Chicago Theatre Review
Joffrey closes season with bold, humorous Global Visionaries
Global Visionaries – The Joffrey Ballet
“Global Visionaries,” the final program of The Joffrey Ballet’s 2016-2017 season, begins in spectacular fashion with “The Miraculous Mandarin,” a Yuri Possokhov-choregraphed work that was created specifically for the Joffrey and The Cleveland Orchestra in 2016. A re-telling of the 1919 pantomime ballet of the same name, “Miraculous Mandarin” tells the story of a young woman who, while used as a decoy by thugs to lure unsuspecting (and wealthy) men, attracts the attention of a wealthy mandarin, one who falls desperately in love with the woman before suffering a brutal, violent death.
Backed by the Chicago Philharmonic and richly illuminated by Alexander V. Nichols, the piece is sheer magic. Joffrey’s dancers (especially Victoria Jaiani as the woman and Yoshihisa Arai as the mandarin) perform gravity-defying routines that sync beautifully with the original 1919 score from Béla Bartók. Possokhov’s choreography – and the way it translates seduction, love, and violence to the language of dance – is spectacular and shocking in equal measure, and it was remarkable watching the Joffrey’s dancers sustain that level of intensity throughout the performance.
In fact, so affective is “The Miraculous Mandarin” – so gripping, so tightly constructed, so emotional – that the remaining Global Visionaries program cannot quite match it. To be clear, there are still magical moments. For instance, in “Joy,” the new Alexander Ekman work that received its world premiere at the performance I saw, is a witty, inventive work of dance that incorporates spare costuming, a wide-open stage, and the musical sounds of such artists as Moby and Tiga. Utilizing what seems to be the entire Joffrey company, the piece has three movements, the strongest of which is a tongue-in-cheek, female-led movement driven by a hypnotic percussion beat, which the dancers complement with their own stomping and rhythms. In the program notes, Ekman writes that he and the dancers created “Joy” spontaneously in just two weeks, and that sense of creation and urgency is apparent at every moment.
And closing things out is “Mammatus,” with choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Inspired by animal movements and nature, the work features incredible scenic design by Dieuweke Van Reij and lighting design by Nichols (a lighting display meant to simulate lighting dominates the stage), and is a fresh, digestible work to close out the evening.
But in the end, it’s all about “The Miraculous Mandarin,” and the piece is strong enough on its own to warrant viewing.
Reviewed by Peter Ricci
Presented by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E Congress Parkway) through March 26
Tickets are available at AuditoriumTheatre.org, or by calling 312-341-2300.