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BWW Review: THE JOFFREY BALLET CONCERT GROUP in NYC

The Joffrey Ballet Concert Group, under the artistic direction of Davis Robertson, is performing at New York Live Arts, where I saw them on Friday, May 27, 2016. Robertson introduced the not-for-profit company as good dancers who are currently unemployed.

I saw a group of young, enthusiastic dancers performing six ballets, choreographies both old and new. With an occasional exception, I found the dancers to lack polish and sophistication. Of course, this is not unusual in a pre-professional company. Many of the dancers have thick thighs, which makes me question the training, although this is not unique to this company. The Joffrey Ballet Concert Group offers a good opportunity to inexperienced dancers to learn, to perform, and to hone their craft.

First on the program was George Balanchine's Valse Fantaisie, to music of Mikhail Glinka. This is a ballet for a principal couple and four girls. They were all energetic and managed the technique, but only one of the girls (I can't name her as there were no identifying photos) looked like she may soon be ready to enter a professional company.

Three world premieres followed. Confianza, choreographed by Roger Jeffrey, to music of Benjamin Brown, Steven Stern, Erik Satie, and Max Richter is a pas de deux. The music is soft, yet the choreography was vigorously danced, which seemed incongruous, by Sergio Arranz and Victoria Santaguida, with plenty of huffing and puffing. Dwight Rhoden choreographed And So It Was... to Bach's Partita No. 2 in D minor, a work for fourteen dancers, seven boys and seven girls. There was plenty of partnering, sometimes simultaneous choreography for all seven pairs. The boys wore very short tights of orange and burgundy. The girls' coordinated leotards had colorful inserts, v front and v back that were very well done, however, there was no credit in the program for anyone who did the costumes. The jewel of the evening was Tessellations, by Gabrielle Lamb. The music by the Amestoy Trio and Cat Power was bubbly and danceable, fun for the audience, as it must have been for the dancers. The nine dancers were at their best doing this contemporary work, danced in socks. They moved through the engaging choreography with understanding and confidence. I imagine that the experience of having a work created on them by Lamb must have been positive and healthy. It was a performance worthy of professional dancers. Robertson announced that all three choreographers, Jeffrey, Rhoden, and Lamb donated their time and their work to benefit the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group.

A beautiful, well known pas de deux, Spring Waters, choreographed by acclaimed Bolshoi Ballet Master Asaf Messerer to Rachmaninoff's music was danced next. It is a challenging piece, which the pair of dancers, Mariana Perez and Jon-Paul Hills, handled nicely. Last on the program was Suite Saint-Saens, by famed Joffrey choreographer Gerald Arpino, to the music of Camile Saint-Saens. His presence in this program was a nostalgic reminder of the Joffrey Company of old and an appropriate final ballet for this program. Again, the dancers' youth and enthusiasm was on display, somewhat making up for their lack of experience. The light grey costumes with pastel trim enhanced their performance.

I applaud their effort and hope that many of these aspiring dancers continue to grow into fine professionals.

Photo credit: Lucus Chilczuk



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