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Kendall Royzen

When guests visit Chicago we want to show them the best of our city. But sometimes it's our guests that bring the best to us. That is the case for The Royal Ballet as they return to the Windy City to perform their critically acclaimed "Don Quixote" at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. 

RoyalBallet DonQuixote 01Chicagoans donned their best for the ballet's premiere night as though they were in the presence of royalty. There was not a single pair of jeans or flip flops present (thank you, Chicago). Perhaps it was because The Royal Ballet is Great Britain's most prestigious ballet company performing for kings and queens, as well as mere commoners, since 1931. The company has produced some of the greatest figures in ballet history to include the incredible Margot Fonteyn and Antoinette Sibley. Led by its director, Kevin O'Hare, The Royal Ballet is currently on a three city tour of the US with "Don Quixote," making stops in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C."The Royal Ballet hasn't visited Chicago since 1978 so with this ballet, we plan to showcase the depth of the dancers' talent led by our world-class roster of principals," said O'Hare. And what a showcase it was.

Royal Ballet Prinipal Guest Artist Carlos Acosta's production of "Don Quixote" was created especially for The Royal Ballet, filled with flirtation, fun, humor, and love. The story follows the adventures of a bumbling knight Don Quixote, accompanied by his ever-faithful squire Sancho Panza, as he embarks on a quest for his dream woman. Along the way, he stumbles upon the lovers Kitri and Basilio. Kitri's father wants her to marry the wealthy Gamache, a rich, foppish nobleman. A journey ensues as the lovers try to escape those plans while Don Quixote tries to right the wrongs in the world on his quest.

The story of Don Quixote is a difficult one to bring to the stage. The Don himself is the focus of the story, but the smaller characters' stories and lives are at center stage for the majority of the ballet. The Royal Ballet's principal leads with Acosta as Basilio and Marianela Nunez as Kitri were spectacular. They were flirty and coy with one another but epitomized a ballet's pas de deux. They had grace, strength, beauty, and unity. The same could not be said for some of the other soloists and leads. Many of Kitri's friends were out of sync with one another, as well as some of the matadors. The Royal Ballet is a large company, and many acts often had thirty or more dancers on stage. When someone was slightly off or behind the music your eyes were drawn in a negative way to those people, detering from the incredible duets and soloists. Regardless of any small timing issues, Acosta, both in the production and the leading artist role, put on an impressive and magnificent ballet. From flirting flamengo dancers and dashing matadors to gypsies and dryads, "Don Quixote" is a beautiful and epic journey.

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Having never seen "Don Quixote" nor read the story (forgive me literature gods), I can say that the ballet was a beautiful ballet. The sets provided the perfect backdrop to the dancers accompanied by a live orchestra. The gorgeous theatre provided the perfect stage for a magical evening. For those still not convinced that ballet can be enjoyable should make it their mission to see "Don Quixote" and right the wrongs of not experiencing this amazing art. Have the best adventure at the ballet tonight.

The Royal Ballet is concluding the Auditorium Theatre's 125th Anniversary International Dance Series performing "Don Quixote" through Sunday June 21st. Tickets ($32-$137) are on sale now and available online at AuditoriumTheatre.org or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy).

I know about as much Russian as a non-native speaker needs. I know how to say hello and goodbye (Preevyet and Da sveedaneeya). I know how to say thank you (Spaseeba), I even know how to say my little monkey (moya malen'kaya obez'yana) though that doesn’t come in handy too often. Just today I learned the Russian word for amazing (Izumitel'nij). But in Russian and English “amazing” falls short of describing the exceptional performance of “Up & Down” by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg.

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“Up & Down” is a story set amidst the roaring 20’s. A young psychiatrist falls in love with one of his mental patients who, as it turns out, is a fabulously wealthy socialite. They are wed and soon he is swept up into the money-fueled glitz and glamour that made the 20’s so spectacular. He wrestles with his desire to love and cure his new wife, the enticement of the sensuous social scene, and being the honorable psychiatrist performing his life’s work. Ultimately he succumbs to the pleasures and temptations of the times and it becomes his undoing.

