Joffrey Ballet's program of new works is an 'American abstraction'—and a snooze | Bleader

Joffrey Ballet's program of new works is an 'American abstraction'—and a snooze

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April Daly, Dylan Gutierrez in Liturgy

When the Cubs are more exciting than the ballet, it's not a good thing for the ballet.

The Cubs are not the team they've been for the last few years, so that bar's been raised.

But still, the Joffrey Ballet's program of new works—presented at the deliriously ornate Cadillac Palace Theatre because the troupe's usual venue, the delicately ornate Auditorium Theatre, has been taken over by the NFL draft—was as much of a snooze for this occasional dance fan as the eighth inning of most Cubs games prior to the arrival of Kris Bryant.

It wasn't the dancers' fault. In fact, they're faultless. Fabulous athletes with great technique.

And beautiful.

Blame the choreography, described by Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater as "an American abstraction."

The four new pieces were choreographed by Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Nicolas Blanc, and Val Caniparoli. Only one, Wheeldon's duet "Liturgy"—gorgeously danced by April Daly and Dylan Gutierrez to the music of Arvo Part—had sustained visual and emotional impact. (Wheeldon's new Nutcracker, commissioned for the Joffrey's 2016-2017 season, will be something to anticipate.)

With the exception of a few other rousing moments, and in spite of the fact that Nicolas Blanc's "Evenfall" had a plot line, most of the rest seemed too abstract and/or too routine to be memorable.

To hold an audience (beyond other dancers and their moms) now, new works need more wit, heart, and innovation.

That's a high bar, but high bars should be a cinch for the Joffrey.

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