This weekend marks the sixth annual Joffrey Ballet Winning Works program, which recognizing African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native American emerging choreographers. This year, Jeffrey Cirio, Christian Denice and Mariana Oliveira were recognized as the Winning Works competition winners, which awards each recipient $5,000 and a chance to work with Joffrey dancers and academy artistic directors.
Being a part of Winning Works is a sort of homecoming for international dancer and choreographer Denice. Although he currently resides in Los Angeles, Denice spent three years living in Chicago and dancing with River North Dance. He said bringing work back to Chicago has been a special experience, especially with the Joffrey Ballet.
“First and foremost, to choreography on such a world-renowned name as the Joffrey…it’s been one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had as an emerging choreographer,” Denice said.
Denice, who has been dancing since he was 10 years old, found inspiration for his piece Urgence from the recent Southern California drought. Urgence explores the entire spectrum of emotions that come up during a crisis, spanning the good and bad.
“Watching those emotions come up over something a lot of us take for granted kind of struck a chord with me,” Denice said. “The sadness, the devastation, but also this unique hope that arises in these times…the community and compassion and humanity.”
The Winning Works choreographers worked with dancers from the Joffrey Studio Company and the Joffrey Academy Trainee program for their pieces. Each spent two weeks working with the dancers.
”It was a really interesting and exciting process for me to tap into the insane talent [of the dancers]” Denice said. “They were so open and generous and willing to go there with me from day one, so it really helped to produce a work that was really authentic to both of us.”
Cirio’s piece blends contemporary, classical and house dancing and music. He was inspired by step dancers and musical duo the Kiasmos.
Oliveira’s piece, Death and the Maiden, visits a conversation between a maiden and death, exploring life’s vulnerability and death’s agony.
The show also features a new work, Coco + Igor, from Joffrey Academy Artistic Director Alexei Kremnev. Winning Works runs at the Museum of Contemporary Art March 5 and 6.
“The Joffrey is honored to recognize the country’s most promising diverse choreographers and provide this opportunity to set their works on dancers at the cusp of their professional careers,” said Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director. “It is fitting that as we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we continue to move forward with the vision of our founder Robert Joffrey by showcasing new work from emerging choreographers.”
For ticket information, visit www.mcachicago.org.