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Audience members might liken Eifman’s “Up & Down” to Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby. The set was bright and sleek, art-deco inspired and neon-powered. The dancers danced the Charleston and the tango to Gershwin’s jazzy score. Everything leant itself to immersing the company and audience into the 1920's providing the perfect backdrop for Eifman’s story. As Eifman himself said of “Up & Down, “This ballet is both a tragic and bright chronicle of a person’s spiritual death—the story about how a dream of happiness turns into a disaster, and an externally beautiful and carefree life flowing to the rhythms of jazz, into a nightmare. I want audiences to feel all of the emotions of these characters and become just as immersed in the characters’ lives as the dancers are.”

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Eifman is often referred to as one of the leading choreographers in the world and it is easy to see why. His style is classic yet edgy, flowing yet jagged, smooth yet striking. He doesn’t force the audience to know the difference between a jeté and a relevé. His style of storytelling is easy to follow and understand, not an ounce of pretentiousness or far reaching concepts to be found. His dancers are afforded the room to convey charm, humor, lust, pain, and even madness. Despite criticism of the American debut of “Up & Down,” I found the ballet to be captivating. This was the ballet to turn new audiences onto the ballet; the story had loonies, beer drinkers, figments of a mind manifested as an evil twin, lust and love, glamour, humor, silent movie stars, evil investors, and a twist ending. What more could you want? “Up & Down” was also the perfect ballet to celebrate the Auditorium Theatre’s 125th year. It personified the timelessness of the ballet while pushing the art form into the modern world.

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“Up & Down” might have come and gone, but should you find yourself in the same city as this St. Petersburg Ballet Company, grab and friend and say “da-vai!” Let’s go to the ballet!

 

The Houston Ballet might not have shown us the world (shining, shimmering, splendid), but they did present the city of Chicago with an incredible production of “Aladdin” filled with the same sorcery, riches, splendor, magic, love, and romance as we’ve come to expect from the heartwarming tale of an impoverished young ne'er-do-well who becomes part of a whirlwind adventure.

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The Houston Ballet made its debut at the Auditorium Theatre with celebrated English choreographer David Bintley's ballet "Aladdin." The ballet was originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, and the Windy City was only the fourth city to experience the performance, sharing the magic carpet ride with such cities as Tokyo and London. Most people will know the story of Aladdin from the popular 1992 Disney movie of the same name. However, the Houston Ballet's "Aladdin" follows the more traditional story of Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights). There’s no singing genie or clever monkey named Abu, but there was no need for it in this breathtaking production.

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The caliber of talent that took the stage this past weekend would leave the staunchest of critics in awe. From the background dancers to the principle dancers, everyone commanded the audience’s attention with a technique and grace that prove why the Houston Ballet is a world renowned. The moment the curtains rose, the dancers instantly transported us to old Arabia. Set against spectacular scenery created by the English designer Dick Bird and coupled with an exceptional original score by Carl Davis and performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, the audience was immediately under the spell of Aladdin’s magic.

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While there were many highlights throughout the 2 ½ hour performance, one of the standouts had to be the cave of wonders. When the evil sorcerer convinces Aladdin to enter the cave and retrieve the magic oil lamp, Aladdin is met with jewels and riches beyond his imagination. The jewels onyx, pearls, gold and silver, sapphire, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds were all brought to life by dancers, making the riches literally dance before Aladdin’s eyes. The audience watched on, as mystified and entranced as the young peasant boy himself. Equally impressive were the comings and goings of the genie throughout the performance; whether he hovered in midair or vanished and appeared in a cloud of smoke, the genie entered with power and pizazz that would make Robin Williams himself proud. In one scene at the royal court, when the genie transforms Aladdin from rags to princely attire, the scene erupts into a frenzied dance with the genie, jewels, slaves, and courtesans. The high energy, fast moving dance was so synchronized you’d think one person was controlling the dozens of dancers on stage. It was graceful, powerful, magical, and was the definitive mark that this ballet is here to stay.

