Entertainment

Joffrey: Mavericks Of American Dance

by Lewis Whittington
Contributor
Wednesday Jun 13, 2012
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In the 50s, New York was the nexus of dance, but Robert Joffrey and his lover Gerald Arpino took their brand of ballet and modern dance on the road and created a uniquely American company. Director Bob Hercules tracks their singular creative ascent in his engaging, if pedestrian, documentary "JOFFREY | Mavericks of American Dance." The film scratches the surface of the couple’s personal life and focuses on their struggles of keeping the Joffrey together. .

Joffrey was so successful they performed at the Kennedy White House, and then embarked on a tour of the Mideast. They even danced their own repertoire in the Soviet Union to cheering Muscovites. The company was on the brink of financial collapse at several points. By the 60s, Joffrey and Arpino, now choreographer for the company, had to start over many times. Even though they ceased being lovers, they continued to run the company and live together.

They continued to chart new territory- At the height of the Vietnam War, Joffrey presented Kurt Jooss’ blistering antiwar masterpiece "The Green Table." They also made "Astarte" a multi-media sexually explicit, psychedelic rock ballet. Later, they gambled everything on a reconstruction of Nijinsky’s seminal modern work "Le Sacre du Printemps."

Mitchell tells the story with great dance clips and interviews mostly from former members of the company. This doesn’t have the investigative power of Hercules profile of Bill T. Jones that ran on PBS last year, but what makes this a must-have is the rehearsal film of Green Table with the company’s legendary cast and one volcanic performance by danseur Max Zomosa.

docudramafilms DVD
bonus shorts
b&w historical feature of The Green Table Ballet

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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