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Joffrey Ballet impresses

Assistant Arts Editor

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 16:03

Hailed as “America’s Company of Firsts,” which includes the first dance company to appear on television, perform at the White House, visit Russia and the only one to grace the cover of TIME magazine, it could be said The Joffrey Ballet was overdue for its first performance at the Flynn.

The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences, and repertoire, which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces, and contemporary works,” each playbill wrote.

The 57 year-old company currently based in Chicago performed Kurt Jooss’ expressionist anti-war piece “The Green Table,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “After the Rain” and two other contemporary works on March 16.

“The Green Table” was first performed in 1932 and was the first ballet Robert Joffrey, the founder of the company, had ever seen.  

A German expressionist movement inspired by the death all wars result in, the movements are more abrupt and lyrical than a classical ballet.

Eerie, mustached and bearded masks clung to the world leaders as they arrived at a green table to declare war.  Each movement displayed a new emotion: anger, agreement, excitement and frustration.

In almost every scene Death awaits the dancers prancing on battlefields and mourning lost soldiers in the home.  He is a tall dancer, body covered in white paint and adorned with black strips of leather giving the illusion of a Day of the Dead-inspired skeleton.  

Timeless in its anti-war message, the themes at play are obvious and less abstract, leaving little for the viewer to contemplate except for the consequences of war.

“After the Rain” (2005) received a boisterous standing ovation and praise from the crowd.  Christopher Wheeldon’s work is an emotional blend of the classical and contemporary, the abstract and the narrative.

Three couples explore the tensions, exhaustion and satisfaction relationships can offer us.  Dressed in a steely gray, the movements were reflected by each pair against a black backdrop.

Part II delved deeper into the theme of relationships.  It featured a woman dressed in pale pink and a bare-chested partner,  which enhanced this act’s intimacy.

A series of elaborate partner lifts speak to the rigorous training each Joffrey dancer has under gone.  

Every movement, from impressive leg rotations en pointe to lengthier lifts in Part II, was a consistent reminder of the human body’s potential strength and grace.  

A closer look at the dancers reveals glistening beads of sweat streaming down heaving chests.  It is as though every muscle in the dancer’s body being used can be seen from beyond the red curtains of the stage.

Despite the very serious attitude attributed to ballet, The Joffrey Ballet mesmerized the audience with a diverse array of arrangements.  Families with children and season ticket holders were an active part of the performance; pushing forward in their seats, laughing at the jester-like movements of “The Green Table’s” world leaders and tearing up at Victoria Jaiani’s talent in “After the Rain.”

In its first trip to Burlington, The Joffrey Ballet did not disappoint.

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