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Who doesn’t love the story of Aladdin? It’s a rags to riches story that has stood the test of time. The Houston Ballet’s production of “Aladdin” is nothing short of spectacular. Folks young and old gave the performance a standing ovation and were captivated for the entire duration of the performance. The sheer talent and pageantry of the ballet was a welcome change to Chicago and the Auditorium Theater. I hope more shows like this breeze through the Windy City for Chicagoans to experience. So the next time “Aladdin” flies into Chicago on its magic carpet, be sure you jump on and enjoy the ride.

What's more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys? Milton Bradley has asked this question for decades and now a Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble, aptly named “Barrel of Monkeys,” begs the same question of their audiences. After seeing their newest performance of “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music,” I think you will be inclined to admit that there is indeed nothing more fun than a Barrel of Monkeys.

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Barrel of Monkeys is first and foremost an arts-education group that conducts creative writing workshops for 3rd-5th grade students in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The group then becomes a theater ensemble, turning the children’s stories into performances performed at the school for the children and for general audiences at various venues around the city. The performances have a “Whose Line is it Anyway?” quality, only the shots are called by kids which is an amazing feat for this ensemble of actor-educators. If you aren’t impressed yet, Barrel of Monkeys’ performance of “That’s Weird Grandma” takes children’s stories and turns them into musical numbers, creating the first all musical performance by Barrel of Monkeys.

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With such adorably written pieces as “Flower Argument,” an argumentative piece debating whether or not a flower should be picked from the point of view of the flower, to “Not So Much Pressure,” about Batman needing a break from saving the world, “Barrel of Monkeys” ensemble cast takes these pieces and turns them into musically hilarious gold. The audience, made up of adults, teenagers, and adults who act like children, was in stiches. The clean humor, awww worthy moments, incredible musical talent of the cast, and the honest and touching children’s’ stories was a perfect storm of perfection. What’s even more extraordinary is the show is never the same. Audience members vote on their favorite pieces from the hour-long show (roughly 12-14 pieces) and the most popular make the cut and are included in the next week, the rest of the showed being filled with new pieces.

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This is a fantastic organization to support. Arts, music, and theater programs are typically the first to get cut in school budgets and the CPS system is no exception. The benefits of having a creative outlet for kids can be infinite. “That’s Weird Grandma: Behind the [Monkey] Music” runs through March 31st at the Neo-Futurist Theater (5100 block of N Ashland Ave.). I double-dog-dare you to not enjoy this Barrel of Monkeys.

Contemporary dance is an art form like any other. As a style of dance it is much more of a philosophy than a strict technique like, say, traditional ballet or modern. Rather, it draws inspiration from both techniques and creates an entirely different experience for the audience. Much like art, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you are a fan of contemporary dance or not, you should take the time away from the bitter winter cold and venture into the Auditorium Theatre to experience The Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of Contemporary Choreographers.

Like many of the contemporary showcases performed by The Joffrey, Contemporary Choreographers is split into three productions: Crossing Ashland, Continuum, and Episode 31. Let’s quickly cover off on some highlights; Episode 31, the final performance in the series choreographed by Alexander Ekman, is actually quite fun. It can adequately be described as a dramatic playground, bringing a youthful approach to dance with a touch of humor; no seriously, people were laughing along to the performances.

Joffrey Ballet - Episode 31 ft. Derrick Agnoletti  Aaron Rogers - Photo by Cheryl Mann 1

The second performance in the series is Continuum, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. This was the least entertaining performance for me; I would equate the performance as a whole as looking a blank white canvas in an art museum with a title like “Block 39.” To many, they would draw a profound and ethereal message from the blank white canvas, while others might see just a white canvas, blank and without meaning. Many of those in the audience gave Continuum a standing ovation, but to me the performance lacked a story and with it a reason to enjoy and watch it. Then again, it followed one of the best contemporary pieces I would safely say is the most enjoyable contemporary performance I’ve ever seen, so I am slightest biased.

