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Post Dance to the Music: Two Joffrey Debuts
Created by John Eipper on 03/30/21 4:20 AM

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Dance to the Music: Two Joffrey Debuts (David Duggan, USA, 03/30/21 4:20 am)

With Chicago still in lockdown, weekend entertainment is at a premium, and since I refuse to pay for cable or any other television service, I'm limited to what I can get over the free airwaves. This past weekend provided an embarrassment of riches for this dance-ophile, as the hometown Joffrey premiered two works by young female choreographers: Brushstroke and Borders. Here is the link:

https://joffrey.org/education/academy/performances/winning-works/

I long ago gave up the notion that modern dance can be interpreted according to some narrative theme. While there may be deep hidden meanings in the succession of movements and their arrangement on the dance floor, I will leave to the cognoscenti what they might be. For me it is simply about the joy of physical expression, bound only by gravity and the limits of the human body. As the most evanescent of art forms (a tune can play in your head and you can see a painting in your mind's eye well after having seen or heard them), dance is only there for the moment. And since it is there only for the moment, dance is replete with "how is that possible" reactions. Kids learn to fingerpaint and play the recorder or a drum, and I suspect lurking within every person is an inner Picasso or Eric Clapton. Not so with dance: the movements are so ethereal, so precise, so exhausting that they dare mere mortals to dream of that level of achievement.

Of the two new works, I found Chanel DaSilva's Borders more enjoyable. The impossibly thin, latte-colored costumed dancers sinuously leapt and spun to music less electro-punk than that accompanying Tsai Hsi Hung's Brushstroke. The more staccato and martial Brushstroke was jarring, but the black-and-white costumes of almost harlequin design well complemented the tone of the music. After watching its 14 minutes, you too might want to join the revolution (or take kung fu lessons). Sadly both performances featured masked dancers, so facial expressions, so key to my enjoyment of dance, were absent.

To show what I mean about the importance of facial expressions to dance, I offer the following performance of Maurice Bejart's Bolero, danced by Maya Plisetskaya. One of the few Soviet dancers who did not defect, Ms. Plisetskaya was 50 years old when she did this performance in 1975. Starting as pure ice princess on a pedestal, she fell prey to the crescendo-building music and the surrounding cast of ripped male dancers; the delta form she made with her hands wasn't too suggestive as her visage melted and she became the portrait of ecstatic bliss. Her last gesture, falling to the platform in exhausted fulfillment, must have been every man's fantasy that night.

And I'm sure that 100 percent of those who saw it with a partner got lucky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsSALaDJuN4

JE comments:  The "evanescence" of dance--David, you've hit the nail on the head.  I've never been able to get beyond the "it's culture, so it must be good for you" stage with ballet, but you're succeeding in changing my attitude.  A request:  once this pandemic thingy is over, might we go to the Joffrey together?  We've already checked the box for the opposite extreme of Chicagoland culture:  a Cubs' game.


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