It ain’t heavy, it’s the Joffrey | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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It ain’t heavy, it’s the Joffrey

The Joffrey Ballet takes an upbeat tack for its "American Legends" program.


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A light heart characterizes all four works on the Joffrey Ballet's "American Legends" program. The teasing Son of Chamber Symphony (2012), for instance, is part of what choreographer Stanton Welch calls his "funky classical" canon. A Chicago premiere, commissioned by the Joffrey and named for the John Adams music to which it's set, Son pays homage to classical ballet by flashing iconic gestures and phrases, then transforming them—respectfully, Welch says, though he takes a radical approach to the tutu, showing the "ladies' legs all the way to the hip." Welch notes that "it's like looking at the inside of a watch: you see the mechanics." (For his 1994 "grunge" ballet, Divergence, Welch used rubber tutus made of swimming pool filters. "They're comfortable, and they last forever!")

Another frolic, Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, makes its Joffrey debut here. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performed this compendium of duets often during its heavy-duty Tharp phase in the 1990s; I'm curious to see the Joffrey dancers negotiate its varied characters.

Two revivals complete the program: Gerald Arpino's 1962 duet Sea Shadow and Jerome Robbins's 1945 Interplay, which the Joffrey hasn't performed since 1972.

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