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Throughout the opening piece called Crossing Ashland, choreographed by Brock Clawson, dancers in streets clothes created the vision of pedestrians passing each other on the street, walking briskly back and forth across the stage. These stoics in street clothes turned expressive when they stripped away their outer layers of clothing and exposed the vulnerability of their inner selves. Crossing, the dancers showed us what we look like; dancing, they showed us the enormity of what we feel. The performances’ emotions were palpable to the audience and after each dancer took the stage you begged them to say longer. The dancers themselves were drop-dead, makes-you-want-to-go-workout, idol-worthy specimens, each and every muscle working to show their emotions. In lament terms, they were hot.

Joffrey Ballet - Crossing Ashland ft. Matthew Adamczyk  Amanda Assucena - Photo by Cheryl Mann

So what makes Crossing Ashland special? It’s the fact that the dance is so relatable, so understandable to the audience; two people pass on the street, their hands touching slightly, longingly, but then they part. So much is said in those moments without saying a word, and when two dancers portraying their emotions take the stage and perform a deeply passionate interpretation of breaking-up and making-up, you are captivated. Crossing Ashland could easily be made into a full length production and take the stage for a full two hours and no one would be bored. And more importantly, it could introduce an entirely new generation to contemporary choreography that isn’t limited to what one sees on televised dance shows or in the movies.

So cross Wabash Avenue and make your way to the Auditorium Theatre to see Contemporary Choreographers. The show runs through February 23rd. It is a breath of fresh air to a modern style of dance that will hopefully leave you breathless.

Twas a cold winter evening,

In Chicagoland,

On the way to the Auditorium theatre,

For a performance quite grand.

 

The guests took their seats,

The stage decked in splendor,

Anxiously awaiting their journey,

Expecting ballerinas so tender.

 

Then up went the music,

And down went the lights,

As we were whisked away

To the Nutcracker that night.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Rory Hohenstein  Christine Rocas photo by Herbert Migdoll

All know the story,

The Nutcracker’s tale,

From the grand ball to the Sugar Plum Fairy,

Danced by a young Mikhail (Barishnikov ;-) )

 

The Joffrey performed the ballet,

With intricate care,

To keep with traditions,

So all ages could share.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Jeraldine Mendoza photo by Herbert Migdoll

Spanish Chocolate, Arabian Coffee,

Chinese Tea and Russian Candy,

Danish Marzipan, Mother Ginger,

It was all just dandy!

 

But the waltz of the snowflakes

And the waltz of the flowers,

Is where this ballet

Holds all of its power.

 

The dancers on pointe,

In their tutus and tights,

Twirling and leaping,

Twas a majestic sight.

 

The Joffrey Ballet is performing,

A holiday tale to remember,

For all to enjoy,

While it runs through December.

Joffrey Nutcracker - Dylan Gutierrez and April Daly photo by Herbert Migdoll

So off to The Joffrey!

Don’t miss it this year,

Fill up your holiday,

With Nutcracker cheer!

Wednesday, 06 November 2013 20:54

Lots of Seoul: Love X Stereo Plays Chicago

With the recent influx of K-Pop entering the US in the past few years (Gangnam Style anyone?), it's critical to remember that other music does in fact come out of South Korea. One band in particular is currently on their US tour and should they swing back through Chicago, they are definitely worth seeing live.

