Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, announces programming for the company’s 2014-15 season celebrating 20 years of the Joffrey calling Chicago home. The 2014-15 anniversary season features both company favorites and a slate of eight premieres.
For the second year, following the success of the Joffrey’s “Russian Masters” program that launched the 2013-14 season, an additional season opener will be presented in September, a one-weekend-only engagement featuring the return of two Joffrey repertory favorites, George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son and Antony Tudor’s Lilac Garden, along with the Joffrey/Chicago Premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s Asian-themed RAkU, September 18-21, 2014. The Joffrey’s annual fall engagement brings the Joffrey/Chicago Premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s newly envisioned Swan Lake, October 15-26, 2014, followed by the return of the classic holiday chestnut, Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker, December 5-28, 2014. The Joffrey continues its recent tradition of presenting a contemporary program for its winter engagement, featuring three company premieres, James Kudelka’sThe Man in Black set to Johnny Cash music, Stanton Welch’s Maninyas and Alexander Ekman’s humorous Tulle, February 11-22, 2015. Rounding out the season is a spring program featuring the Joffrey/Chicago Premiere of New York City Ballet soloistJustin Peck’s In Creases, a World Premiere by British choreographer Ashley Page and Evenfall from the Joffrey’s own ballet master, Nicolas Blanc, April 22-May 3, 2015.
All performances take place in the Joffrey’s home venue, the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, in downtown Chicago at 50 East Congress Parkway. Various programs throughout the season feature live orchestral accompaniment by theChicago Philharmonic conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet
In 1995, escaping a crowded New York City ballet market, then Joffrey Artistic Director Gerald Arpino relocated the company he had started with Robert Joffrey from the East Coast to Chicago with the help of a group of ardent supporters. Having successfully toured through Chicago since 1957, the company found fertile soil in a city with a rich dance heritage but, until then, no major ballet company of its own. The Joffrey Ballet quickly became a bedrock of Chicago’s burgeoning theater district, moving into its own state-of-the-art home of Joffrey Tower at State and Randolph Streets in 2008 and soon after, opening The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of the Joffrey Ballet.
In its 20th Chicago Anniversary season, the Joffrey focuses on narrative in dance, exploring the concept of “story ballet” with a series of both repertory and evening length work that each tell a story in a freshly conceived way, either through iconic music, a familiar fantasy re-imagined, or by seeing human relationships through fresh eyes. Many choreographers who have made recent contributions to Joffrey’s repertory return this season, becoming signature artists of the company.
“Next season, The Joffrey Ballet celebrates twenty years in the city of Chicago with a series of programs exploring the expressive power of dance. By telling stories drawn from diverse sources, by embracing our history and our future, we celebrate the voice and spirit of this great American city,” said Wheater.
About the Season
The Joffrey launches its new season with a mixed repertory program featuring George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, Antony Tudor’s Lilac Garden and the Joffrey Premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU.
Prodigal Son, not performed by the Joffrey since 2000, was one of the first Balanchine ballets to achieve an international reputation. Set to music by Sergei Prokofiev, it is a dramatic story of sin and redemption based on the Gospel according to St. Luke. Wheater will make a rare return to the stage portraying the Father.
Lilac Garden, set to music by Ernest Chausson, is an intimate work showing Tudor’s increasing interest in revealing psychological motivation through choreography. It is a story of a young woman who must say farewell to her lover on the eve of her arranged marriage to a man she does not love. It was last performed by The Joffrey Ballet in 2008.
Finally, Possokhov, San Francisco Ballet Resident Choreographer, brings RAkU to Chicago for the first time since its San Francisco Ballet debut in 2011. Set to music by Shinji Eshima, this contemporary ballet with a modernist, sepia-toned costume and set design with projections and moving screens, tells the tale of a Japanese emperor, his wife and a jealous monk driven mad by obsessive love. It is a stylized interpretation of the burning of the Kyoto Temple of the Golden Pavilion, brimming with lush lyricism and dark drama.
Lilac Garden, Prodigal Son and RAkU are presented in five performances only, September 18-21, 2014.
For its main fall production, The Joffrey Ballet brings a newly re-imagined Swan Lake to Chicago, choreographed by one of ballet’s most acclaimed choreographers, Christopher Wheeldon. A $1.5 million production with lavish costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant and scenic design by Adrianne Lobel, Wheeldon’s Swan Lake was commissioned for the Pennsylvania Ballet in 2004 to celebrate the company’s 40th Anniversary. Set to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s score and modeled from the original Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa choreography, Wheeldon sets Swan Lake in the 19th century milieu of the Paris Opera Ballet, during the time when Tchaikovsky was actually composing Swan Lake and when Edgar Degas was on the rise. The ballet uses actual Degas imagery to create an Opera Ballet studio as young boy Siegfried daydreams of escaping rehearsal for the lake, while the ensemble prepares for a major opening night gala. The ballerinas and their wealthy patrons serve as the central characters of the ballet in a re-telling of the classical fantasy. Swan Lake is presented in 10 performances only, October 15-26, 2014.
Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker, Chicago’s most popular holiday tradition and America’s #1 Nutcracker, returns for its seasonal run at the Auditorium Theatre, bringing Tchaikovsky’s classic score to life with battling toys, raucous rodents, swirling snowflakes, waltzing flowers and the splendor of the full Joffrey company on stage with over 100 young dancers from the Chicagoland area. Robert Joffrey’s The Nutcracker is presented in 24 performances, December 5-28, 2014.
Three leading contemporary ballet choreographers, all former Joffrey guest artists – James Kudelka, Stanton Welch and Alexander Ekman – return with Joffrey Premieres in the winter of 2015, each working in a distinctly different mode from what Chicagoans have seen of them before.
Kudelka’s The Man in Black sets an ensemble of three men and a woman, all in cowboy boots, against the songs of soulful American crooner Johnny Cash. Six songs, all from the latter part of Cash’s career, reflect working-class grit, lighthearted looseness and moving tenderness as Kudelka’s choreography seamlessly sways between ballet and country western dance styles including line, square, swing and step dance. A 2010 premiere for the BalletMet Columbus, The Man in Black has garnered rave reviews from restagings by the National Ballet of Canada, Atlanta Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet. This will be the first time it’s seen in Chicago.
Originally created for San Francisco Ballet in 1996, Welch’s Maninyas is also a small ensemble work, a series of duets and trios, though more abstract in nature. It is set to Maninyas Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Australian composer Ross Edwards and presents dancers moving in and out of a series of shimmering veils, a dance metaphor for the unveiling of one’s self in a relationship, that gradual and sometimes frightening process of revealing layers both physical and emotional.
Completing the contemporary program is Swedish choreographer Ekman’s Tulle (Tyll in Swedish), a ballet about ballet. Premiered in 2012 at the Royal Opera House of Stockholm, it was Ekman’s first piece working with pointe shoes and classical ballet vocabulary and is his affectionate commentary on the art form and where it comes from. Tulle, in characteristic Ekman style, incorporates video projected on three huge LED screens featuring interviews with the Joffrey dancers with their candid and often humorous thoughts on ballet.
The Man in Black, Maninyas and Tulle are presented in 10 performances only, February 11-22, 2015.
The season closes with a third mixed repertory program featuring three more premieres, including the Joffrey Premiere of In Creases by New York City Ballet soloist Justin Peck, a World Premiere by British choreographer Ashley Page, and the Joffrey Premiere of Evenfall by the company’s own ballet master Nicolas Blanc.
The first work Peck choreographed for New York City Ballet, In Creases premiered in 2012 at the company’s annual summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Set to Philip Glass’ Four Movements for Two Pianos, the choreography playfully uses neoclassical symmetry and geometry, matching the score’s energetic, looping melodies, throughout seven movements that build in speed and power as they unfold.
Page began his professional career as a dancer with London’s Royal Ballet in 1984, working closely with Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan. He was promoted to Principal in 1984, the same year in which he choreographed his first professional work for the company, A Broken Set of Rules. Page continued to develop his choreographic voice alongside his dancing career, creating 17 ballets for the company. In 2002, after 27 years with the Royal Ballet, Page was offered the artistic directorship of the then-failing Scottish Ballet, and over the subsequent 10 years redeveloped the Company into an internationally renowned modern ballet company with an eclectic repertoire. Now in the third phase of his career as a freelance choreographer and director, Page is currently working on numerous commissions from ballet and contemporary dance companies around the world.
A ballet master with The Joffrey Ballet since 2011 after a career dancing with such companies as the Nice Opera Ballet, Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, Zurich Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, Frenchman Blanc created Evenfall in 2013 for Joffrey dancers Derrick Agnoletti, Fabrice Calmels, Rory Hohenstein, Anastacia Holden and Victoria Jaiani, premiering it at the“Festival Danse en PlaceS” in Montauban, France. Set to Max Richter’s The Four Seasons, this lyrical piece follows the thread of poetry running through the lives of a couple at the beginning of their romance and then through their autumn years. As the poet suggests, life is a collection of memories.
In Creases, Ashley Page’s World Premiere and Evenfall are presented in 10 performances only, April 22-May 3, 2015.
In the spring, the Joffrey plans a special gala performance celebrating 20 years in Chicago.
Tickets and Subscriptions
Three-program subscriptions, which do not include the September engagement or The Nutcracker, start at $84. Subscriptions will be available for purchase as of February 19, 2014, online at joffrey.org, by mail (Joffrey Ballet Subscriptions, The Joffrey Ballet, Joffrey Tower, 10 East Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60601), by telephone at 312-386-8905, by fax at 312-739-0119, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribers have the option to add on the September engagement at 50% off the single ticket price.
Single tickets are priced from $32 to $170 for the September, October, February and April/May performances. Single tickets forThe Nutcracker are priced from $32 to $134. Single tickets for the September engagement will be available for purchase June 2; single tickets for all other programs will be available starting August 1, 2014. Single tickets are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of 10 East 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 www.ticketmaster.com.
The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its 2014-2015 Season Sponsors and Partners. With special thanks to Alphawood Foundation Chicago, The Anne and Burt Kaplan Fund of the Mayer & Morris Kaplan Family Foundation, NIB Foundation, Abbott Fund, Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss, Dr. and Mrs. Josef Lakonishok, JW Marriott, United Airlines and AthletiCo.
For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs please visit joffrey.org.