Sir Frederick Ashton takes his time getting to the duet between Titania and Oberon that closes his “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but it’s worth the wait. Much of the ballet, anchoring the Joffrey’s fiftieth season opener, confirms suspicions about the subordination of dance to drama: there’s a lot of broad mugging, and the dancers seem often hobbled by the demands of the story, even as the lack of Shakespeare’s language reveals that plot was never the Bard’s strongest suit. But all these quibbles end up seeming beside the point in the light of Julianne Kepley and Fabrice Calmet’s astonishing pas de deux—Kepley’s apparent weightlessness and Calmet’s lyrical power, for the space of a few minutes, stop time, transforming the Auditorium stage and its fairly hokey backdrop to a genuine outpost of Shakespeare’s enchanted forest. Calvin Kitten’s explosive Puck completes the fairy contingent. The Joffrey’s program contains two other solid pieces, even if each winds up feeling a bit familiar. Jiri Kylian’s “Return to a Strange Land” features more isometrics than a Charles Atlas handbook, with some dazzling moves in particular from Victoria Jaiani. Company director Gerald Arpino choreographed the folk-tinged “Celebration” as a crowd-pleasing finale, and that’s exactly what it is. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.