Chicago Dance Review: AMERICAN LEGENDS (Joffrey Ballet at Auditorium Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on February 17, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

SPRINGING INTO SPRING

In Chicago, spring can never come early enough. But, alas, it’s February, so it has to be an indoor sport. Leave it to our homegrown dance company, the Joffrey Ballet, to gloriously unleash spring fever in the bleak late winter. A quartet of dazzling works by Twyla Tharp, Jerome Robbins and the Joffrey Ballet’s late artistic director Gerald Arpino (plus an exciting Chicago premiere by Stanton Welch) could raise the sap in anyone. American Legends is a glorious feast of steps and styles, more than justifying its name, putting four prize pieces very much in the present tense.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Joffrey’s American Legends in ChicagoAppropriately, the program begins with Jerome Robbins’ 1945 Interplay, the perfect title for a work that rewards collaboration between dancers and orchestra, dancers and the score, and, above all, playful participation between and among the performers themselves. Jazzy and perky, Robbins’ sprightly dance designs put the ensemble through sweeping spins as if showing off, exhibiting the exuberance and inventiveness of kids at recess. Reinventing perpetual motion – and clad in sexy black leotards and primary-color tops – the guys were especially adept at twirling in tandem, while the girls equaled their energy in verve and pluck. You Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Joffrey’s American Legends in Chicagocan’t get more American than Morton Gould’s high-strutting score: These eight young dancers rose to all his occasions.

Much more sensuous and full of contagious laziness (despite the degree of difficulty), Gerald Arpino’s Sea Shadow evoked a legend of sea-nymph Ondines entrapping a willing beachcomber. Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein fit like spoons as they seemed to become merman and mermaid in this wistful pas de mer, set to the delicate piano music of Maurice Ravel.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Joffrey’s American Legends in ChicagoSon of Chamber Symphony, a local premiere choreographed last year by Stanton Welch, brings us very much into the present. John Adams’ insistent to frenetic score delivers a kind of clockworks music that fits the industrial-like movements of three couples swept along in this dance machine. Packed with effortless virtuosity, the result is a clever and driven mash-up of classical and contemporary movements; both staccato and smoothly swirling energy is generated by the music as inevitably as electricity from transformers.

Finally, Nine Sinatra Songs, wittily shaped by prankster Twyla Tharp, delights in the differences among seven couples immersed in a kind of ballroom dance competition. Santo Loquasto’s set has a disco ball revolve above the dancers, nattily garbed by Oscar de la Renta, as they disappear into the likes of “One for My Baby,” “Strangers in the Night” and “My Way” – the latter being an ensemble tour-de-force performed to two different recordings made by the master. Ranging from tango to foxtrot to swing, it was quirky, funny, classy and so seemingly spontaneous – sometimes all of these at once. Love in all its stages gets chronicled in the dancers’ tentative to triumphant partnerships, highlighting the occasional infatuation, independence, rivalry, or kids’ play that connect diverse lovers; sex is every bit as simulated by the dance as it’s anticipated by lovers.

Yes, spring has arrived at the Auditorium Theatre. Now, if the crocuses would finally come up.

Lawrence Bommer’s Stage and Cinema review of Joffrey’s American Legends in Chicagophotos by Herbert Migdoll

American Legends
Joffrey Ballet
at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
scheduled to end on Feb. 24, 2013
for tickets call 800-982-2787
or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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