This article was written by Savannah E. Dunn.
The Harold Washington Library hosted Joffrey’s seventh annual performance of Winning Works March 11 and 12.
This renowned program brings minority and emerging artists in to set work on the Joffryy Studio Company and trainees. The culminating performance celebrates dancers coming into their own as artists and choreographers rising onto the scene, opening doors and giving them a platform to create.
Jimmy Orrente’s work Scend opened the night with a beautiful display of elegance and motion. The female dancers wore long, red flowing dresses and pointe shoes. The men wore red shorts and tops in a similar design. These costumes, designed by Gabriel Brandon-Hansen, seriously enhanced the dancer’s sweeping movement and lines, trailing behind the women’s legs and becoming a part of the dance itself. As the piece progressed I could see the dancers settling into the work, relaxing and bringing a emotive element to the piece’s swelling structure.
Moonlight, choreographed by Shannon Alvis and set to music by Max Richter and Claude Debussy, was both eerie and simple. Alvis’ movement vocabulary very clearly reflects her career dancing for both Hubbard and Netherlands Dance Theater. The dancers found softness and ease in the grounded, more contemporary style, which can be difficult for strictly classical dancers to achieve.
“I’m also new,” Alvis said, comparing the studio company to herself, “We’re all growing together. It’s great. It’s a perfect fit.”
Under the white, moon-like lighting the dancers found purity and range of motion in the organic, ritualistic feeling work. Alvis will certainly be one to watch in the years to come.
Karen Gabay’s piece, Hopeful Undertones, was set to a composition by Oliver Davis and benefited from the uplifting strings.
“I don’t really remember being as stressed as a teen like this generation,” Gabay explained. “Hopeful Undertones deals with any kind of loss that a teen might have to go through.”
Yoka Hirayama gave a very authentic and heartfelt performance during her solo in the section entitled Hopelessness and Gabay’s choreography superbly showcased the dancers’ strong technique.
And then, Sean Aaron Carmon’s Suite Hearts, made me completely forget I was watching the trainees and studio company rather than the professional one. He clearly brings something into rehearsals that pulls an extra element out of the dancers.
“When rehearsing for this work I feel the energy that Sean brings to rehearsals,” said Jonathan Dole, Academy Trainee.
The piece was constantly surprising, opening with a powerful section in unison with the dancers moving quickly through a series of very challenging athletic movements. From there it was one seamless transition into the next, in which the dancers reached their full potential as both performing artists and athletes, demonstrating not only their own skill but Carmon’s capability and intuition as a choreographer.
Overall, the evening was a stunning testament to the Joffrey’s training program and their commitment to promoting new work and new artists. Tickets to see the studio or professional company perform can be found on the Joffrey website at http://www.joffrey.org/performances or by calling 312-386-8905.