‘SPRING’ BLOOMS FOR 100 YEARS: The Joffrey Ballet opens its 2013-14 Season with a Special Engagement Celebrating The Rite of Spring Centennial in “RUSSIAN MASTERS”

image003The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its 2013-14 “Masters of Dance” season with a special addition to its home engagement line-up, a one-weekend-only program titled “Russian Masters”celebrating the centennial of Vaslav Nijinsky’s ground-breaking 1913 ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring), alongside George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and two works by Yuri Possokhov, the Chicago Premiere of Adagio and the return of his 2011 Joffrey commission, Bells. These four powerful works by Russian choreographers and composers are presented in four performances only in the Joffrey’s home venue, the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago at 50 E. Congress ParkwaySeptember 19 – 22

In 1913, Ballet Russe star Nijinsky premiered Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, a ballet about a pagan fertility ritual set to a new score by Igor Stravinsky.  Stravinsky’s unconventional musical phrasing and Nijinsky’s highly unusual choreography, full of odd body positions (including turned in feet), created an uproar. In 1987, Robert Joffrey commissioned a restoration of the then-almost-forgotten ballet in its original form. American dance historian Millicent Hodson was brought in to oversee the meticulous reconstruction of Nijinsky’s choreography while British art historian Kenneth Archer oversaw reconstruction of the original costume and set design by Nicholas Roerich. Today, Le Sacre du Printemps it is widely recognized as a pioneering work of contemporary ballet and the Joffrey culminates a national tour of it in honor of the ballet’s 100th anniversary.

“Before 1913, much of European and American culture was understood to be a continuation of classical and romantic traditions,” noted Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director. “The creation of Le Sacre du Printemps pointed to the advent of modernism. If not fully a break from the past, at least this collaboration between Stravinsky, Nijinsky and Roerich reveals the aspirations of the age: to idealize certain aspects of our primitive history, to explore uncharted artistic frontiers, to see ourselves reflected in a shattered mirror. At nearly the same time, Pablo Picasso was distorting the subjects of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and, closer to home, Frank Lloyd Wright was constructing his Unity Temple. These icons are familiar today, but it is not hard to imagine how they surprised the early 20th century mind. Buildings and paintings last for ages. With dance and music, we remember best by witnessing a live performance.”

Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante is danced to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s unfinished third piano concerto, the last music he composed before his death. It is a purely choreographic exercise without plot, incident or specific mood that, as its title suggests, is a study in brilliance. Four couples are already in motion as the curtain rises and the movement continues without break to the final note of the music. Within the sweeping style of the music, the choreography alternates between fast-moving ensemble passages contrasted with sections of peaceful lyricism. The work was originally created for and starred prima ballerina Maria Tallchief when it premiered on the New York City Ballet in 1956.

Possokhov’s first choreographed work for The Joffrey Ballet, Bells, premiered in Chicago in 2011. Set to seven piano compositions (one repeated at the end) by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Bells is a contemporary ballet full of contrasts. There are examples of traditional Russian folk dance (snapping fingers, flexing feet, crossing arms) offset by softly weeping arms or stronger, aggressive moves, complex partnering, melancholy and wit. Possokhov, Resident Choreographer of San Francisco Ballet, explains: “My choreography is physically hard and the music is romantic but with a twist — ‘with strength inside,’ as a Russian expression puts it. There is no scenario for the ballet, just pictures, memories and feelings in eight sections.”

Rounding out the program is a work new to Chicago audiences, Possokhov’s Adagio, a pas de deux set to music by Russian composer Aram Khachaturian. Adagio was originally choreographed on Joffrey dancers (and real-life husband and wife) Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili for the Napa Valley Festival del Sole in 2012. Since its premiere, Possokhov has had the opportunity to revisit the work, to expand upon it and refine the interpretation of the dance. Although the music is very recognizable as the famous pas de deux from the ballet Spartacus choreographed by Leonid Yakobson, the duet is the Possokov’s response to the music itself and not an interpretation of the original storyline of the work. This dance is full of fluid movement as well as impressive technical achievements.

Performance Schedule and Tickets

The Joffrey Ballet performs “Russian Masters” in four shows only: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, September 19-21, at 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 22, at 2 pm.

Single tickets, ranging from $31 to $152, are available now at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787 or online at ticketmaster.com.

