Review: Sylvia (Joffrey Ballet Chicago)

| October 23, 2015

April Daly and Victoria Jaiani star in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)          
      
Sylvia 

Choreographed by John Neumeier 
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
thru Oct 25  | tix: $32-$155  | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    


    
  

Beautifully abstract

  

Huntresses from Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)

    
Joffrey Ballet Chicago presents
    
Sylvia

Review by Lauren Whalen 

Sylvia is a departure from the usual Joffrey fare. Technically a full-length ballet, it can also be viewed as three separate, albeit interlocked, stories. The symbolism is heavy, the choreography more modern than classical, the nontraditional touches small but significant (for example, a group of female dancers wear their hair down). For these reasons and many others, the U.S premiere of John Neumeier’s Sylvia may not be everyone’s favorite Joffrey production, but it’s an important departure and a challenge to the audience (much like Hubbard Street’s recent Fall Series, choreographed by William Forsythe). Gorgeous as all Joffrey productions are, Sylvia intrigues, puzzles and entertains from beginning to end.

Temur Suluashvili, Elivelton Tomazi, Raul Casasola, Stephen Goncalvez and Hansol Jeong in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) According to program notes from choreographer Neumeier, Sylvia is more rarely performed than composer Léo Delibes’ other well-known ballet, Coppélia. The story is rather loose and has changed over time since its 19th century debut, but at its bones, Sylvia is a story of the title character, a nymph, coming of age, discovering her sexuality and finding love over time. Sylvia’s story parallels with that of Diana the huntress, but while Sylvia finds love and life, Diana remains forever alone. Neumeier opts to eliminate the “operetta” elements of the ballet and concentrate more on the myth, the emotions and “the fragile moment between adolescence and womanhood.”

Sylvia has two primary settings: the mythical wood, represented by a large cutout of a tree and bright shades of blue and green, and a ballroom, stark in shades of white and gray with a single statue. Neumeier collaborated with Greek artist Yannis Kokkos on both set and costume design, and the dancers look positively tiny compared to the mammoth walls and structures. It’s an excellent dichotomy, a symbol of the insignificance of individuals in the face of nature – or sometimes, in the face of things made by fellow individuals. Kokkos’ costumes are equally breathtaking, mixing earth tones with pops of bright colors: red for Thyrsis, the god of love who bewitches Sylvia in the wood, and Sylvia’s scarlet velvet gown in Act II, when she becomes fully aware of and embraces her sexuality.

The men of Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) April Daly and Fabrice Calmels in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)  Artur Babajanyan and Mahallia Ward in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)  Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Temur Suluashvili and April Daly in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)  Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)

Neumeier’s choreography is a seamless blend of classical and modern, spare yet emotional and passionate. No movement is embellished or wasted, and Joffrey’s strong cadre of dancers relishes this artistic departure. April Daly is a delicate but strong Sylvia, whose arc is completely believable, and Yoshihisa Arai beautifully gentle as shepherd Aminta. Temur Suluashvili is sure and confident as the slippery god of love who takes several different forms, and the always-flawless Fabrice Calmels doesn’t disappoint as the handsome but doomed Endymion. Victoria Jaiani is the show’s shining star – her Diana is proud and powerful, captivating the audience with a single flick of the hand or point of the toe.

Sylvia may not be for everyone, but fans of ballet will be delighted by the abstract production values, the haunting score, and Joffrey’s phenomenal lineup. This ballet isn’t easy to follow or understand, but it’s rewarding and fulfilling for spectators willing to go along for the ride. The relatable arc of coming-of-age combined with mythical undertones makes for a beautiful, very different night at the ballet.

  
Rating: ★★★
  
   

Sylvia continues through October 25th at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map).  Tickets are $32-$155, and are available by phone (312-386-8905) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Joffrey.org(Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, includes an intermission)

Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)

Photos by Cheryl Mann


  

artists

cast

Note: casting varies according to performance.

Matthew Adamczyk, Derrick Agnoletti, Yoshihisa Arai, Amanda Assucena, Artur Babajanyan, Edson Barbosa, Miguel Angel Blanco, Anais Bueno, Valeriia Chaykina, Fabrice Calmels, Raul Casasola, Nicole Ciapponi, April Daly, Fernando Duarte, Camila Ferrera, Cara Marie Gary, Anna Gerberich, Stefan Goncalvez, Luis Eduardo Gonzalez, Dylan Gutierrez, Rory Hohenstein, Anastacia Holden, Dara Holmes, Victoria Jaiani, Hansol Jeong, Gayeon Jung, Brooke Linford, Graham Maverick, Caitlin Meighan, Jeraldine Mendoza, Jacqueline Moscicke, Amber Neumann, Christine Rocas, Paulo Rodrigues, Lucas Segovia, Temur Suluashvili, Elivelton Tomazi, Alberto Velazquez, Mahallia Ward, Joanna Wozniak, Joan Sebastian Zamora

behind the scenes

For the Joffrey Ballet:

Ashley Wheater (artistic director), Greg Cameron (executive director), Robert Joffrey (founder), Gerald Arpino (founder), Scott Speck (music director), Gerard Charles (director of artistic operations, ballet master), Nicolas Blanc (ballet master, principal coach)

For Sylvia:

John Neumeier (choreography, light design), Léo Delibes (music), Yannis Kokkos (set and costume design), Laura Cazzaniga, Lloyd Riggins (staging), Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra (live accompaniment), Cheryl Mann (photos)

Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) The hunters of Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann) Victoria Jaiani in Joffrey Ballet Chicago's "Sylvia," choreographed by John Neumeier, music by Léo Delibes. (photo credit: Cheryl Mann)  Yoshihisa Arai in Syvlia, Joffrey Ballet Chicago

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Category: 2015 Reviews, Auditorium Theatre, Dance, Joffrey Ballet, Lauren Emily Whalen

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