Joffrey Ballet, 3/22-24/07, Music Center
I was given the task of seeing The Joffrey Ballet through modern eyes. And I’m not going to lie, I intended to bag on it no matter how good it was, because I don’t usually go in for ballet.
But some IDIOT at the LA Times did that for me.
So let me come to Joffrey’s defense.
“Les Presages” was their first act, and to be honest, typical of a ballet about society and villainy and all that. Nice costumes and dancing, but for my money, they could have been ice skating — I wasn’t too interested. I was, however, interested in John Gluckman, a very limber and theatrical talent who played Aquaman’s Evil Brother. (I don’t know who he was supposed to be.) He ate up the floor with unpredictable karate kicking elegance and expert timing. And my girlfriend said he had a nice body.
So let’s talk about the Balanchine/Stravinsky “Apollo.” “Apollo” was spare, but this was purposeful staging. It was George Balanchine’s methodology and Stravinsky’s music at their most minimalist, and even I didn’t miss the reason for that. One platform center stage, all the gods and muses in white, small toy icons representing the various disciplines, and that weird feeling of dark water and god being dead intermixed with a little sizzle from the muses: it focused the audience on the performers and not the costumes or whatever passed for a plot. That is not to say it was a Cirque Du Soleil with feats of strength, grace under pressure, pathos and pirouettes… I was thinking it was more like a live-action FANTASIA. But it transcends even that. What this “Apollo” performance does is make you and your audience neighbors feel the same sensation of joy simultaneously. The actors curl up in fetal positions and suddenly spring up like Samurai Jack. They merge into humanoid Shiva shapes of legs and arms. Outstanding to track — set your mind on tracking one dancer and see.
How can this madman at the Times claim Calvin Kitten (Apollo) was miscast? Here was an extraordinarily funny and contemporary young dancer who knows how to make an effete art form break the fourth goddamn fucking wall. Yes, we laughed when Apollo was born. Mr. Kitten took a beloved half-second to pantomime his birth pang like Charlie Brown tumbling from one of Lucy’s bitch slaps. But for the love of crumb cake, 30% of the audience grew up on South Park, not the motherfucking Nutcracker. Most of the time, ballet is trying to put itself on the most inaccessible shelf in the supermarket of art. Mr. Kitten properly stocks this lofty ideal next to the Meow Mix. Pompous ass over at the Times calls it a vacuous grimore of besmirched synonyms for ignoble. Okay, whatever.
So the third act was Kurt Jooss’ “The Green Table”, a costumed ballet that looks like a Black Sabbath video. It begins with ten well-dressed evil Plutocrats wearing pig masks, ostensibly planning a war around a green table to reap the benefits of doing so. At one moment they fire pop guns to freak out the audience. Fabrice Calmels personifies Death as a bloodthirsty Aztec god who lurks in the shadows like Lou Ferrigno. Bare-naked ladies and soldiers and babushka-wearing prostitutes faint and tumble in a mime of war and holocaust that looks like a 1940s animated Disney classic of the “Goodbye Blue Sky” sequence from PINK FLOYD THE WALL. Incidentally, a sort of Charlie Chaplain “Profiteer” character keeps doing some sprightly clean-up operation at the end of scenes that is supposed to be important and meaningful. I don’t know what the fuck he was doing. But that’s how he rolls. Can anyone tell me what he represents?
I recommend that you check out the Joffrey Ballet. I was entertained and surprised by the repertoire, especially “Apollo”, which will change your life. Enjoy Joffrey for who they are, don’t be afraid to see a ballet if you’ve never seen one, don’t be a total fucking douche bag about whether the Balanchine properly anthropomorphizes the angst of the proletariat, and you will be ensorcelled.
My name is MFV, and I authenticate this material with my seal.