Choreographer Jessica Lang may be young, but she has created works for the most prominent ballet companies across the U.S., including American Ballet Theatre. This weekend, her new work “Crossed” opens alongside a world premiere by James Kudelka, former artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, and a revival of Gerald Arpino’s “Reflections” as part of the Joffrey’s spring program. This is her first commission from the Joffrey Ballet.
Can you tell me about your inspiration for “Crossed”?
Inspiration came from an idea for the set. I was drawing, thinking about what you could do in the theater space. I drew a vertical panel and a horizontal panel, forming the shape of a cross. It’s a very simple pattern; physically I can make that shape over and over again and be inventive with that idea of crossing. For music, I went with music that was written for the church: portions of Mozart’s Mass in C and some of des Prez and Handel’s music.
Is this a usual creative approach for you, moving from set design to movement?
Every beginning of a piece is slightly different; sometimes it’s a musical inspiration that leads to movement and set design… it’s always versed a little differently. But if I use a set I make sure the set participates in the piece and adds meaning to the ballet, that it’s not just a meaningless playground.
How has it been to work with the Joffrey?
I very much enjoyed it. I made the piece back at the end of July, so this has been a nine-month hiatus of making the piece and waiting till now, for the time to put it up.
What is that process like for you? It happens quite frequently when you’re creating works for other companies—to make something, give them the elements, then return later—it seems like an act of trust.
Oh, it totally is. It’s letting the piece go, having patience and knowing that you will do your job when you come back. I knew in July we weren’t pushing the piece to be performance-ready right then; I actually find that more difficult. When I make a piece that has to go into performance mode immediately it’s nice—the intensity is right there, the focus is right there. Everyone is thinking: oh my gosh we’re performing this next week and it’s not done, whereas this is done and now we’re thinking: oh gosh what did we do? The good thing is that the dancers have time to think about it before it goes up.
How does the liturgical music and religious iconography play into the themes of “Crossed”?
I didn’t do anything but react to the music. It’s beautiful music with feelings of joy and celebration, whether you’re religious or not. I’m not tying it to meaning that stems from the church; it’s more about emotions of the everyday. (Sharon Hoyer)
The Joffrey Ballet‘s “Eclectica,” at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, (800)982-2787. April 28, April 30–May 2, and May 7-9. $25-$145.