After seeing a multitude of great dance in the last week or so, I couldn’t get two specific dances out of my head. Two duets: one from Luna Negra, the other Joffrey.
New Artistic Director of Luna Negra, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, with his world premiere of Toda Una Vida (All My Life), showed he has the choreographic chops and artistic vision to take the company to new heights. (Look out Hubbard St!) The first section of Vida is a duet set to Ravel’s Boléro. It takes true inspiration to choreograph to such an oft-used piece of music and Sansano does not disappoint. Moníca Cervantes and Zoltán Katona (both transplants from Sansano’s company in Valencia, Spain TITOYAYA Dance Project) danced mostly apart only coming together briefly for counter-balance partnering or a quick lift. It was the strength of the female that caught my focus, not just the dancing, but the strength of character in the choreography. It was as if she didn’t need the man, but chose, when she needed or wanted, to go to him. (I read somewhere that the piece was loosely based on his parents long relationship. His mother must be quite the spitfire!) The quick, odd movements gained intensity along with the famed music and, at the end, the female runs off leaving the man alone. Wow! It was the perfect way to start the show and the new season.
In contrast, on opening night for the Joffrey’s All Stars program, Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels delivered a quiet, seemingly effortless — and showstopping (or it would have been if it wasn’t at the end of the act) — performance in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. Set to Arvo Pärt’s delicate score Spiegel im Spiegel, the pas evoked an emotionally intimate relationship. Dressed as though they are ready for bed, the pas continually has the female leaning on the man and relying on his strength for support. Jaiani’s flexibility and fragile-looking frame melted into every move with Calmel’s tall, strong frame right there to lift her up, hold her, comfort her. This pas ended with the two wrapped around each other on the floor as if they couldn’t live without each other. I’ve seen these two dance many times, but never like this. The audience was holding its collective breath. The auditorium was completely quiet except for the sparse notes from the Chicago Symphonietta. Stunning.