Chicago Dance Review: BOLD MOVES (Joffrey)

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by Lawrence Bommer on February 11, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


Detonating across the Auditorium Theatre’s vast stage through February 21, Joffrey Ballet’s Bold Moves has more of the latter than the former stuff. But this kinetic winter program–two favorites and a world premiere—reprises worthy returns as it showcases a troupe at its top. The overall mood of these pieces is noisy desperation: Couples and entire corps feel entrapped in anxious entanglements, with the music the only way out.

Forgotten Land_Rory Hohenstein & Christine Rocas_Temur Suluashvili & Anna Gerberich_Paulo Rodrigues & Dara Holmes Forgotten Land_Anastacia Holden

Intricately enveloped by Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, Jiří Kylián’s 1981 creation (performed by the Joffrey four years ago) has a distinctly oceanic feeling. That’s no surprise: Its inspiration is Edvard Munch’s Dance of Life, a gloomy group portrait from 1899 of women staring at the sea. Performed against a backdrop of dark clouds over churning water and, initially, the wail of wild winds, this fast and furious stage storm is equally tormented: Six color-coordinated couples seethe and succumb—to the score as much as their steps. In forceful flux, the women arch their arms in exaggerated mourning, driven and determined; but to what end this abstract work refuses to answer. As the title Forgotten Land implies, this terrain is lost between sky and sea, the restless dancers trying to retrieve something—memories or ghosts—that eludes them like the waves.

Forgotten Land front to back_Anastacia Holden_Anna Gerberich_Christine Rocas Forgotten Land_Temur Suluashvili & Anna Gerberich

Returning after its Chicago premiere just two years ago, the story ballet RAkU is set to an imperious and languorous score by Shinji Eshima that manages to be both harsh and lyrical as the vignettes dictate. As illustrated by the San Francisco Ballet, Yuri Possokhov’s blast from the past recounts the torching of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in 1950, the work of a renegade monk. Setting it in Japan’s distant history and surrounding it with stylized Noh theater, video projections on the temple walls, and Buddhist chanting by Chicago’s Ancient Dragon Zen Gate and other groups, what was a recent tragedy becomes an act of conjecture, shrouded in the mists of time.

RAkU l to r_Edson Barbosa_Stefan Goncalvez_Graham Maverick_Fernando Duarte RAkU_Temur Suluashvili

The sketchy storyline connects and sunders a Japanese emperor (looming Fabrice Calmels), his wandering wife (impassive Victoria Jaiani), and a manic monk (frenetic Temur Suluashvili). Engulfing them are four supple warriors, their Samurai poses surprisingly fluid and sensuous. Of course, as obsession yields to desecration, this terrible triangle reaches an incendiary end. After the abstract suggestiveness of the other winter works, the tensile talespinning and melodramatic movements of this choreographic conflagration seem strangely refreshing.

RAkU_Victoria Jaiani & Fabrice Calmels RAkU_Victoria Jaiani

A world premiere, Ashley Page’s Tipping Point offers a complex series of solos and group dances that begin and end with a couple ensnared in a square, the light panel a kind of prison. Clad in androgynous leotards, the twelve performers seem at war with music (by Thomas Adès) that pushes them into some highly coordinated angst. A female trio offer their own despairing darkness, as if gravity will get the worst of them.

Tipping Point_Lucas Segovia_Amanda Assucena_Yoshihisa Arai (2) Tipping Point_Edson Barbosa & Alberto Velazquez

This elemental and organic work has been compared to shifting tectonic plates—and it does have a menacing geological grimness. The couples regularly collide and combine with and against the relentlessly claustrophobic music. It’s silly to call it an intensely physical piece—all dance is that—but Page wants no pretty pictures. The “tipping point” is passed and, if anything so schematic is possible, the music has won out over the movement. Anyway, the opening night crowd loved every leap.

As a title, Bold Moves may be more aspirational than accurate. But a bleak season fits this show like an ice shelter and the bond between notes and steps has never been tighter.

Tipping Point_Dylan Gutierrez & Victoria Jaiani Tipping Point_Christine Rocas & Fabrice Calmels

photos by Cheryl Mann

Tipping Point_Christine Rocas & Fabrice Calmels (1)Bold Moves
The Joffrey Ballet
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
ends on February 21, 2016
for tickets, call 312.386.8905
or visit Ticketmaster
for more info, visit Joffrey

for more Chicago Theater info,
visit Theatre in Chicago

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