Joffrey Academy of Dance “Winning Works: Choreographers of Color” Review – Glimpse at Dance’s Rosy Future


These are students? 



Every once and again, especially when you are watching a male dancer gracefully glide into a split as he smoothly jetés from one side of the stage to the other, it is a challenge to remember that this is just the Joffrey’s school.   



From the program we learn that the students are drawn from far and wide—Japan, the Southeastern US and South, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and beyond. 



Watching them you too may think that whatever the program says about their home, they are actually from a planet called Physical Grace. 






The theme of the evening was to showcase not only these talented dancers but also the works of choreographers of color. 



Three choreographers were selected to participate and given a minimum of 30 rehearsal hours to develop a new work with the Joffrey Academy Trainees and Joffrey Studio Company.  Each winner also received a $2,500 stipend and a chance to work with Joffrey Academy Artistic Directors, Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik.



The real winners were the audience. 



The first piece was choreographed by Alexei Kremnev and was called “Windy Sand”, devoted to exploring Lake Michigan, Chicago and natural beauty.



As an opener, it quickly shined a spotlight ever so sweetly on the abilities of the young and poised dancers. 



Then, contrasting with what at times seemed like permutations on combat scenes with hints of martial arts poses came “Our North”, choreographed by Jennifer Archibald, the founder of Arch Dance Company and recipient of a long list of prior commissions. 


“A Year From Now Ago” was perhaps the show stealer choreographed by Abdul Latif.  With the theme of showing a patient whose life is flashing before their eyes in the final hour, we are immersed in a frenetic hospital scene where video, music (Abdul Latif, J. Astman, Steve Reich, and Lois V. Vierk) and movements come across like a neon sign flashing “HIGH ANXIETY”.  


It was when dancer Shotaro Shimazaki who had been serene-faced in all the prior numbers breaks out in wide smiles and rolling hips that we know that choreographer Stephanie Martinez’ work “Non è Normale” is bringing us the light-hearted contrast that we needed to make for a perfect cap on the evening. 


“Winning Works” leaves you with a question--If this is what happened with only 30 hours of rehearsal, imagine what each of these could do with more?


The Museum of Contemporary Art partners with the Joffrey Academy of Dance to bring “Winning Works” to their stages.  MCA’s next 2015 dance performance will be “Power Goes” by The Seldoms, on March 20 – 29, 2015, which will take us to LBJ’s world through dance.  For tickets call 312 397 4010 or visit the MCA Stage website.




Photos:  Cheryl Mann

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