Eclectica Review - A Fabulous Evening of Joffrey Ballet

This year Chicago has happily enjoyed T he Joffrey Ballet’s Season of Legends which concludes with a spring mixed repertory program, Eclectica, presented at the gorgeous Auditorium Theatre from April 28 – May 9. My companion and I joined a full mid-week opening night audience that gave well-deserved standing ovations to world premieres by choreographers Jessica Lang and James Kudelka. It was an evening of interesting contrasts, familiar music in surprising new settings, and the special enjoyment of watching a company at the top of its game.

Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani, Reflections

The evening began with a revival of Gerald Arpino’s classic, romantic Reflections set to Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for Violoncello and Orchestra, op. 33. Reflections is a Joffrey standard, first choreographed by Gerald Arpino in 1971 and recreated in 1985. Live musicians (a pianist and cellist) contributed to this fast-paced ballet full of high lifts, a flying pace and classic beauty.


The second ballet, Crossed was choreographed by former Twyla Tharp dancer Jessica Lang and set to music by Mozart, Handel, and Josquin des Prez. Crossed is a world premiere commissioned by and set on the dancers of this wonderful company. The opening is “set to part of Mozart's 'Mass in C Minor,' moves on to sections that are alternately humorous and reflective, and ends with a big Hallelujah chorus.” The set has long, narrow panels at right angles to each other; as they move across and up and down, the panels wipe away and reveal the dancers. Tamara Cobus’s simple costumes in greys and taupes with appliquéd strips echo the panels, yet emphasize the curved structures created by the dancers’ bodies in contrast to the angular movements of the panels. The piece is in no way religious; instead, it is a reflection and response to powerful music inspired by religion, and the choreography ranges from dramatic and serious to sheer fun and joy.


The evening closed with James Kudelka’s world premiere Pretty BALLET, his fourth piece for The Joffrey and the first time he has returned to work with the company since 1988. The ballet is set to Bohuslav Martinů’s Symphony No. 2, full of waltz-like melodies but with intrusions of off-kilter timing and syncopation. The ballet opens with dancers in Denis Lavoie’s very pretty, romantic, long-skirted tulle costumes. Twenty-four of the company’s 42 dancers whirl around the stage in four movements of small ensembles, referencing many ballets the audience will recognize, then reflecting the syncopation in sudden, angular movements that break the flow for an instant. Victoria Jaiani (in bright red toe shoes) and Miguel Angel Blanco dance a long duet at the center of the piece. In the filmed introduction to the evening, Kudelka mentioned “take care of the muse…” and I could not help but wonder if this beautiful, sad duet, which begins and ends with Blanco carrying a stiff, robotic, horizontal Jaiani, shows the difficulty of doing just that as Kudelka’s intricate spatial patterns explore the subject of ballet itself as a balance between romantic ideas and industrious principles.

Victoria Jaiani, Miguel Angel Blanco

Further reflecting the very enjoyable mix of traditional and contemporary, the evening ended with a huge basket of roses placed at center stage in addition to a traditional bouquet presented to Ms. Jaiani, and another standing ovation.

Performance Schedule and Pricing for Eclectica:
Saturday, May 1 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 2 at 2:00 p.m.; Friday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 8 at 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 9 at 2:00 p.m.

Single tickets, priced from $25 to $145, are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office, located in the lobby of 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University box office, 50 E. Congress Parkway, at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787 or online at

Photos: Herbert Migdoll

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