The Joffrey Ballet makes no small plans. And anyone who has caught its current “Bold Moves” program — running through Sunday at the Auditorium Theatre — will know that its sensational dancers are ready to meet any challenge. The company’s just announced 2016-2017 season is certain to underscore this fact.
Opening the fall season at its home, the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, will be a remount of the company’s thrilling, multimedia production of Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor’s “Romeo & Juliet” (Oct. 13-23) which plays out against the panorama of Italian history. First seen here in 2014, it is being produced again in conjunction with the citywide Shakespeare 400 Chicago project celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
The holiday season will mark the world premiere of Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s much anticipated, newly envisioned production of “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 10-30), for which Chicago’s 1893 World Columbian Exposition will serve as backdrop. Wheeldon is the director-choreographer of the acclaimed Broadway musical, “An American in Paris.” Despite the change of setting for this new “Nutcracker,” Wheeldon will hold fast to the classic Tchaikovsky score, to be played live (as with most of the music throughout the season) by the Chicago Philharmonic, under music director Scott Speck.
The two mixed repertoire programs scheduled for winter and spring 2017, will display the company’s astonishing versatility in the work of many of the world’s finest contemporary choreographers.
“Game Changers” (Feb. 15-26, 2017), will feature three pieces including the Chicago premiere of “Year of the Rabbit,” by Justin Peck, resident choreographer and dancer with the New York City Ballet. Inspired by the Chinese zodiac, Peck’s piece is set to a classical orchestration of American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’ electronic song cycle, “Enjoy Your Rabbit.”
Also on the bill will be reprises of Wheeldon’s shimmering “Fool’s Paradise,” and the fearsome, high-tech “INFRA,” by Britain’s Wayne McGregor. Created after the London subway bombings of 2005, “INFRA” is set to an original score by Max Richter, and features a 59-foot LED screen suspended above the stage displaying urban animations designed by world-renowned British artist Julian Opie. Beneath that screen 12 dancers execute McGregor’s bold and abstract movement to explore what’s beneath the surface of human interactions.
Finally, with “Global Visionaries” (April 26-May 7, 2017), the Joffrey will present its second world premiere of the season — an as yet untitled work by that Swedish mischief-maker, Alexander Ekman, whose “Tulle” and “Episode 31” have been audience hits during recent Joffrey seasons. Also on the bill will be the Chicago premiere of “The Miraculous Mandarin,” by the San Francisco Ballet’s Yuri Possokhov. The work, set to the music of Bela Bartok, will receive its world premiere by the Joffrey in April 2016, in a collaboration with the Cleveland Orchestra.
The program will also feature a reprise of “Mammatus,” the sensational work by Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa that dazzled Joffrey audiences when it debuted here in 2015. Set to contemporary composer Michael Gordon’s “Weather One,” the piece for 20 dancers is set on a minimalist stage equipped with tree branches lit with LED lights, with the dancers suggesting surreal insects and birds.
In a prepared statement, Ashley Wheater, the Joffrey’s artistic director, noted: “This season we bring to Chicago audiences ballet for today — heart-pounding, life-changing stories told by fearless performers and choreographers pushing dance to new heights. … In an age of complexity, beauty, rebellion and hope, these works exquisitely express our human condition and represent dance for today’s generations.”
Note: Three-program subscriptions (which do not include “The Nutcracker”) start at $87, and will go on sale Feb. 18 via phone at (312) 386-8905 or online at joffrey.org. Single tickets for the October, February, April and May performances will be available starting Aug.1. The Joffrey Gala is set for April 21, 2017.