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The Joffrey Ballet
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
March 26–27, 2010
Reviewed by Guillermo Perez
Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani in Edwaard Liang's Age of Innocence. Photo by Herbertt Migdoll, Courtesy Joffrey.
The Joffrey Ballet put together a touring program that may not have done justice to its choreographic inheritance but certainly pushed forward a fresh face. The name in bold on the calling card was Edwaard Liang, creator of Age of Innocence, which the company premiered in 2008.
A bow to the past came with Gerald Arpino's Confetti, an exercise in classicism for three couples who breathed in Italian air thanks to the Rossini score. This trifle by the company's late founding co-director was too precious for its own good and started off awkwardly—though the dancers eventually gained ground carousing as if they'd invented the tambourine.
Having come to the Joffrey after a long career at San Francisco Ballet, artistic director Ashley Wheater affirmed that connection, programming two works from SFB artists: Aria, by resident choreographer Val Caniparoli, and Valses Poéticos, by director Helgi Tomasson.
Coyly seductive, Aria put the bare-chested and pliant Matthew Adamczyk in red tights and a white mask. Urged on by selections from Handel's Rinaldo, he took the mask off and found his real self behind preening histrionics. Valses Poéticos struck elegant notes, reflecting Enrique Granados' sprightly to dreamy waltzes for piano. Yumelia García, brimming with joy or achingly sober, and Temur Suluashvili, gameful both as show-off and gracious suitor, moved smoothly with emotional involvement.
Though inspired by Jane Austen's world, Age of Innocence was not wedded to it. Five sections, alternating high-strung Philip Glass and Thomas Newman compositions, flashed deconstructed ball scenes and intimate encounters, none overly specific to setting. Performers turned up the flame on academic moves (tricky lifts thrilled the audience) and thrust into low-flung scampering and upper-body isolations.
The eight-couple ensemble, in “First Dance” and toward the end in “Parting,” took to parallel lines with ballroom steps that gave the ballet a circular structure. Even early on, though, the graceful whirls got shaken up. “First Dialogue” brought Christine Rocas and Thomas Nicholas into fervid communion. She’d mold herself against him as if melted by passion, and he displayed her like a fabulous ornament. For this soulful stripping down, costume designer Maria Pinto changed the ballerina’s long skirt to a mini voile. (In the same creamy color, males wore short tights and sleeveless shirts.)
Enlivened with equestrian references “The Men” showed Derrick Agnoletti, Raul Casasola, Aaron Rogers, and Mauro Villanueva in fine competitive form—whisking by and riled up for high jumps and aerial turns. The couples of “Obey Thee” made way for a particularly memorable pairing: Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels. A gladiatorial presence, he tempered his solid mass for her suppleness, and their working out of tensions brought the ballet to its dramatic summit.