writers on dancing


"The Dream" in Chicago

The Joffrey Ballet
Auditorium Theatre
Chicago, Illinois
October 30th, 2005
By David Vaughan
copyright ©2005 by David Vaughan

The Joffrey Ballet has a long history as the chief American repository of the ballets of Frederick Ashton: it was the first American company to dance “The Dream,” as long ago as 1973; the only company outside the Royal Ballet organization to present “A Wedding Bouquet.” On a recent visit to Chicago, I was able to see a performance of its latest revival of “The Dream,” in the superb Auditorium Theatre. I’m happy to report that the ballet was in fine shape, having been rehearsed under the direction of Anthony Dowell and Christopher Carr from the Royal Ballet. This is a lovely production with designs by David Walker, who redesigned the Royal’s own production in 1986. (What a pity it was thought necessary to replace his exquisite designs for “Cinderella.”)

In the cast I saw, Julianne Kepley was a spunky Titania (hampered a little by a too elaborate wig). Fabrice Calmels was a very tall Oberon—with a short Puck, Calvin Kitten, but the difference in height worked well for their relationship in the ballet. John Gluckman as Bottom managed the pointe work well, but perhaps could have used some coaching from Alexander Grant, the original, in developing his character. The quartet of lovers and the corps de ballet of fairies were excellent, though I disliked the rat-tat-tat of toe shoes from the corps.

It was good to hear the music played live by the company orchestra, conducted by Leslie Dunner, the music director. The Scherzo seemed to me a little slow, perhaps to accommodate the Oberon’s height and to give him time to accomplish all the complex petit allegro. This was no problem for Calvin Kitten, whose Puck could stand comparison with some of the brilliant ones we have seen lately at Ballet Theatre. The choral music was nicely sung by the Oak Park and River Forest Children’s Choir. Altogether, the ballet was as delectable as always, and a crowded matinee audience got all the comic points, whether broad or subtle.

As always whenever I watch an Ashton ballet, I found myself noticing things I had not seen before. The corps de ballet figures are so full of variety that there is always something new to see. Puck does Ashton’s favorite “there it is” gesture even more times than I realized. And of course, in addition to the beauty and the humanity and the sheer fun of this ballet, there is always Ashton’s consummate craftsmanship. But then it seems that he always had that: a couple of weeks before I had seen “Les Rendezvous” at Covent Garden, and even the horrible new designs, which do their best to conceal important aspects of the ballet’s structure, cannot prevent one from seeing how perfectly it is made. In this ballet, dating from 1933, just as in “Capriol Suite” (1930), it’s all there.

Photos, both by Herb Migdoll. Julianne Kepley, as Titania, and Fabrice Calmels as Oberon in the Joffrey Ballet's production of "The Dream."

Volume 3, No. 45
November 28, 2005

copyright ©2005 David Vaughan



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last updated on December 5, 2005