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Love X Stereo performed at the Elbo Room on November 3rd to a shockingly small crowd that didn't appreciate them as they should. Love X Stereo is an electronic rock band based in Seoul, Korea. Love X Stereo’s music is electronic music based in alternative and punk rock from the 90s, think Alanis Morissette with a Ratatat-esque synthesized beat. The lead singer of the band, Annie Ko, has a soft and easy voice that could rival any 90's and 80's female powerhouse. Their song "Soul City (Soeul City)" sounds like it could soundtrack any modern day "Dawson's Creek," while "Lose to Win" and "Fly Over" highlights Ko's vocal talents.

Electronic rock is definitely coming into popularity and hearing a band from South Korea take the genre and make it entirely their own is an experience you won't find equal to. Not surprisingly, Love X Stereo's music often confuses Korean audiences, though they have a strong expat (foreigners living in Korea) community following, and some of those fans adoringly came to the Elbo Room to see Love X Stereo perform live.

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Like any new band, exposure is key. Love X Stereo has a unique sound, an album you can put on and cruise to. If they chance to swing back through Chicago, grab some friends and head to see them. Not every day you get to see a South Korean band playing electronic rock in the Windy City. Check out their website here:

 http://lovexstereo.com/

There are times that I think the skepticism of my generation prevents me from enjoying a simple play, or at the very least accepting a play and not questioning the ending, the character’s motivations, or poking holes in plot points. My cynicism might have gotten the better of me this Monday at The Raven when seeing The Trip to Bountiful.

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Trip to Bountiful is set in Texas in the 1950's where Mrs. Watts is living a life she didn’t choose- a dependent to her son and daughter-in-law in their cramped Houston apartment. If she could just make it to Bountiful, Texas to see her beloved home and friends, she could live the rest of her days in peace.

The description is rather vague, so let me drive home the main storyline: an aging woman wants only one thing in her life, to get to Bountiful. This is seemingly the one thing in the world that will bring her joy and peace and her children are both unwilling and unable to accommodate. Of course the children have their own lives to lead, and there is obvious tension within those small walls. But while we briefly learn of the son and daughter-in-laws motivations, selfishness, various desires, and heartaches, the theme is still focused on this one woman’s desire to get to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas.

While the play was excellently acted, and the story moves along nicely, the issues I developed with the play had to do with the screenplay itself. Written by Horton Foote and performed for the stage over 60 years ago, The Trip to Bountiful, much like Foote’s other plays, tells the story of an ordinary person handling the harsh realities of life and the strength of the human spirit. We are all drawn to these types of plays despite the fact it might mirror many themes within our own lives, it’s not escapism we want, it’s realism. But the reality of Bountiful is that it leaves the audience in a state of questioning when the play ends.

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Here is a woman [Mrs. Watts] who so desperately wants to run away to her hometown. Not only is she pursuing a desire 20 years in the making, but simultaneously escaping the oppressive feeling of living under someone else’s roof and live her life as she wants to. You feel the longing of this character, you rue her bitter and nasty daughter-in-law, and you as an audience member empathize with the loving mother-son relationship. You grumble and groan at the obstacles Mrs. Watts must overcome, and hope against hope that she can make it to Bountiful. For the love of Texas, it’s only a bus ride away! And when she’s a mere miles away from her destination, she is stopped once more, seemingly for the last time, and she breaks down, begging, sobbing, the drama building into a beautiful crescendo, and then…skepticism sinks in.

Suddenly, this strong female lead bargains with herself that she is content with only visiting a few hours in the shadow of her home. After 20 years of waiting and veritable “oh-come-on-really?” antics blocking her trip there, you expect the audience to just accept that she is content with leaving as quickly as she had come? That she somehow finds bittersweet peace within those few hours? It’s also important to note that all of the tension the built up within that Houston apartment promise to be resolved when the curtains close. Yes, folks, there is a nice bow on this present of a play.

