Joffrey Enthralls with Spring Desire


All photography by Herbert Migdoll.

Joffrey Ballet‘s Spring Desire program, which opened Wednesday evening and runs through May 6th, lured the audience in with romantic notions, then turned up the heat with stunning displays of technical bravado and elite gracefulness.  This talented group of dancers ends the season on a high note with an impressive, progressive rep tackled and another stellar world premiere, Val Caniparoli’s Incantations.  This new work, set to music of the same title by Russian composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, was a study in constant motion threading quick masterful feats (huge jumps, multiple turns and tricky partnering) with a zen-like through-line of lead couple Joanna Wozniak and Matthew Adamczyk.  Their calmness in execution of difficult partnering differed from the frenetic energy surrounding them culminating in the ending pas de deux (gorgeous!) that consolidated light and energy directly on them in ever-shrinking  revolving spirals.   Caniparoli goes against the norm by ending the multi-sectioned work on a somber calming note.  After the “shot-out-of-a-cannon” start, the audience lulled into a tantric swirl of beauty.  He takes a common jete and inverts and arm or places a hand behind the head to make it seem new.  Pirouettes ending with a swivel of the head add an edge and remind of Forsythe.  Congrats to the entire cast, choreographer, sets/costume designer (Sandra Woodall) and lighting designer (Lucy Carter) are due.

Leading the program was Edwaard Liang’s Age of Innocence originally choreographed for the company in 2008.  The large group piece inspired by the novels of Jane Austen started off a big shaky with timing and formation being a bit off, but made up for it with some stellar dancing in the smaller sections.  Jeraldine Mendoza showed that she can hold her own with the big guns in a fearless duet with Mauro Villanueva.  (She was also a stand out in Wayne McGregor’s Infra earlier this season.)  The men’s section – literally titled The Men – showed off the virtuoso talents of Raul Casasola, Aaron Rogers, Ricardo Santos and Temue Suluashvili in a spectacular game of one-upmanship.  It should be no surprise that the pas de deux by Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels (a staple for galas) was a luscious lesson in stunning lifts and exquisite partnering.  She flies across the stage at him and flings herself backward into his arms, open and vulnerable like a resting butterfly only to be pressed to the sky by her adonis of a partner.  They make everything look simple.  Simply beautiful.

Sandwiched between the two larger works was Jerome Robbins’ In The Night.  Created in 1970, it features three couples in separate pas de deux representing differing stages of love.  With live accompaniment by long-time Joffrey collaborator pianist Paul James Lewis, six of Joffrey’s top dancers transported the theater to a by-gone era.  Christine Rocas and Villaneuva, along with Jaiani and Calmels offered soft, romantic duets with a more fiery pas in between danced by April Daly and Miguel Angel Blanco.  This was Blanco’s first performance since an achilles injury took him out last season requiring two surgeries.  It was great to see him back strong and handsome.  While Robbins’ is a master (and West Side Story is my all-time favorite movie), compared to the other, more contemporary ballets on the program, In The Night seemed a bit boring.

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