Dance review: Joffrey Ballet exhibits its unfailing expertise

It’s been nearly 50 years since Joffrey Ballet last performed at Jacob’s Pillow. And after seeing th

It’s been nearly 50 years since Joffrey Ballet last performed at Jacob’s Pillow. And after seeing them on the main stage this week, one has to wonder what took so long.

For one thing, Pillow founder Ted Shawn considered the Chicago company’s founder, Robert Joffrey, to be one of his “protégés.” Moreover, this is a wonderful ensemble. The dancers perform an array of contemporary ballets that showcase their talents beautifully. The works and the dancers entrance the audience.

World premiere

The evening includes three works. Among them is a world premiere by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch. “Son of Chamber Symphony,” to the excitable music of John Adams, opens boldly with the Joffrey men. They blaze across the floor — en masse and in solos — with a spirit that emphasizes their strength and speed.

Joffrey Ballet

WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.

WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $70, $65

MORE INFO: 413-243-0745,

In the midst of their churning display, a striking Yumelia Garcia spins slowly, center stage, like a jewelry box ballerina. Her calm contrasts with the outpouring of energy, so much so that eyes want to stray and rest on her. Garcia is a lovely rock in the driving chaos of men and music.

This impressive opening is slowed by the divine pairing of Victoria Jalani and Miguel Angel Blanco. These two connect in an understated duet that is coolly romantic — so much so it sends shivers.

The piece concludes with April Daly and Temur Suluashvili in a tender duet surrounded by a small corps de ballet of six women. Here, Welch freely quotes “Swan Lake,” in the undulating arms, the stabbing pointe work, and the shy demeanor of Daly. As the music pulsates, the dancers rise to its urging, finishing off “Son of Chamber Symphony” with a flourish.

While it is an arresting work, Edwaard Liang’s “Age of Innocence” to music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman, is a better ballet. As the evening’s opener, it clearly delineates the line between propriety and desire — and how the two press each to break down. It begins with the dancers, the women in long skirts, promenading in proper ballroom fashion. They melt away, returning in two ardent pas de deux and a bouncing quartet for the men.

While the men’s dancing is showy, the duets transport. Jeraldine Mendoza, now in a short skirt, and Mauro Villanueva come together in a sweet coupling while Daly and Dylan Gutierrez meld passionately.

Of course, their expressive love is cut short in the end as the cast reassembles for a final formal dance.

Dramatic closer

The evening is rounded out by Yuri Possokhov’s “Bells,” to piano music by Sergei Rachmaninov. This suite of dances unfolds with much drama, tinged with Russian folk dancing, head-holding and heaven-beseeching arms.

Again, the company dancers distinguish themselves in duets — this time between Amber Neumann and Ricardo Santos. And while the dance does not add up to any clear vision, it, like the Joffrey dancers themselves, conspires for hearts and minds.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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