Joffrey’s “Rising Stars” is the Stuff of Dreams

The Joffrey Ballet’s “Rising Stars” program, which opened May 4 at the Auditorium Theater, is an exercise in abstraction.

It’s filled with sublime, graceful movement, punctuated with surprises, and packed with tried and truly beautiful dancing.

Two world premieres, “Woven Dreams” by Edwaard Liang and “Bells” by Yuri Possokhov, plus a company premiere, “Night” by Julia Adam, are presented. A brief film introduces each to the audience.

The most powerful is Liang’s “Woven Dreams,” danced to recorded music of Ravel, Galasso, Britten and Gorecki. The entire cast, wearing blue, take part in the first movement, in which one by one the women are taken away. Above them are woven strips of satin-like cloth, which descend and then rise revealing two dancers, Christine Rocas and Temur Suluashvili, beneath. Their pas de deux appears to be a struggle in which she is striving to be free.

Angular positions provide surprises and occasional smiles, as at the conclusion of the third movement, when bodies intersect to create a kind of Y-formation.

The heart of this piece is the two dances of Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani, the unforgettable Arabian dancer in last year’s “Nutcracker.” There is tension between them—she clings to him and then eludes him. She is a wonder, with stunning backbends and deft footwork. He is strong and lifts her as if she were a willow branch.

In Possokhov’s “Bells” two pianos play Rachmaninov as male dancers arrive on stage one by one in powerful leaps and turns, immediately establishing a Russian spirit. Adam’s “Night” is danced to recorded music by Matthew Pierce, commissioned for its 2000 premiere. Tiny Anastacia Holden is the star, who traverses the night landscape with both fear and longing.

There are no stories in these ballets, except the ones we glimpse through the prism of our own experience. The show is two and a half hours of lyrical dreaming. The men are mostly tall and muscular, the women are petite and supple, and they all move with amazing grace and speed.

You can’t ask more than that of a ballet company.

The Joffrey Ballet presents “Rising Stars” through May 15. Single tickets are $25-$145 and are available at Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph, at the box office at the Auditorium Theater, by phone at 800-982-2782 or at