Joffrey Ballet’s ‘New Works’ dances to its own tune

17_Incantations_John Mark Giragosian_Photo by Cheryl Mann

By Rachel Popa

The Joffrey Ballet’s new spring program titled “New Works” premiered on April 22, 2015 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The Joffrey Ballet usually performs exclusively in the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University but had to relocate to accommodate the NFL Draft that will be taking place at the theatre April 30 through May 2.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Joffrey Ballet’s residence as Chicago’s premier ballet company, and that pride shows through in the company’s new show.

“New Works” consists of four distinct dance pieces: “In Creases,” “Liturgy,” “Evenfall” and “Incantations.”

Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet’s artistic director, summed up the inspirations behind “New Works.”

“Whether it’s programming that’s original to our dancers, to our audiences, or to the world, ‘New Works’ is the lifeblood of the Joffrey Ballet and a critical component of our company’s mission for artistic innovation and excellence,” Wheater said.

He further explained the premise of “New Works.”

“This year, we’ve been very forthcoming in exploring how far ballet has come while honoring its gloriously rich past, which is why we’ve chosen to end our season with ‘New Works,’” Wheater said.

The program serves as an “American abstraction, with highly physical, emotionally driven content that will challenge not only our dancers,” but also the audiences as well, according to Wheater.

That abstraction really is what sets the Joffrey Ballet apart from what one would assume ballet is like. Going to a Joffrey Ballet performance is an experience that is accessible and enjoyable for everyone, young and old alike.

The first work “In Creases,” was choreographed by Justin Peck, a soloist and resident choreographer for the New York City Ballet. The piece was set to Philip Glass’  “Four Movements for Two Pianos,” which was played by two pianists on stage during the performance.

“In Creases” focused on neoclassical symmetry and geometry that plays well with the seven movements of Glass’ score.

“‘In Creases’ is a fusion of dance and athleticism rarely seen in classical ballet,” Peck said.

The second piece, titled “Liturgy,” used “a consistent, yet challenging vocabulary to develop the relationship between the performers in unseen ways, allowing both the dancers and audience room to fill in their own significances to the work,” choreographer Christopher Wheeldon said.

The work is set to the haunting score of “Fratres” by Arvo Part.

The next work was “Evenfall,”choreographed by Nicholas Blanc. “Evenfall” was created specifically for Joffrey dancers Derrick Agnoletti, Fabrice Calmels, Rory Hohenstein, Anastacia Holden and Victoria Jaiani and premiered in 2013 at the Festival Danse en Places in Montauban, France.

“[The] piece follows the thread of poetry running through the lives of a couple at the beginning of their romance and then through their autumn years,” Blanc said.

“Evenfall” was set to “The Four Seasons” composed by Max Richter.

“Incantations” was the final piece of “New Works” that the ballet performed. “Incantations” was created for the Joffrey Ballet in 2012 by Val Caniparoli and was set to composer Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky’s minimalist score of the same name.

“[‘Incantations’] is rooted in classical ballet but [is] influenced by all forms of movement, including modern, ethnic and social dancing,” Caniparoli said. “The arc of the music, and the ballet is continuous movement, akin to a vortex creating a zen-like spiral of movement and emotion.”

The Joffrey Ballet’s “New Works” runs April 22 through May 3 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre on 151 W. Randolph St.

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