Chicago Dance Review: 8TH ANNUAL WINNING WORKS (Joffrey Academy of Dance and MCA, Chicago)

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by Lawrence Bommer on March 3, 2018

in Dance,Theater-Chicago


It’s all over — but this review of record is as much a promissory note as a remembrance. Worth noting as much as seeing, Winning Works, the Joffrey Ballet’s debut of four trail-blazing works at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, carried a train load of future reference. Both encouragement to cutting-edge choreographers and confirmation of the load-bearing excellence of the ensemble’s younger dancers, the 80-minute program was a blast from tomorrow.

It began with the aptly named Sea of Comets by Chicago-born Luis Vasquez. Performed in loosely flowing Greek chitons and tunics, with literally moving music by Ezio Bosso, it proved a cunning combination of classical and Dionysian elements. The result: a kind of formal frenzy, ritualistic rigidity fused in one gentle and one fiery movement.

The “sea of comets” that Vasquez sets seething is, he says, a reflection of falling stars, raindrops and youthful embers, natural descents mirrored by 14 young embodiments of free-flowing, easily transferred energy.

A huge crowd pleaser, Memento Mori, by Portuguese-born Telmo Moreira, employs 11 women and five men in a communal and convulsive depiction of the outsider status of evolving beings. The artists’ anguish was center stage, whether in isolation or while constructing their own sculptural clusters. Enhanced by silhouettes on the back wall and shreds of curtains billowing above, the piece surges with sensuous swaying.

Fueled by the music of Mariel Mariel, Daniel Pemberton, and Max Richter, this exuberant assemblage of action and stasis enthralled, especially the euphoric third section. Ostensibly devoted to conveying the complications of a racially diverse explorer, Memento Mori was, despite its title, entirely life-affirming, the Joffrey’s newest dancers pushing boundaries as literally as possible.

Urgent and driven, Claudia Schreier’s Night Vision proved a moody homage, set to Richard Danielpour’s 1988 composition First Light, itself a tribute to Gregorian chants and more modern influences—Bernstein, Copland, Stravinsky and The Beatles. The 12 dancers lurched and propelled themselves through outstretched or mysteriously waving movements, blurring the classical and the contemporary in the sheer irreverence of youthful spirits.

Finally, created by Puerto Rican dance designer Omar Roman de Jesus, BOA was a kinetic meditation on self-love, performed to an eclectic to tropical to primitive musical backdrop by Pedro Bromfman, Rodrigo Amarante, Tzusing, Antonymes, Alonso Y Bernardo and Lambert. In a jolting series of well-contrasted movements, it opposed the isolation of ambling pedestrians with the complex contortions of apparent twins, symbolizing a soul in constant conflict.

The very visible payoff was to see solo dancers, originally hemmed in by pools of light, achieve enough confidence to move from self-love to pure love. Finding the right escape velocity is every dancer’s greatest challenge: It was revelation itself to see it happen to twelve of them at the same time.

The Joffrey Studio Company and Academy Trainees
in the 8th Annual Winning Works program – photos by Cheryl Mann

8th Annual Winning Works
The Joffrey Academy of Dance
in association with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater, 220 E. Chicago Ave
ends on March 3, 2018
for tickets, call 312.397.4010 or visit MCA
for more info, visit Joffrey

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