Need a lift? Try Joffrey's 'Eclectica'

Joffrey Ballet
Chicago Sun-Times

By Hedy Weiss

'Eclectica" is the umbrella title that the Joffrey Ballet -- which happens to look exceptionally strong and buoyant at the moment -- has given its gorgeous, pure-dance spring program at the Auditorium Theatre. I might have dubbed it "Rapture and Revelations" instead. For the three works on the bill -- company co-founder Gerald Arpino's blissfully danced 1971 classic "Reflections," paired with two formidable world premieres (Jessica Lang's "Crossed" and James Kudelka's "Pretty BALLET") -- stir up such a whirlwind of feverish movement and soaring emotion that you might well feel yourself lifted aloft.

If architecture is "frozen music," Lang, a hugely gifted young choreographer (and inspired set designer) knows how to defrost it with brilliance. In her galvanic new work "Crossed," set to a mix of secular and religious music by Mozart, Desprez and Handel, she deploys her pointe-shoe-free dancers along sharp diagonals and in stark columns as they suggest both reverence and ecstasy. Moving panels are continually reconfigured to suggest a cross, creating "canvases" of stark geometric intensity that echo the paintings of Mark Rothko. And again, there was splendid dancing all around here.

If Lang's work dealt in spiritual geometry, Kudelka's grand-scale "Pretty BALLET," set to Martinu's "Symphony No. 2," was mostly about circular motion, with the dancers, awash in tulle, frequently resembling clouds set awhirl by a great gust of wind. At moments, this airily seductive torquelike motion also shifted into a dramatically different automaton-like mode. Performed with enormous verve, the work's centerpiece is a duet that was danced to breathtaking effect Sunday by Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Angel Blano.