On the heels of the announcement that Joffrey Ballet co-founder and artistic director Gerald Arpino will step down and become artistic director emeritus and as the culmination of the Joffrey’s fiftieth-anniversary season, Arpino was honored last week by having the box seats of the Auditorium Theatre named after him. The ceremony followed the lighting-of-the-Olympic-Torch dance as portrayed in Arpino’s 1966 “Olympics” as a salute to Chicago getting the American bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The entire program is named after Arpino’s 1981 signature ensemble piece “Light Rain,” which makes up the finale of this program of Joffrey “hits” associated with him. Most lively among these is the 1971 “Valentine,” a male-versus-female boxing ballet that has the luxury of legendary Chicago Symphony principal bassist Joseph Guastafeste serving as referee and providing the spicy Jacob Druckman solo score, complete with Guastafeste’s scat singing. Also memorable is the 1999 “Caught,” which refers to a solo dancer seeming to fly by the careful use of strobe lights, set to an electronic score by Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame. Also, 1995’s “White Window” features a female dancer spinning on a rope against a starry night. But 1985’s “Dance for Yal” has a female dancer actually suspended over the audience while taking flight while 1975’s “Untitled” has six dancers addressing Victorian values in a comic narrative. The program is an eloquent look back at an important half century of work and should be savored as such, but gives us little insight as to where Joffrey might be heading as it heads into its next half century. (Dennis Polkow)
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, (312)902-1500. Fri 7:30pm/Sat 2pm & 7:30pm/Sun 2pm. $25-$130. Through May 6.