Joffrey, Cal Performances launch partnership with community events, new works

Cheryl Mann/Courtesy

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This month, Cal Performances welcomes the Joffrey Ballet to kick off the company’s five-year collaboration with UC Berkeley. The widely acclaimed Chicago-based dance company will host a series of public events in addition to their performances throughout their three extended week-long residencies on campus over the next five years.

The collaboration is a testament to Cal Performances’ commitment to community engagement and arts education. In 2015, Cal Performances launched “Berkeley RADICAL (Research And Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts and Learning)” which aims “to cultivate the artistic literacy of future audiences and to connect the world’s most innovative artists with the intellectual capital of the UC Berkeley campus,” according to their mission statement.

Joffrey’s upcoming residency is one such effort to bridge the gap between audiences and the works they encounter. Unlike a traditional performance, a residency involves an ongoing partnership between the two organizations, which includes a range of community-based events. Rather than presenting only finished, polished pieces, Joffrey and Cal Performances invite audiences to engage with the choreographic process and approach Joffrey Ballet’s work with a creative eye.

In the press release for the event, Cal Performances associate director Rob Bailis emphasized the unique connection that happens when audiences witness the “human inquiry of the artist during the process of creation.”

As part of the collaboration, choreographers will work on-site to create new commissioned works created for and sponsored by Cal Performances and the Joffrey Ballet audiences are welcome to come and witness the process of creative development. This gives viewers multiple insights into the art through exposure to the exploratory phase of choreography.

On Monday, Nov. 13 and Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m., the public can go see choreographer Nicolas Blanc in action as he works on a new piece with Joffrey dancers. Blanc has made waves recently for his ability to coax delicate emotional nuances out of lyrical balletic movements. Both events take place at Odd Fellows Lodge Hall at 2288 Fulton St. and are free and open to the public, but require advance registration.


Cheryl Mann/Courtesy

Blanc will also present his piece “Encounter” for the first time on the West Coast as part of Joffrey’s performances at Zellerbach Hall. “Encounter” is set to music from John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto, and explores the conflicting aspects of a relationship between two individuals alongside the diverse textures in Adams’s music.

In addition to open rehearsals, this season’s program features community dance classes. On Friday, Nov. 17 at Hearst Gymnasium room 230, Joffrey artists will teach a ballet class for dancers with some ballet background. On Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. in Bancroft Studio, artists will teach a community dance class to dancers of all levels that will include choreography from the current program.

These classes will provide further opportunities for the public to engage with Joffrey’s artistic process on a truly intimate and embodied level.

For a broader perspective on the Cal Performances and Joffrey collaboration, there will be a public forum Saturday Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. in Zellerbach. There, Joffrey’s Artistic Director Ashley Wheater, Choreographer Nicolas Blanc and Cal Performances Associate Director Rob Bailis will discuss the impetus behind their collaboration, and what it means to open up an artistic process to an audience before a work ever hits the stage. They will also discuss the completed choreography performed on stage.

Joffrey’s performances at Zellerbach — which will take place on Friday, Nov. 17 and Saturday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. — will include two West Coast Premieres and other recent works by critically acclaimed choreographers Justin Peck, Nicolas Blanc, Alexander Ekman and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

In Justin Peck’s “In Creases,” he crafts precise geometric shapes in ever-shifting formations to a live performance of Phillip Glass’s “Four Movements for Two Pianos.” The New York Times described the piece, which New York City Ballet premiered in 2012, as “a dreamscape that heightens the progress and colors of its score.”

“Joy,” choreographed by Alexander Ekman, is a co-commission between Joffrey Ballet and Cal Performances. The piece premiered in Chicago in April of this year. Ekman said of the choreography that “it expresses the pure joy of creating in the moment.”

Finally, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Mammatus” will close out the performances with a dynamic, creaturely world based on abstractions of the natural world.

For more information about the upcoming rehearsals, classes, talks, and performances, see the Cal Performances website.

Contact Katie O’Connor at [email protected].