The Joffrey Ballet is coming home, if only for a few days. Last night, the Joyce Theatre Foundation hosted a special gala celebrating the acclaimed dance institution’s comeback to New York and its premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet, which began on March 29 and runs through April 2.
Held at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre, the occasion honored artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet Ashley Wheater as well as arts patron and fashion designer Pamella Roland DeVos. Cocktails started promptly at 6pm, where guests mingled before heading to view three performances: Yuri Possokhov’s Bells, Myles Thatcher’s Body of Your Dreams and Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool's Paradise.
Founded in New York by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey Ballet has spent over four decades sharing stages with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Twenty-one years ago, they made the move to Chicago, where they currently reign as the main dance company. “The Joffrey is in a fantastic place today in every way—artistically, financially and structurally,” says Wheater, who held principal dancer roles before assuming his current post ten years ago. “I hope this is the beginning of what will become a more frequent acquaintance.”
Based on the iconic Shakespeare play, Pastor's Romeo and Juliet is set in a 20th century Italian society and accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic. On the performance, Wheater says, “It uses the language of classic ballet, but is a more contemporary rendition in its breadth. To reach a young generation and to relate to them was really important. We all love to look at love, but I think to look at it in the context of how we live and the struggles we have surrounding us, is something we can all understand.”
DeVos agrees. “It’s a classic story and everyone loves it. I can’t even describe the level of emotion in it,” she says.
Following the evening’s programs was a sit-down dinner at the venue’s promenade. Looking back at how far the Joffrey has come, executive director of the Joyce Theater Foundation Linda Shelton says, “Since they moved, Chicago has really embraced them and it’s beautiful to see how they have resurrected. What a gift to see them back in New York.”
The Joffrey Ballet's Romeo and Juliet will be shown through April 2 at the David H. Koch Theatre, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza.