Review: Joffrey Ballet dancers defy gravity at Zellerbach Hall
By Steven Winn
Ballet dancers lift each other all the time. But the elevation achieved in “Beyond the Shore,” the glowing highlight of the Joffrey Ballet’s weekend repertory at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, seemed to untether one dancer from gravity itself.
Her hips encircled by a disc-thin black pancake tutu as she rotated slowly through the spacious, spectral realm of Mark Stanley’s lighting, Jaiani turned weightless, like some human satellite orbiting far above Earth.
Everything in this section of choreographer Nicolas Blanc’s mesmerizing Bay Area premiere, co-commissioned by presenter Cal Performances, served the uncanny illusion. Mason Bates’ percolating score, overlaid with staticky NASA audio communication from the 1965 Gemini spacewalk, invoked a nostalgia-trimmed age of optimistic, pre-moon-landing exploration. Stanley’s Cubist backdrop took on the aspect of an aerial view of a map-scape far below. And then, most essentially, these two dancers embarked on a quietly ravishing pas de deux that captured both the aspiration and danger of venturing into space.
Bates’ score, which featured his propulsive “The B-Sides,” both enhanced and heightened the surges of Blanc’s richly figured momentum. The Chicago-based Joffrey company members, with their febrile flair, looked like they owned the piece. They danced with confidence, daring and disciplined self-possession, their varied body types and individual styles caught up together as they made their way out into deep waters.