Jane Eyre preview- Joffrey Ballet opens its 2019-2020 season with a Chicago premiere

Joffrey artists Dylan Gutierrez, Anais Bueno, Greig Matthews and Amanda Assucena in Cathy Marston's "Jane Eyre"; photo by Chery Mann

The Joffrey Ballet opens its 2019-2020 season with the Chicago premiere of Cathy Marston’s enthralling adaptation of the classic novel, Jane Eyrepresented at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago in 10 performances only, October 16-27, 2019. This season will be the Joffrey’s final at the Auditorium Theatre; the company  will move to the Lyric Opera House, 22 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Chicago, with the start of the 2020-2021 season. 

Jane Eyre features live music performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.

Joffrey artists Amanda Assucena and Grieg Matthews rehearsing “Jane Eyre”; photo by Cheryl Mann

Presented in partnership with American Ballet Theatre and set to music by Philip Feeney, Marston’s celebrated adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel combines theater and dance to tell the coming-of-age story of one of literature’s most iconic characters.

This production of Jane Eyre challenges the idea of a classic ballet heroine. After a difficult upbringing, Jane becomes the governess for the mysterious Mr. Rochester, and struggles with society’s expectations of class differences. With stirring choreography and a captivating Victorian design, this avant-garde ballet demonstrates the power of love to conquer any obstacle.

“Cathy is breaking glass ceilings in the ballet world, and with Jane Eyre she creates an unconventional heroine whose trials and passions are beautifully articulated through choreography,” said Ashley Wheater, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of the Joffrey. “We are thrilled to bring her adaptation of Jane Eyre to Chicago for the first time following its successful North American debut with American Ballet Theatre this past June.”

Joffrey Ballet Master Suzanne Lopez; photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet

 Suzanne Lopez, Ballet Master at The Joffrey Ballet provided us with some fascinating insights about the process involved in translating choreography into finished presentation.

“The role of a Ballet Master is to record all of the information given from the choreographer and repetiteurs (people who teach the choreography to the dancers) for every dancer in the ballet. At this point in the process, we are mostly taking notes, but as we get closer to the performances, we coach the dancers on the steps and their characters, teach and rehearse other casts, and clean the movement,” stated Lopez.

Describing how the dancers prepare for their roles, Lopez said, “I think each dancer prepares in his/her own way. I know many read the text, just as an actor might if they were going to make a movie. For this particular production, reading the book would be incredibly helpful, because all of the movement comes directly from Bronte’s words. Every movement has a meaning, and it’s important to know the intent behind their movements. The characters are more important than the steps they’re dancing, so we discuss their characters quite a bit in rehearsal.”

Lopez went on, “I think our dancers really enjoy developing characters on stage, and this story has many colorful characters. There are no small parts in this ballet, which works well with our ‘all star, no star’ approach. We do not have ranking, such as principals, soloists, corps, etc., as other companies have. Each dancer was selected for their role based on their dancing and Cathy Marston’s sense of the character. Our dancers really make the most of their time on stage and are very open to working with choreographers to portray the characters correctly. Also, since our Fall season consists entirely of Jane Eyre, the dancers are able to really focus and commit their time and energy to the production”, she noted.

Commenting on the special nature of Marston’s production, Lopez explained, “I think the process for staging this ballet has been very different for all of us. Typically, we learn the steps, the counts and the music all at the same time.  Cathy’s approach is intent first and foremost, with the idea that all the rest will fall into place. We’ve had many rehearsals when we didn’t even listen to the music, because there’s so much information that needs to come first.  It’s a lot to process for the dancers, but there’s also a lot of freedom within the movement that I imagine to be very gratifying for them.” 

Suzanne Lopez joined The Joffrey Ballet in 1991, after a year with the Joffrey II Dancers and she retired in 2010, having enjoyed a long and outstanding career with the Company.  She danced many principal and title roles and was also featured in the film The Company, directed by Robert Altman. 

Joffrey artists Fabrice Calmels and Victoria Jaiani in Cathy Marston’s “Jane Eyre”; photo by Cheryl Mann

Tickets and Schedule:

The Joffrey Ballet performs Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre Wednesday, October 16 through Sunday, October 27, 2019. The full performance schedule is as follows: Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Oct. 19 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; Sunday, Oct. 20 at 2 pm; Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 pm; Friday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, October 27 at 2 pm.

Single tickets, priced from $35 to $199, are available for purchase beginning August 1, 2019 at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street, as well as the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, by telephone at 312.386.8905, or online at joffrey.org.

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