**** Highly Recommended **** I’m having a hard time finding the right words to describe the Joffrey Ballet’s “Modern Masters”. Combining masterpieces by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins with works by up-and-coming choreographers Miles Thatcher and Nicolas Blanc made for an evening of brilliant, artistic, intense, athletic, physical, cutting edge, minimalist, contemporary ballet. “Modern Masters” is quite literally a celebration of the human body. 4 BIG Spotlights
Some important notes:
• Northwest Indiana note: Evan Boersma, who joined the Company a few months ago, is making his mom, Kelly Boersma, the principal of Frank H. Hammond School in Munster, very proud!
• A BIG thank you to the Joffrey organization and their PR reps, the Silverman Group for switching my tickets to the final weekend of “Modern Masters”. There was this snowstorm on my original date …
• Different members of the Joffrey company are featured on different days during the run of “Modern Masters”, therefore the featured dancers I mention might not be the same as those mentioned in another review/article.
Medieval philosophers believed that man’s temperament was defined by four ‘humors’. George Balanchine’s 1946 masterpiece, “The Four Temperaments”, expressed those ‘humors’ through a series of variations choreographed to Paul Hindemith’s abstract music featuring strings and piano. Balanchine’s work consists of three Themes and the four Variations or ‘humors’.
With the company performing on a bare stage, wearing black and white rehearsal clothes, the audience is free to concentrate on the dancers’ movements. Balanchine’s choreography features angular arm movements, particularly elbows and hands, staccato footwork and controlled leg movements.
The piece begins with three themes in which the dancers resemble Greek frescoes: “First Theme”, featuring Gayeon Jung & Stefan Goncalvez; “Second Theme” featuring Chloé Sherman & Eliveton Tomazi; and “Third Theme” featuring Amanda Assucena & Grieg Matthews.
“First Variation”, “Melancholic”, featured Alberto Velazquez with Amanda Asucena, Cara Marie Gary, Lucia Connelly, Dara Holmes, Yuka Iwai and Gayeon Jung. “Second Variation”, “Sanguinic”, featured Arpil Daly and Miguel Angel Blanco, with Nicole Ciappponi, Yumi Kanazawa, Jacqueline Mosicke and Chloé Sherman. “Third Variation”, “Phlegmatic”, featured Rory Hohenstein, with Olivia Duryea, Dara Holmes, Brooke Linford and Olivia Tang-Mifsud. “Fourth Variation”, “Choleric”, featured Victoria Jaiani and the Ensemble with Katya Schloemann and Joanna Wozniak.
Miles Thatcher’s “Body of Your Dreams” is a riff on body insecurity and the exercise class, danced to Jacob Ter Velduis’s discordant music. You’ll hear – but not particularly notice – an exercise-class narrative in the background – perky voiced motivations such as “beat it, beat it, beat it”, “cellulite and flabbiness” along with a selling slogan for a miracle weight-loss product, Abtronic, “all gain no pain”.
The dancers, Brooke Linford, Chloé Sherman, Olivia Tang-Mifsud, Joanna Wozniak, Derrick Agnoletti, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Rory Hohenstein and Graham Maverick wore white exercise clothes with brightly colored accents. The choreography combined typical exercises like sit-ups, jumping-jacks and jogging with graceful balletic moves against a background of gray panels. Adding a bit of humor, rotating the panels exposed huge mirrors, reflecting the exercisers on warped funhouse-style surfaces.
The combination of Nicolas Blanc’s choreography and Mason Bales’ haunting music made “Beyond the Shore” absolutely mesmerizing. The sci-fi music reminded me of the sea at the beginning, a militant space station toward the end. In fact, I told my friend Crista that the music in the second piece, “Broom of the System” sounded like whale song.
A gentle, floaty piece, “Netherworld” featured Amanda Assucena, Anais Bueno, Christine Rocas, Olivia Tang-Mifsud, Yoshihisa Arai, Dylan Gutierrez, Aaron Renteria and Alberto Velazquez. The dancers, all couples, wore white with touches of black in “Broom of the System”, which featured Jeraldine Mendoza & Edson Barbosa, with Nicole Ciapponi & Rory Hohenstein, Cara Marie Gary & Elivelton Tomazi, Yuka Iwai & Evan Boersma, Yumi Kanazawa & Joan Sebastian Zamora, Lucia Connolly & Grieg Matthews. Wearing swirling blue-green costumes, Amanda Assucena & Alberto Velazquez danced a sensuous pas de deux in “Aerosol Melody” (Hahalei).
Dylan Guiterrez, wearing a brown, vaguely militaristic costume, and Christine Rocas, also in brown, with a tutu reminiscent of a sail in the wind, lift-off into space in “Gemini in the Solar Wind”. Also in brown costumes, Ciapponi & Hohenstein, Gary & Tomazi, return in “Temescal Noir”, seeming to dance in parallel universes, and like meteorites, occasionally meeting to switching partners. Finally, wearing the same brown, vaguely militaristic tops and very short shorts, Rocas & Guiterrez return as featured dancers in “Warehouse Medicine”, along with Mendoza & Barbosa, Ciapponi & Hohenstein, Gary & Tomazi, Iwai & Boersma, Kanazawa & Zamora, Connolly & Matthews.
Jerome Robbins’ colorful, exuberant masterpiece, “Glass Pieces”, might be my favorite part of the evening. Obviously, the Glass in the title refers to composer, Philip Glass, whose music reminded me of a pulse beat.
Against a pure white background, “Rubric” dancers, aka commuters, wearing bright colored rehearsal clothes, move purposely across the stage, each with single-minded focus with featured dancers in coral, yellow and green ‘80s-style unitards, April Daly & Greig Matthews; Christine Rocas & Rory Hohenstein; and Amanda Asucena & Alberto Velazquez. In “Facades”, Olivia Duryea & Dylan Guiterrez dance a pas de deux amid the Corps de Ballet. Finally, the Corps de Ballet (aka the entire company) danced “Akhnaten”, which I loved!
The Joffrey Ballet’s “Modern Masters” ran through February 18th. Next up for the Joffrey: the north American Premiere of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, April 25th through May 8th, at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Parking tip: go to www.auditoriumtheatre.org/plan-your-visit/parking-and-directions/ for a printable coupon good for $3 off on parking. FYI www.joffrey.org
Read my reviews at www.spotlightonlake.com.