Joffrey Ballet's Big News

February 16, 2015

Today the Joffrey Ballet announced a new Nutcracker to be created by Christopher Wheeldon next year. This makes me happy because Wheeldon’s full-length story ballets have been pretty spectacular. He really knows how to collaborate with designers and composers and give story ballets a contemporary slant.

After seeing National Ballet of Canada perform his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Kennedy Center, I called it beguiling. But I liked his Cinderella with San Francisco Ballet even more. In this post, I wrote that he tells the story “with a sense of enchantment and humor.” And his recent Winter’s Tale with The Royal Ballet got rave reviews.

It’s time for a big, luscious story ballet made just for the Joffrey. The company celebrated its 20th year in Chicago last fall, and the old Joffrey/Arpino Nutcracker was made well before that move.

In the meantime, the company is in the midst of its Unique Voices program. Artistic director Ashley Wheater has brought together three international choreographers whose works are very visible in the U.S.: the Australian Stanton Welch, who is at the helm of Houston Ballet; James Kudelka, an iconoclast from Canada; and the Swede Alexander Ekman.

Stanton Welch’s Maninyas, made for San Francisco Ballet in 1996, will no doubt challenge the Joffrey dancers with its juicy virtuosity. In this “Choreography in Focus,” Welch talks about the sexuality of the women’s shoulder movements in the ballet.




Fernando Duarte, Joanna Wozniak, Edson Barbosa, and Derrick Agnolett in
The Man in Black. Photo by Cheryl Mann.


The Man in Black
, made by James Kudelka for BalletMet Columbus in 2010, takes us on a very American ride: He uses tunes from Johnny Cash’s American album collection. This choreographer has such a unique way of creating mood through movement that it makes me curious to see it.

Alexander Ekman choreographs for companies all over Europe, but his works are also in the reps of Boston Ballet, Cedar Lake and Atlanta Ballet. He tends to make big, sprawling pieces that can be either charming or irritating—or both. Tulle utilizes the full company and even includes interviews with them on video. Made for the Royal Swedish ballet in 2010, it was Ekman’s first piece on pointe and it’s about the art of ballet.



Miguel Angel Blanco and April Daly in
Tulle. Photo by Cheryl Mann


It will be interesting to see how these three different works reverberate with each other on this program.

The Joffrey’s Unique Voices goes till Feb. 22. For tickets, click here. And gear up for December 2016, when Wheeldon’s Nutcracker will be unveiled.