The Joffrey Ballet – La Jolla Music Society

The venerable Joffrey Ballet filled the San Diego Civic Center in an eclectic and ultimately joyful performance presented by the La Jolla Music Society, as part of the Dance Series.

The program was in four parts, separated by two intervals. The pieces moved elegantly from the more formal to the seemingly less structured.

The opening pair of pieces featured music from the two giants of American minimalist composition. In Creases was performed against “Four Movements for Two Pianos” by Philip Glass. The choreography by Justin Peck was mostly symmetrical, befitting the music; Glass is the most mathematical of modern composers. Peck, who grew up locally, sets the eight dancers in intricate movements. Several dancers occasionally moved back to the two baby grand pianos, almost interacting with the live performances by local musician Jeeyoon Kim and Joffrey company pianist Grace Kim. The light gray tones of dancers’ outfits set the stage for the colorful pieces to follow.

“In Creases” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

The second in the opening pair was Encounter, the first of two pieces choreographed by Nicholas Blanc. Victoria Jalani and Alberto Velazquez portrayed lovers moving through cycles of rejection and seduction. A black rectangular box was set to one side, around which the action revolved, and was a metaphor for the bed the couple worked toward. The sensuality of John Adams’ “Saxophone Concerto” underpinned the dancers’ push and pull relationship.

After the first interval, Blanc’s second work moved further away from any classical foundation. Beyond the Shore tracked the score of Mason Bates’ “The B-Sides,” a six segment collection of increasingly complex soundscapes. In the segment called “Aerosol Melody (Hanalel)” Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein explored abstract territories. For “Gemini in the Solar Wind” Bates extracted actual communications samples from the 1965 Gemini IV voyage provided by NASA. Indeed, Jalani’s tutu evoked the rings of Saturn. Her pas de deux partner Fabrice Calmels provided a smooth, muscular approach to his movements. The pair returned for the finale “Warehouse,” nicely tying together the themes introduced earlier.

Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein in “Beyond the Shore.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels in “Beyond the Shore” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

The final part of the evening was Joy. Choreographer Alexander Ekman broke the fourth wall in his voiceover, asking the audience rhetorical questions about the dancing onstage. The full Joffrey troupe filled the open stage, as we saw all the way back to the far wall, packed with prop boxes. The troupe was literally able to let their hair down, with the ballerina’s long manes twirling. Ekman tweaked the issues around ballet slippers, with the ballerinas alternating between myriad barefoot shoe drops and strapping them on. This was juxtaposed by having the entire troupe don high heels. The men gamely danced along. The piece evoked many chuckles from the audience, and certainly lived up to its name. The piece was created in collaboration with the dancers. As Ekman stated, “Seeing a new work come alive in front if us, together, is the best job in the world.”

“Joy” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.