Review: Joffrey Ballet displays exquisite artistry

Joffrey Ballet
The Greenville News

By Paul Hyde

The Joffrey Ballet’s appearance in Greenville Monday night offered a reminder of why this Chicago-based troupe often is ranked — with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet — among the best dance companies in the nation.

The Joffrey’s expressive dancers exhibited marvelous precision, control and artistry in three bold, abstract works by the innovative choreographers William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon and Edwaard Liang.

All three choreographers combine ballet with a compelling modern dance vocabulary that retains a traditional lyricism.

In particular, a pas de deux by Wheeldon from his ballet “After the Rain” (2005), set to Arvo Part’s minimalist “Spiegel im Spiegel” (“Mirror in the Mirror”), may be remembered as one of the finest single dance performances we’ve ever seen in the Peace Center.

At once flowing and breathtakingly acrobatic, the piece spotlighted dancers April Daly and Fabrice Calmels in Wheeldon’s sinuous choreography, punctuated by a series of stunning lifts executed with the utmost grace. The duet, suggesting the intimate and shifting emotions of a relationship, elicited audible gasps of amazement from the capacity audience.

That pas de deux was the second part of “After the Rain.” The first part, “Tabula Rasa,” featured three couples performing a series of intricate lifts and turns. It was beautifully danced.

“After the Rain,” like the other two pieces on the program, featured no sets and relatively simple costumes.

The program opened with Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” (1987), a dazzling and justly famous work of theme and variations, set to an edgy, punchy electronic score by Dutch composer Thom Willems.

Forsythe stretches the classical choreography of Petipa and Balanchine to the limit with a fierce modern energy, attitude and aggression — not to mention contemporary twists and contortions. It was skillfully rendered with remarkable ensemble unity by the Joffrey dancers.

Liang’s “Age of Innocence” (2008), set to the music of Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, closed the program with suggestions of an elegant ballroom where romance, flirtation and repressed desire are on display.

According to the Peace Center, Monday’s show marked the first-ever performance in Greenville of the Joffrey, founded in 1956. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 57 years for this world-class dance company to return.