Ballet Has Come a Long Way

When Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino founded the Joffrey Ballet in 1956, Arpino led the nascent ensemble of six dancers around the country in a station wagon pulling a U-Haul trailer while Joffrey remained in New York, teaching dance classes to pay his company members' salaries. From these humble beginnings, the Joffrey has grown to become one of the most formidable dance groups in the world. The Chicago-based company is responsible for launching the careers of Charlize Theron and Patrick Swayze. It was the subject of Robert Altman's penultimate feature film, The Company (2003) and appeared in the 2001 Julia Stiles/Sean Patrick Thomas movie Save the Last Dance. Possessing ties to Hollywood is, of course, no indication of artistic merit. Yet the 50-some dancers of today's Joffrey Ballet continue to knock both stage and screen audiences sideways with their flawless technique and dynamic approach to the classical and contemporary repertoire. In Berkeley, the company performs an eclectic mix of work dating back to its beginnings. The program includes iconic American choreographer Twyla Tharp's Deuce Coupe -- (teen culture-inspired ballet set to music by the Beach Boys), the "Sometimes It Snows in April" segment from Billboards (the first "rock ballet" in American history) set to the classic song by Prince and choreographed by Laura Dean, and one of the company's founding works, Joffrey's own Pas des Déesses.
Oct. 4-6, 8 p.m., 2007

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