Three big-league, internationally touring dance companies step into town this week, each offering something unique. Whatever you're into-timeless ballet, dramatic spectacle or jaw-dropping physicality-our guide will help fill your dance card.
1. If you like the classics, check out…American Ballet Theatre
If you’re a fan of time-honored works done with taste, proportion and style, buy tickets for the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet, running now through Sunday 25 at the Civic Opera House. The New York–based troupe has an impeccable pedigree: Launched in 1940 by idealists who wanted the European art of ballet to flourish on American soil, the company welcomed young firebrand Mikhail Baryshnikov after he leapt from behind the Iron Curtain to find artistic freedom in the West. Romeo is one of ABT’s signature ballets: A full-length theatrical in three acts set to Prokofiev’s wonderfully romantic score, with lavish sets and costumes that evoke Renaissance Verona, this particular version preserves the 1965 choreography by the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan—considered one of the 20th century’s great dance artists. ABT’s dancers are among the world’s best—they easily accomplish gravity-defying, pure classical technique, and they bring characters to life with convincing emotion. Casting for the next five performances was still being sorted out at press time, but stars Julie Kent, Paloma Herrera, Xiomara Reyes, Angel Corella, Herman Cornejo, and David Hallberg are all slated to trade off in the major roles as Juliets, Romeos and Mercutios.
2. If you like high drama, check out…Eifman Ballet Company
Are you a fan of goth culture, especially the poetic, literary kind? The imported-from-Russia Eifman Ballet is for you. The 30-year-old company struggled to innovate against the strictures of Soviet repression, and strengthened its stride during glasnost. We can’t quite decide if founding choreographer Boris Eifman is excessively gifted or just preposterous, but on a scale this grand, it’s hard to tell which is which. Eifman credits himself with creating a new breed of dance artist: the dancer-actor, a creature who can give plenty of expressive face, and has the moves to back it up. Experience Eifman’s melodramatic imagination as it wraps itself around the Freudian central theme of Chekhov’s TheSeagull (one of the Russian playwright’s best-known works, an existential tragicomedy that ponders the intersections between art and life) at the Auditorium Theatre Friday 23 to Sunday 25. You’ll be among the first to evaluate this latest addition to Eifman’s oeuvre: Seagull had its world premiere just last week in Berkeley. Eifman has taken a typically cavalier approach to Chekhov’s original material: Instead of seeing a play set in a Russian country estate, you’ll see a ballet set in, well, a ballet practice hall. Instead of subtext-laden dialogue between well-to-do ladies and literary gentlemen, you’ll see ballet dancers clashing over aesthetic and romantic differences. As a choreographer, Eifman’s motivation is to dig deep into the human psyche—thus his stage imagery is often filled with mysterious symbolism, which is sometimes amazing and sometimes just looks really kooky, like a guy aiming a pistol at a befeathered ballerina. The music is a mash-up of Rachmaninoff and Scriabin: It’s perfect for drama queens and kings.
3. If you like to have your socks knocked off, check out…Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Sit tight and be prepared for the rush of energy coming at you from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, performing at the Auditorium Wednesday 28 to April 1. Artistic director Judith Jamison stays true to the openhearted vision of the group’s founding choreographer, the late Alvin Ailey, with a repertory that preserves his legacy while adding fresh works by company alums and others. AAADT’s fierce, sculpted dancers are forces of nature unto themselves: The cream of the crop from the renowned Ailey school (Madonna trained there)—unparalleled in strength, flexibility and beauty—can bring it on like nobody’s business. While it’s true that every show closes with Ailey’s famous celebratory Revelations—set to African-American spirituals—there are some new additions to the repertory that you may not have seen before. On March 29, a new work worth seeing is former AAADT dancer Uri Sands’s Existence Without Form, which incorporates Indian and West African dance movements.
We’re especially thrilled the troupe is offering its Chicago premiere of Twyla Tharp’s joyous Golden Section on Wednesday 28, the March 31 matinee and April 1. This 1983 dance is one of Tharp’s masterworks, born out of her brief professional and romantic affair with indie-rock godfather David Byrne, who wrote the driving score. We can’t imagine another dance company that could better embody the Golden Section’s brave and brilliant energy.