A beauty of a ballet

It was impressive that the young dancers onstage for A&A Ballet’s May 4th performance of“Sleeping Beauty” were not thrown off by a cell phone ringing throughout the first half.

A stage manager solved that problem after intermission by asking audience members to turn off their phones completely, not just set them to silent. That was because the cell phones were interfering with the wireless systems in the Studebaker Theater, he said.

Whether that was true or not, it resolved the issue of the rude audience member so the rest of us were able to fully focus on the beauty onstage.

The matinee performance of the A&A Ballet featured a multi-cultural and multi-generational cast of impressive ballerinas, including some tiny tots who couldn’t have been cuter in their sheep costumes.

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‘Anna Karenina’ impresses with new choreography and sets


Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in The Joffrey Ballet’s 'Anna Karenina..' (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in The Joffrey Ballet’s ‘Anna Karenina..’ (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

4 stars

The Joffrey Ballet has accomplished a a near impossible feat. With Yuri Possokhov’s choreography to Ilya Demutsky’s score and dramaturg Valeriy Pecheykin’s libretto, the Joffrey has turned Leo Tolstoy’s 800-page “Anna Karenina” into an extraordinary ballet only a little over two hours long that is both classic and contemporary.

A co-production with The Australian Ballet, “Anna Karenina” is an exciting new work commissioned by The Joffrey that opened Feb. 13. Unfortunately, it is only at the Auditorium Theatre through Feb. 24, 2019 before touring.

From the steamy, sensuous divan scene between the illicit lovers, Victoria Jaiani as Anna and Alberto Velazquez as Count Vronsky, and the gorgeous  Joffrey company’s dance scenes, to the fascinating,  evocation of cinema-like atmosphere by Tom Pye’s set designs, David Finn’s lighting and Finn Ross’ projections, this new work is destined to be in high demand.

Other notable performances during its opening week (I saw the Feb. 16 matinee) were Fabrice Calmels as Anna’s unhappy, aristocratic husband, Count Alexey Karenin, Anais Bueno as Princess Kitty Shcherbatsky and Yoshihisa Arai as her pursuer, Konstantin Levin.

Possokhov’s choreography, backed by Dtmustskhy’s score played by the Chicago Philharmonic, totally puts across the ardor, agony and expectations of the Russian aristocracy of Tolstoy’s “Anna.”

This is a ballet to see again and again.

DETAILS: The Joffrey Ballet production of “Anna Karenina” is at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells (Congress Expressway at Michigan Avenue)  through Feb. 24, 2019. Running time: about 2 hrs. 10 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Joffrey/Anna.

Jodie Jacobs

Related article: Joffrey to debut new ballet.

Joffrey to debut new ballet


Joffrey Ballet dancers Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez. (Photo by Cheryl Mann at The Richard Driehaus Museum)
Joffrey Ballet dancers Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez.
(Photo by Cheryl Mann at The Richard Driehaus Museum)


Imagine a story about Imperial Russian society, desire and betrayal as the body and bones for an exceptional novel. Leo Tolstoy did and penned “Anna Karenina” in a periodical series from 1873 to 1877, then as a book in 1878.

Tolstoy’s story of Anna’s scandalous extramarital affair with a dashing cavalry officer and the couple’s ensuing downfall has been the dramatic fodder of many media forms from opera to movies and ballets.

John Neumeier’s “Anna Karenina” using mostly Tchaikovsky’s music and moving the story to contemporary times, had its North American Premiere with the National Ballet of Canada in Nov. 10. 2018.

But fresh from the highly successful re-imaging of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” the Joffrey Ballet Company saw the potential of interpreting “Anna Karenina” in a new ballet with a new score.

To do so the company commissioned Russian composer Ilya Dtmutsky for the score and San Francisco Resident Choreographer Yuri Possokhov to interpret it in dance.

“It’s a real rarity for any ballet company to commission a full-length score. And it was a coup to secure Demutsky, one of the brightest lights in the world of music today,” said Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck.

About the choreography, Speck said, “Possokhov is very careful to be true to the score, so he is using Demutsky’s musical vision as the inspiration for his choreography. Ilya is the Tchaikovsky of this ballet.”

Accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic led by Speck, Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina” will have its world premiere at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells (Congress  Expressway at Michigan Avenue) )Feb. 13 and continue through Feb. 24, 2019.

For tickets and more information visit Joffrey/Anna.

Jodie Jacobs




‘The Nutcracker’ magic still exists

Cara Marie Gary (Marie) and The Joffrey Ballet. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Cara Marie Gary (Marie) and The Joffrey Ballet. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

4 stars

Imagine what if. What if Marie Stahlbaum’s nutcracker Christmas gift and her dream, a tale by E.T. A. Hoffmann, and adapted by Alexandre Dumas that was first presented with Tchaikovsky’s music in 1892, changed location and style.

What if it moved from a wealthy, European estate to Chicago where dreams were possible for a young girl who lived in a shack. And, what if the story kept the late 19th century date.

What was going on in Chicago that year was preparation for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition also called the Chicago World’s Fair. It celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’1492 landing in the “new world.”  Indeed, the Chicago World’s Fair dedication was in 1892 but the fair didn’t open until 1893.

Imagine all the possibilities the fair with its multi-cultural pavilions and its noted (first) Ferris Wheel as a background might hold for a ballet.

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