend. The central man and woman are encircled by five men who sweep around them and sometimes sweep the woman away -- there is no way to describe these moments other than as a feather floating on the breeze. In hindsight, this piece is almost entirely made up of athletic and acrobatic lifts and shapes, but in the moment, every movement feels entirely organic and purposeful. Everything about this piece is seamless.

The grand finale is Carousel A Dance, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, set to music by Richard Rodgers, and of course, inspired by Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Carousel. This crowd-pleasing and light ballet shows us young love at a fair -- a relieving conclusion to a program that began with an unequivocally unhappy pairing. In the "ooh, aah" moment, the dancers themselves become a carousel. That "ooh, ahh" will carry you all the way out of the theater smiling.

Running through May 10, Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2:00. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets rage from $25 to $145. Go to, call Ticketmaster (312.902.1500), or purchase tickets in person at the theater.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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