Arts & Entertainment

Changing The Ballet Game

Cheryl Mann"Game Changers" mixes elements of traditional ballet with modern elements incorporated as well.

Some people find ballet to be an outdated, stuffy art form, but the Joffrey Ballet’s winter show, “Game Changers,” challenges this assumption by bringing audiences elements of traditional ballet with a modern twist.

Rather than a cohesive story ballet, “Game Changers” is composed of three different works. Two are back by popular demand, while the last is the Chicago premiere of a work by New York City Ballet resident choreographer, Justin Peck. Each piece is equally captivating and impressive. The variety seen in “Game Changers” creates an excellent show for the first time ballet-goer and the seasoned attender alike.

Cheryl Mann“Game Changers” mixes elements of traditional ballet with modern elements incorporated as well.

The show opened with “Fool’s Paradise,” a piece choreographed by Tony Award-winning Christopher Wheeldon and set to Joby Talbot’s music. When the curtain opened, a huge puff of billowing smoke loomed in the middle of the dark stage, creating an entrancing atmosphere. The scene warmed up as dancers in skin-tight, nude-colored costumes emerged, illuminated by warm, golden light. The shadows created as they moved gracefully through a series of strong living sculptures were echoed throughout the piece as shimmering gold rose petals fell along the backdrop. The fluid choreography to the romantic strings transported the audience to another world, dreamlike and elegant.

Wayne McGregor choreographed “INFRA,” the next piece in the ballet. Inspired by the 2005 London subway bombings, it’s a somber but intense work, designed to explore human interactions in a cyber world full of indifference.

As the curtain opened, a large LED screen was suspended above the stage, lit with electronic figures walking back and forth above the live dancers. A hypnotic monotony became the back-drop for the modern and borderline disturbing choreography.

Company members Jeraldine Mendoza and John Mark Giragosian performed a captivating duet as they struggled to control their own and each other’s bodies. Movements among all the cast members seemed excruciating at times, as if they had to forc their bodies to move or stand still. This brilliant choreography by McGregor added to the insightful and emotional atmosphere of the piece, which saw its climax with an overwhelming amount of what appeared to be “normal people” impassively walking across the stage to overwhelm the dancers.

Cheryl Mann“Game Changers” mixes elements of traditional ballet with modern elements incorporated as well.

The dancers displayed heart-wrenching emotion at some points, while seeming to be rather apathetic at others. The piece successfully nodded to our bustling twenty-first century society with its mix of emotions that demanded the constant attention of the audience.

The Chinese zodiac inspired the last piece, “Year of the Rabbit,” which Peck Choreographed. Its music was hurried and lively, which played well with the fun contrasts created by the bright backgrounds and subtle blue costumes. The corps de ballet took the spotlight in this piece, as they worked together to move through exciting and modern shapes. The interactions between the different soloists and the corps de ballet made each number unique. The audience chuckled throughout the exciting and humorous choreography, which was remarkable work from the 29-year-old choreographer.

The impressive Joffrey Ballet Company not only performed three unique pieces in the same night, but they also performed them in a fast-paced and dynamic way, moving through different solos, duets and trios. The cast portrayed a great chemistry through every piece and each pairing, supporting each other through complicated turns and floating leaps. The flexibility and strength of each dancer was truly breathtaking and worked well to enhance the choreography shown in each of these pieces. “Game Changers” is a great introduction to the art of ballet, as it is displayed in a fun and modern way.

“Game Changers” will be at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre (50 E Congress Parkway) through Feb. 26. Tickets range from $34-$159 and can be purchased at joffrey.org/gamechangers.

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