Less than a month after “Russian Masters,” The Joffrey Ballet’s season continues as it takes Chicago audiences to India by way of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, with his 2010 staging of La Bayadère: The Temple Dancer, a Joffrey and Chicago Premiere, October 16 – 27.

About the Choreographers

George Balanchine, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet.  After serving as the ballet master for Russia’s Les Ballet Russe, he came to the United States in late 1933 at the age of 29, accepting the invitation of the young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein.  With Kirstein’s help, Balanchine opened the School of American Ballet a year later and by 1935 the two founded The American Ballet.  In 1948 the New York City Ballet was formed, with Balanchine serving as its ballet master and principal choreographer until his death in 1983.  A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet.  Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance.  Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by all the major classical ballet companies throughout the world.  In the spring of 1975, Balanchine was inducted into the Entertainment Hall of Fame in Hollywood and in 1978, he was one of the first recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors.  The most prestigious of awards that was given to Balanchine was the 1983 Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor that can be conferred on a civilian in the United States.  The Joffrey Ballet’s most recent performance of a full Balanchine ballet was Apollo in 2006.


Born in Kiev in 1890, Vaslav Nijinsky was the second son of Thomas Laurentiyevich Nijinsky and Eleonora Bereda; both his parents were celebrated dancers and his father, in particular, was famous for his virtuosity and enormous leaps. At the age of nine, Nijinsky entered the Imperial School of Dancing in St. Petersburg, where his teachers, the foremost of the time, soon discovered his extraordinary talent. Nijinsky was graduated in the spring of 1907 and in 1907 joined the Mariinsky Theatre as a soloist. In 1909, Sergey Diaghilev, former assistant to the administrator of the Imperial Theatres, was commissioned by the grand duke Vladimir to organize a ballet company of the members of the Mariinsky and Bolshoi theatres. Diaghilev decided to take the company to Paris in the spring and asked Nijinsky to join as principal dancer. In 1912, Nijinsky began his career as a choreographer. He created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes the ballets L’Aprés-midi d’un FauneJeux and Le Sacre du Printemps. His work in the field of choreography was generally considered daringly original. In 1919, at the age of 29, Nijinsky retired from the stage, owing to a nervous breakdown, which was diagnosed as schizophrenia. He lived from 1919 until 1950 in Switzerland, France and England and died in London in 1950.

Yuri Possokhov received his dance training at the Moscow Ballet School and danced with the Bolshoi Ballet for ten years, working primarily with Ballet Master Yuri Grigorovich.  During this decade, he was promoted through the ranks to principal dancer.  In 1992 he joined the Royal Danish Ballet as a principal dancer at the invitation of Ballet Master Frank Andersen. He moved west and in 1994 he joined San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer. As a choreographer, Possokhov’s credits include Songs of Spain, choreographed in 1997 for former San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Muriel Maffre; A Duet for Two, created the same year for former San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Joanna Berman; and Impromptu Scriabin, for former San Francisco Ballet Soloist Felipe Diaz. In 2000, he completed a new work for a dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet, as well as 5 Mazurkas for the Marin Dance Theatre. In 2008, The Georgia State Ballet gave the American premiere of Possokhov’s one-act work, Sagalobeli, which was performed on the company’s first-ever American tour. In 2011, The Joffrey Ballet brought his evening-length story ballet Don Quixote to Chicago for the first time.

About The Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is Chicago’s premier ballet company committed to artistic excellence and innovation, presenting a unique repertory encompassing masterpieces of the past and cutting-edge works of today.  Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.  The Joffrey is also committed to providing arts education and accessible dance training through its Joffrey Academy of Dance and Community Engagement programs.

The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2013-2014 Season Sponsors and Partners.  With special thanks to Russian Masters Presenting Sponsor, Alphawood Foundation Chicago; Allegro Brillante Production Sponsors, Patti S. Eylar and Charles R. Gardner; Bells Commissioning Sponsors, Bruce Sagan and Bette Cerf Hill; Abbott Fund and NIB Foundation, Co-Sponsors of the 2013-2014 Season; United Airlines, Official & Exclusive Airline; Vanguard Weiss Memorial Hospital, Chicago Center for Orthopedics, Official Healthcare Provider; AthletiCo, Official Provider of Physical Therapy; JW Marriott, Official Hotel; MAC, Official Cosmetic Sponsor; and Season Partner, Chicago Athletics Clubs.

For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, please visit joffrey.org.