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Call me a skeptic all you like, but The Trip to Bountiful left me wanting an explanation of the sudden 360 of its main character. For a character desiring to get to Bountiful to be contented from a short visit seemed wholly out of character. Where was the bargaining with herself? Where was the inner monologue in which she came to the conclusion of being contented? For me this plot point was a bit of a reach and broke away from the harsh realism Foote was striving towards. A great play begs you to like or dislike a character, and while there’s a possibility of changing your feelings at the end, those feelings shouldn’t change to indifference.

So was the play worth seeing? Completely, if for nothing else than the superb acting The Raven Theatre is known for. The theatre is at its best when they tackle difficult themes with seesawing emotional undertones, and their actors always rise to the occasion. You’ll enjoy the journey to Bountiful, but possibly not the destination. The Trip to Bountiful is at The Raven Theatre through November 17th

You could attribute this week’s hot and humid temps to Chicago’s ever changing fall weather, but anyone who saw the Joffrey Ballet’s performance of “Russian Masters” will definitively tell you it was this performance that brought the heat wave into the Chicago city limits.

“Russian Masters” featured four pieces: “Allegro Brillante” choreography by George Balachine, “Adagio” and “Bells” both choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, and “Le Sarce du Printemps” choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. Of the four performances, one will leave you hot under the collar, while the others will simply leave you hot and bothered.

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“Allegro Brillante” and “Bells” were beautiful ballets within their own right. For those who don’t know ballet, Balachine is essentially the father of American ballet. In one word, his style can be described as classic. Picture a ballerina in your mind and the way she would dance, yep that’s the style. Flawless, graceful, lithe techniques, clean lines, beautiful and elegant duets, that is a Balachine ballet and “Allergro Brillante” shined on stage, bringing the audience into its gentle embrace. “Bells,” choreographed by Yuri Possokhov was equally graceful and beautiful. Set to seven Rachmaninoff compositions that included some flawlessly executed duets it was all in all was just a good performance, not one that left you wanting more. It is evident within “Bells” that Possokhov is clearly at his best when it comes to duets.

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His choreographed duet “Adagio,” performed by husband and wife team Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili left the entire audience in heat. It is my claim that Jaiani and Suluashvili’s performance required the theater to turn the air conditioning up. Their performance was filled with fiery passion and sensuality, with intricate skills and lifts that would leave a cirque du soleil performer impressed. They were the only performers of the night to receive a standing ovation and once you see the performance live, you too will be ready to jump from your seat and yell “Bravo!”

Cut to the final performance of the night.

Now forget everything you know about ballet, the tutus, the pointy toes, and the gorgeous ballerinas. All of the stereotypes in your head will be torn down and stomped on (almost literally) during the course of this performance. The final piece of the evening was “Le Sacre du Printemps” (Rite of Spring). A brief history: when “Le Sacre” first premiered in Paris in 1913, the performance shocked the sophisticated Parisian audience so entirely that they literally rioted in the theater. That’s right folks, rioted. Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s haunting music set the audience on edge with loud drumming and bassoons, while Vaslav Nijinsky’s jagged, raucous, and barbaric ‘dancing’ depicting a virgin sacrifice, caused the audience to get so angry that they began catcalling and jeering at the performers, drowning out the orchestra music. In retrospect, it is apparent that Parisians paying to see a beautiful, graceful ballet were not prepared or welcoming to such an avant guarde piece.

The Joffrey Ballet Le Sacre du Printemps Photo by Roger Mastroianni 2

While there was no rioting in Chicago on Thursday night, there was plenty of seat shifting, awkward glances from neighbor to neighbor, and an overall uncomfortable air from the audience. But that really was the point of the whole performance. Even in today’s society, with all matter of modern art forms around us, “Le Sacre du Printemps” still leaves audiences questioning what exactly it was they saw. Was it art? Was it ballet? You be the judge.

“Russian Masters” truly was one of the best compilations the Joffrey has put on since I have been in Chicago. The juxtaposition of soft, classical ballet in the first three performances against the brutality and harshness of "Le Sacre du Printemps" highlighted the wide range of talent that the Russian masters possessed. Hurry down to the Auditorium Theater as the show ends on September 22nd. Dasvidaniya, comrades.

