Joffrey Ballet: “Othello”

We all know how “Othello” ends.

The love story between the mighty Moor of Venice and his gentle Desdemona comes to the same tragic conclusion in Shakespeare’s 1693 drama, Verdi’s 1887 opera, the 1995 Hollywood film and in the ballet, choreographed by Lar Lubovitch for American Ballet Theatre in 1997.

A revival of that story ballet by the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, complete with original music by Elliot B. Goldenthal, runs through May 5.

Comedies often end with a wedding. This tragedy begins with one, in which the bride and groom appear beautifully mismatched. Desdemona is danced by April Daly, who is proving to be one of the Joffrey’s loveliest and most winsome ballerinas. She glows as the loving bride of Othello, danced by Fabrice Calmels, a giant of a dancer, who powerfully embodies the proud groom.

Their love ballets are lyrical. She seems to fly as he lifts her, clasps her to his heart, and then holds her aloft again and again. The ease and grace of their movements are in sharp contrast to Lubovich’s angular choreography throughout the rest of the drama. And as Othello’s love turns to jealousy he too begins dancing with jarring, tortured movements.

The culprit is the vile Iago, danced by Matthew Adamczyk with magnificent menace. He is shorter than Calmels, but his power over his superior is palpable. At one point they dance together and Adamczyk appears to be manipulating the powerful man from behind his back.

Iago’s wife Emilia is danced by lovely Valerie Robin, and their duets are never lyrical. From the way he handles his wife, it is clear that Iago loves no one. Fiery Anastacia Holden dances Bianca, who becomes entangled with Cassio after Iago gets the young ensign drunk. Aaron Rogers portrays Cassio as a joyful lad, caught in Iago’s diabolical scheme.

There are several large scenes danced by company members and the scenic background comes from marvelous projections by Wendall K. Harrington. Goldenthal’s score, often clashing and violent, is expertly played by the Chicago Philharmonic in the pit, conducted by its new music director Scott Speck.

This story is danced so effectively that you don’t need words. Only one prop is necessary, the silken handkerchief Othello gives to his bride as a wedding gift. Instead of smothering her, as in Shakespeare, he strangles her with the handkerchief. An ironic coda to their once fervent love.

It is rare to see such searing drama and exceptional dancing so elegantly combined. Don’t miss this remarkable production.

 

Single tickets, which range from $31-152, are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at 800-982-2787 or online.