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  • Angela Allyn

Everything IS beautiful and blue at the Joffrey



Ballet programs are exceptionally short runs: two weekends and then gone, so you have very little time to get to the Lyric Opera House for the truly lovely Studies In Blue by the Joffrey Ballet. 

Pat yourself on the back as you settle into that sterling art deco house that you live in a city that has a truly world class resident ballet company then sit back and revel in the astonishing beauty of this mixed program. 


First up is Andrew McNicol’s 2019  Yonder Blue which opens in an immense gray box with a strip of smoky dawn sky at the back.  The dancers: bare legged women and bare chested men in loose pants begin a geometric sequence that is all about legs and arched backs. There is a Balanchine quality to the uniformity of the sixteen dancers. The sky will grow and shrink, closing the dancers in a gray box then reappear like a window later in the piece. The central couples seem in and out of commitment: there is a contrasting duet featuring Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez that emphasize chewy contraction and extension against the bright fast paced leg and footwork of the body of the ballet.  The work has a circular structure returning to the opening movement in Peter Gregson’s score to finish out this delicious piece. I loved it at the premiere and I think I could watch it a thousand times.  


Next up was the world premiere of Stina Quagebeur’s Hungry Ghosts, a response to the opioid epidemic where the choreographer asks the question where do we go with all of our pain? The sense of loss begins when the principal couple, on opening night  Anais Bueno and Hyuma Kiyosawa, dance an emotionally disconnected duet, and he loses her behind the paneled scrim filled with ghostly silhouettes of the crowd. These shadowy figures could be addiction, people lost to others through addiction: they lift her and other dancers up as though offering a sacrifice.  The work is abstract and open to many interpretations, but is poignant in its overwhelming sense of lost lives, and wasted dreams. 


The program finishes with Liam Scarlett’s brilliant 2014 classic Hummingbird set to music by Phillip Glass.   If the first piece gave off wafts of Mr. B, this ballet’s technique and motion gives a nod to Gene Kelly, Agnes De Mille and Jerome Robbins with a joie de vivre in retro dresses and jaunty chinos. There is a muscularity to this dancing. The flirty couple, on opening night Amanda Assucena and Alberto Velazquez, contrasts with the dramatic couple who have seen too much and been together too long: on opening night Victoria Jaiani and Dylan Gutierrez. The raked stage with the abstract painted art backdrop which seems to breathe as it raises and lowers,  appearing to birth dancers arriving from the rear of the stage,becomes another performer or a live work of art that contributes to the overall pleasure of watching this piece. 


A shout out to the Joffrey Wardrobe Department credited with “realizing” costumes for the first two pieces: they were perfect and could hold their own with John McFarlane’s designs for the final piece. All of the costumes made me want to head home and blue my closet! 


Joffrey’s 23-24 season finale was a triumph. There is no better ballet on the planet and to be able to take in this program with its mastery and transcendence of the form is to be grateful they call Chicago home. It makes staying here in winter worth it!  


Studies in Blue is ONLY at the Lyric  Opera House 20 N. Wacker in Chicago’s Loop, Thursdays through Sundays until February 25, 2024. For tickets and information go to https://joffrey.org/performances-and-tickets/23-24-season/studies-in-blue/


Photo by Cheryl Mann

 


  For more reviews go to www.TheatreInChicago.com

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