The Joffrey Ballet Presents its First Performance Since Pandemic Began

The Joffrey Ballet was thrilled to recently announce the world premiere of Boléronamed after the acclaimed orchestral piece by composer Maurice Ravel and choreographed by Joffrey Company Artist Yoshihisa Arai.  Boléro is scheduled for February 12, 2021 at 7pm and is to be performed by 15 members of the Company, will be filmed at the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theatre at Joffrey Tower, and streamed for free via the Joffrey’s YouTube channel. This marks the first performance since The Joffrey’s winter program, The Times Are Racingwhich 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 Joffrey’s Gerald Arpino Black Box Theatre, equipped with professional-grade stage lighting, provides a dramatic backdrop that emulates the proscenium setting of a live, in-person performance.

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.”

Veteran Company Artist Temur Suluashvili designed the costumes for Boléro, focusing on a minimal and classic Japanese dance look with the men in Kabuki pants and women in floating skirts over nude leotards, with large black pearls adorning their necks. The costumes include face masks, adding to the theatrical look.

“The abilities of The Joffrey dancers go well beyond dance,” said Wheater. “Temur is an incredible photographer and costumer, and during this unprecedented time, so many of our dancers have been able to hone their creative abilities in other disciplines, launch projects and even companies, making them more holistic artists overall.”

We are excited to be able to enjoy this piece and share with our BFW community the ongoing efforts of the ballet world to continue dancing despite the obstacles faced this past year. Stay alert to ballet news in our dance section on