Sunday, February 19, 2012

Black Sheep Goes Modern

On Friday night I had the opportunity to view Winter Fire, the Joffrey Ballet's collection of three modern pieces: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, After the Rain, and Infra. It was my first time seeing a live modern ballet, and while I think I ultimately prefer classical, it taught me some very valuable lessons.

1. There is beauty in pushing boundaries. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated takes classical technique and bends, torques, and shoves it to the next level. William Forsythe's choreography for ITM,SE is quick, technically challenging and precise but sometimes creates caricatures out of arabesques and port de bras. The result, rather than being grotesque, is more "Cirque du Soleil." And I like it. It made me realize that while perfection in a line is certainly something to strive for, it's not everything. And sometimes, going that extra mile is completely worth it.

2. Never underestimate the impact of music. ITM,SE had a pounding electronic score which completely distracted me from the dancing. I absolutely hated it, and that's a strong word from me. Infra, however, had similar dancing at times to ITM,SE but the score absolutely complemented the dancing. The music for After the Rain was sentimental and lovely, perfectly paired with the staging and choreography. I want to learn that choreography someday - Christopher Wheeldon is a genius, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

3. Everyone has a story. Even modern dancers. From what little I know of modern dance, it seems to be more about movement and less about the story, or at least, the story isn't as immediately recognizable. But a story absolutely unfolds when you have dancers who connect on a deeper level. The final pas de deux in After the Rain left me breathless. You can actually see the dancers supporting each other emotionally, and feel the love in their dancing. After the Rain really told a story, and Infra did as well, but not on as emotional of a level for me.

4. Now I know why ballerinas wear their hair in buns. I love loose hair on dancers. I think it makes them look free, other-worldly, and beautiful. But in Infra (Wayne McGregor choreography), Ricardo Santos' partner (not sure who) had long red hair in a ponytail that kept whipping him in the face during those assisted pirouettes. I felt so bad for him! Imagine getting a face-full of hair every 2 seconds. Beautiful, absolutely. Practical, not so much.

5. Good men are hard to find. When I watch ballet, I tend to focus on the women, because I'm mesmerized by the pointework and impossibly thin, flexible bodies that I continually strive toward. So when a male dancer can steal my attention, it's a pretty major thing. I'm sure that all the Joffrey's dancers are phenomenal, but watching Ricardo Santos and Derrick Agnoletti dance was a real treat. Ricardo's lines are pure artistry. He has impossibly long arms and hands that look just lovely in everything he does. Derrick is like a little firecracker on stage - so full of movement and joie de vivre that you can't take your eyes off him. His final PDD in Infra (I believe it was with Christine Rocas but I can't be sure) was beautiful, showing the softer side of his dancing. Plus, it doesn't hurt that costuming for Infra was basically underwear and tight t-shirts. Le sigh.....

Anyway, I think I'll stick with classical, but seeing Winter Fire definitely gave me a new appreciation for the heights to which we can take this art form. Seeing Joffrey dance was a real treat, one I hope I get to see again. And now, back to the real world.

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