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Ballet review: Joffrey's spring fling a wonder of flashy solos

Joffrey Ballet
Chicago Tribune

By Sid Smith

In "Incantations," his new piece for the Joffrey Ballet, Val Caniparoli conjures up an exhilarating spectacle as a visual take-away to the exhilarating rush of Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky's score of the same name.

Helped by Sandra Woodall's sexy, cream-colored costumes, splotched with spare abstract designs, and Lucy Carter's lighting, which manages one especially haunting golden-lit glow, Caniparoli offers an initially breathless and finally meditative ballet that's invigorating and enjoyable. Not especially poetic or deep, it nevertheless relishes its score, sticks with it admirably and surrenders to its narrowing focus, a little like a camera positioned far away for a crowd shot, slowly tracking in for an intimate close-up.

Technically, it's a feast of acrobatic whirls and speedy turns, one showpiece after another for the men, notably Ogulcan Borova, Lucas Segovia, John Mark Giragosian and Rory Hohenstein, while allowing them to artfully team up with Caitlin Meighan, Christine Rocas, Yumelia Garcia and Amber Neumann. The dancers turn and keep turning, pushing each phrase just once or twice past the usual limit, only to then find one final, flourishing sweep of the hands to crown things off. Caniparoli injects plenty of fresh gestures to color the antics, though they're sometimes a bit much — a couple of the men repeatedly grab large chunks of air in one heavy-handed image.

All the while, one wonders what the more grounded Joanna Wozniak and Matthew Adamczyk are doing as the leads — they come on and off amid all the choral frolic with comparatively ho-hum zeal. Turns out they're in place to satisfy Caniparoli's sense of the score, a zeroing in at the finish, on hand to deliver a long, form-rich pas de deux intriguingly mixing classic form, feral horseplay and an earthy serenade to the beauty of muscular strength. You don't want to take "Incantations" too seriously, but you needn't. It's pleasure-packed on its own tinkling terms.

And despite its flashy solos, the program overall is a tribute to partnering, forceful Jeraldine Mendoza and Mauro Villanueva in "Age of Innocence," Rocas and Villanueva in "In the Night" and Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels in both. April Daly and Miguel Blanco in "Night" are spine-tingling as the stoic, most perplexing duo of Jerome Robbins' three pairs.