The Joffrey Ballet recently announced the world premiere of Boléro, its first performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Named after the acclaimed orchestral piece by composer Maurice Ravel and choreographed by Joffrey Company Artist Yoshihisa Arai, the performance will be streamed in one free performance on February 12, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. on the Joffrey’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/TheJoffreyBallet.
Boléro will be performed by 15 members of the company filmed at the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theatre at Joffrey Tower. This marks the first performance since The Joffrey’s winter program, The Times Are Racing, which opened at the Auditorium Theatre exactly one year prior on February 12, 2020.
Boléro is a 16-minute work, originally intended to be performed by Studio Company members of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, at the Joffrey’s Center Stage event in 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Joffrey to change direction, Ashley Wheater MBE, The Mary B. Galvin Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, approached Arai with an opportunity to create a new work for the main company. With the music established, Arai began working out the details for a more robust piece with a larger cast. “Through Boléro, Yoshihisa beautifully emulates a feeling of reconnecting with our humanity in a world where we can’t touch or hold each other right now,” said Wheater. “The process has been cathartic for everyone involved, and while we yearn for the stage, this thoughtfully filmed performance will allow viewers, near and far, to experience the Joffrey in an intimate way that they haven’t before.”
Boléro features eight men and seven women, with Company Artist Anais Bueno as the featured performer. Arai envisions Bueno’s role as a type of muse, evoking an abstract but humanistic quality to the overall feeling of the piece, leading her “disciples” through a serene world of light and shadows.
The primary inspiration for Boléro is the Spanish-flavored, orchestral work of the same name by Maurice Ravel. Recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, the famous one-movement score is known for beginning softly and ending, according to the composer’s instructions, as loudly as possible. “To me, the most fascinating quality of the music is that the rhythm remains the same throughout the piece and yet, as the instruments change from snare drum to flute, trombone to woodwinds, and so on, an array of emotions are unleashed,” said Arai. “This inspires me most of all.”
Boléro is part of the company’s recently announced Joffrey Studio Series, a comprehensive roster of free, virtual programming — from livestream performances and rehearsals to pre-recorded conversations — curated by Joffrey artists during the COVID-19 era.
Visit Joffrey.org/studioseries to learn more.