Curtain Up

September 21, 2010




The Joffrey Ballet has long been known for the individuality of its dancers. I first fell in love with the company in the ’60s and still remember vividly stars like Lisa Bradley and Noël Mason. And although the Joffrey has evolved much in its 53 years, that part is still true. Victoria Jaiani is not like any Joffrey dancer I can remember. Her long, delicate limbs, supple back, and soulful face seem like a throwback to an earlier time. Last winter, she was a gorgeous Cinderella in Ashton’s ballet. You felt intensely her yearning when she waltzed with the broom and her heartbreaking innocence as she helped the ridiculous stepsisters lace up their dresses. In “The Celestial Victoria Jaiani,” critic Hedy Weiss traces Victoria’s path from a shy girl in the Republic of Georgia to a ballerina in Chicago who is stunning in both the classics and contemporary work.


Garth Fagan’s individuality has always shone through his choreography. You can see shades of Merce and Alvin in his work, but his forthright, polyrhythmic style is his own creation. Based in Rochester, New York, for 40 years, he’s determined to challenge his dancers physically, but also to give them the freedom to make their mark. In fact, his longtime lead dancer, Norwood “PJ” Pennewell, is showing his own choreography on Garth’s anniversary program at the Joyce next month. In “Cause for Celebration,” Susan Reiter follows the rise of Garth Fagan Dance from its modest beginnings as the (creatively named) Bottom of the Bucket But… Dance Theater, to its current position as an internationally touring company.


Our costume preview also celebrates individuality—or, shall we say, eccentricity. Without a doubt, Lady Gaga’s influence has reached the dance field. Mixing glamour with nuttiness seems to be the order of the day, and you’ll find lots of ideas in the fashion soufflé that our in-house style guru Khara Hanlon has cooked up for us.


Lastly, we have a touching story from former dancer Kathleen McGuire. She writes about that hazy line between healthy and disordered eating. What makes her story “Food Obsessed?” so dramatic is not only the medical information, which is of course valuable, it’s Kathleen’s willingness to reveal the psychological toll her eating habits took on her relationships with family and friends. I wish that aspiring dancers who count the calories in every bite would, as Kathleen suggests, concentrate on dancing instead of striving for an ideal body that does not exist.



Photo of Victoria Jaiani by Matthew Karas