Dance Review: ACROSS THE POND (Joffrey Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on April 25, 2019

in Dance,Theater-Chicago


Springing into the season, the Joffrey Ballet’s current visit to the Auditorium Theatre delivers very welcome art — two world premieres and a Chicago first. Across the Pond, with accompaniment by the Chicago Philharmonic conducted by Scott Speck, proves a stirring showcase for three cutting-edge choreographers.

It’s an equal opportunity for this Chicago corps de ballet, whose tandem precision and lyrical outpourings nearly surpass previous standards. The many moods and dazzling variety of three works reminds us that Britain is more than an incubator for incompetent politics and self-defeating jingoism.

Created by Andrew McNicol, the world premiere “Yonder Blue” crafts haunting art out of simplicity and minimalism, its tender moods separated by stillness and featuring moving duos for three men and two couples. Melting music, Peter Gregson’s score, initially Philip Glass-like with its ominous insistences, gives way to warmer tones and spacious steps, emphasizing the separateness of McNicol’s transactions in movement.

This poignant work is an exercise in an anomaly, distances that connect. Whether it’s “blue” in mood or “yonder” in strategic intervals in time and space, when it ends “Yonder Blue” feels very complete, “told” well enough to know when to end.

A Joffrey premiere, “Vespertine,” developed for the Norwegian National Ballet by Royal Ballet artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett, is a triumph of baroque spellbinding. This gorgeous salute to the stately and even spiritual possibilities of the genre brings us the sedate-to-spirited music of Bjarte Eike, John Dowland, Arcangelo Corelli and Francesco Geminiani.

Performed under 13 starburst electroliers, Scarlett’s far from eclectic work features seemingly bare bodies, as well as men in swirling coats and women dancing eerily to silence. There’s a homoerotic duo, assorted elegant variations on noble themes, and glissades and twirls that mirror the electronic twists of a surging score. Courtly, ritualistic but also captivatingly fluid, “Vespertine” delivers athletic classicism with dignity, restraint and absolutely no fear of feeling.

Finally, and explosively, the world premiere “Home,” unabashedly political in its implications, employs kinetic music by Ross Allchurch to deliver Andrea Walker’s portrait of the isolation of immigrants in their own land. Known for his “commercial and contemporary dance styles,” this young choreographer finds all the words he needs to persuade in mere — and magnificent — movement.

At its provocative heart is the anguished performance of Fernando Duarte, an unwilling stranger, alone amidst his fellow citizens — except for the conditional devotion he receives from his second lover Fabrice Calmels. (The first is removed as an unwelcome alien.)

Against the backdrop of Allchurch’s percussive score sounding like crashing cages, Duarte works overtime to keep his equilibrium, despite looking off-rhythm from the rigid processions that engulf him. (The uniformity of the ensemble’s group moves, sometimes echoed in stunning silhouettes, is awesome at best and frightening at worst.)

Seeking some stasis, this young exile-in-situ, mired in a very movable identity crisis, may seem out of sync. But the feat here is how his persistent and resilient presence in effect ultimately shapes everything around him — survival set to steps.

Refusing any outcast status, Duarte makes, more than finds, his home in “Home.” In the process, the “pond” between two nations shrinks to insignificance.

for film overview of Across the Pond, click here

photos by Cheryl Mann

Across the Pond
The Joffrey Ballet
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway
ends on May 5, 2019
for tickets, call 312.386.8905 or visit Joffrey

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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