There is just something about the ballet; the people watching (it’s a very entertaining crowd), the glass of bubbly before the show starts, the curtain rising, the live orchestra playing, and of course the ballet dancers that make the most difficult of feats seem effortless. Unfortunately, like previous performances I’ve seen at the Joffrey, the most recent performance of “Othello” left me wanting more.

Joffrey - Othello - Fabrice Calmels  April Daly 1 photo by Herbert Migdoll

Once again, Joffrey loyalists will roll their eyes when I tell them I was disappointed by the “Othello” performance. This was a completely original ballet based off of a great Shakespearean tragedy and it should have been amazing. The short teaser trailer of the performance on the Joffrey’s website was dramatic and foreboding. On the other hand, as the show began, I knew immediately that I would be left wanting. Let me first say that the dancing was beautiful. The main dancers, Othello played by Fabrice Calmels and Desdemona played by April Daly, were graceful, strong, and fluid, and exactly what you’d expect in the principal dancers. Sadly, great dancers can only do so much with what they are given, and I don’t think they were learnt much in the ways of choreography and music. The music alone was enough to make someone dislike the show. Imagine an entire 2 hour performance with drums and strings building and building and taking forever to reach a crescendo and when it does nothing happens on stage to match the power behind those notes. I equate it to sitting in a scary movie, the music building your expectations to a state of uncontrollable suspense, just waiting for the killer to jump out and attack, only to have the loud crash usually tied to a scary moment to be someone yawning on screen. What a letdown, right?

Joffrey - Othello - Matthew Adamczyk as Iago photo by Herbert Migdoll

Also, the choreography was a bit too in-your-face-foreshadowing of the tumultuous and ultimately grim lover’s tale. If you went through high school and college never having read Othello or seeing the movie O, then perhaps the references weren’t so easy to pick up on, but for those of us who know the story it was about as blunt as an axe to the head. At times the duets between Othello and Desdemona just consisted of him lifting her and tossing her around like a gracefully beautiful sack of potatoes, his hands and arms lingering around her neck for an awkwardly long time. Outside of those dancers, the solos of Cassio and Iago, played by Aaron Rogers and Matthew Adamcyzk respectfully, were beautiful, but the jealousy that eventually drives Iago to his dastardly acts was so jagged and rough that it took away from the grace of a great dancer. The character of Iago seethes with jealousy, hatred, and envy but it didn’t translate as powerfully as it could have in the dancing and he ended up looking like a petulant child. All in all, the entire ballet performance was lukewarm for such a heated storyline.

Joffrey - Othello - Fabrice Calmels  April Daly 3 photo by Herbert Migdoll

So why go back? Why keep going to the ballet if I’m not going to enjoy it? It’s because I believe in this art and want to be blown away each and every time. Some of the dance companies in Chicago without nearly the endowment the Joffrey has, have left me speechless and simply blown away by their performances. I suppose I just expect the same from a company with such amazing talent as the Joffrey. So I will still go, and still hope for a performance that takes my breath away and leaves me saying ‘O.’

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04 December 2017 in Theatre Reviews

The Pearl Fishers has been called Bizet’s most beautiful opera. Lyric’s electric production is certainly one of the most beautiful…

Goodman's "A Christmas Carol" still tops list for Holiday fun in Chicago

30 November 2017 in Theatre in Review

Chicago has no shortage of Christmas traditions. In other words, if you’re looking for holiday fun it’s not very hard…

TATC's A Wonderful Life is Wonderful Fun

23 November 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

The classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, based on the story The Greatest Gift, is brought to life by Theatre…

Kid Friendly, Parent Approved: Sleeping Beauty shines at Marriott Theatre

22 November 2017 in Theatre Reviews

This past week I found myself in a movie theater with reclining seats, an overpriced large popcorn, and a two…

 

 

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