The Joffrey Ballet’s gala performance on Thursday night was the type of program that those who remember the company from its New York years would associate with it. The three part program of Bells by Yuri Possokhov, Body of Your Dreams by Myles Thatcher, and Fool’s Paradise by Christopher Wheeldon was two-thirds successful. The Wheeldon piece, made during his Morphoses days, was choreographically weak, pretentious, and ridiculously sentimental. The audience was asked to treat a bunch of nothing like it had world importance. On the other hand, Possokhov and Thatcher each put something new on the New York stage that was handsome and unique.
Thatcher’s Body of Your Dreams was set to Dutch composer Jacob ter Veldhuis's piano and spoken urban-cool mash-up soundtrack. It was just the type of cheeky, hipster, trippy dance that Robert Joffrey would have loved. The soundtrack is comprised of snippets of infomercial type script about miracle products to eliminate cellulite or love handles, lose weight, and achieve the body of your dreams. (Take a listen and see if you don't agree that it harks back to the days of Deuce Coup, Panoramagram, etc.) The dancers responded to it with contemporary exer-dance type movements with some tricky ballet thrown in. Would Haglund like to see this danced by any company other than the Joffrey? Nuh uh. But it is a perfect fit for this company’s historically youthful, dare-to-be-different personality. We know the Joffrey can dance serious classical ballet as well as most anyone, but the dancers can also kick back and throw some tongue-in-check nonsense out on stage and make the audience adore them.
What an improvement this dance was over Thatcher’s Polaris that New York City Ballet danced in the fall of 2015. Polaris looked like the choreographer was trying desperately to fit into the contemporary ballet culture – that culture that so many of us despise for its dullness and pompous sense of self-importance. Here, he was daring to be different without resorting to the tastelessness or offensiveness that today’s ballet wannabe-choreographers stoop to exploit – when they’re not pandering to some critic’s personal agenda. We’ve placed Thatcher’s false start with NYCB aside, and we’re ready to see more of his work – hopefully at The Joffrey.
The highlight of the evening was Yuri Possokhov’s Bells set to seven piano compositions by Rachmaninov. From the first steps, we felt like we were in the hands of a master dancemaker – someone who understood composition, dramatic arcs, musicality, and how to convey emotion through movement. There was no story to this ballet, but it was very much about life, love, and loss. An exquisite PdD by Georgian couple Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili was the centerpiece of the ballet, but the other couples (Anastacia Holden & Yoshihisa Arai, April Daly & Fabrice Calmels, Jacqueline Moscicke & Graham Maverick, and Joanna Wozniak & Aaron Renteria) were given quite beautifully composed dances that made you feel the music up and down your own muscles.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon Yuri Possokhov for his beautiful Bells. We can’t wait for his production of A Hero of Our Time which will be presented by Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema on April 9th. We are definitely ready to see more of his work.
Despite the unevenness of the choreography brought to Lincoln Center on this visit, The Joffrey Ballet did not disappoint with its dancing. Why this company has waited so long to return or hasn’t yet turned up at SPAC during the summer is a real mystery and is our loss.