Joffery Ballet performs ‘Jane Eyre’


Christine Rocas_Greig Matthews_Amanda Assucena and ensemble_Photo by Cheryl Mann

Ana Peres Bogo, Writer

The Joffrey Ballet opened its performance season with “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brönte. The show closed Oct. 27 but is the first of four ballets in the 2019/2020 season for the company. 

As always, the overall experience of the Joffrey Ballet succeeded in making the imagery fly off the pages and into the audiences’ memories with masterful and evocative movements. The costumes and scenery contributed to a dream-like environment that invited the audience to suspend their disbelief and fall into this beloved story. The written word and physical movement being so different, it was surprising  how easy one could comprehend such a complex story through this blending of the two genres. 

For those unfamiliar with Brönte’s work, Jane Eyre is a story about a woman named Jane, a woman who has been physically and mentally abused throughout her life. Her luck changes when she arrives at this amazing house to become a French teacher to a little girl. Her employer is Mr. Rochester, whom she falls in love with. Later she learns that Mr. Rochester is in love with her as well, and that’s when their affair begins. Their journey is far from easy, especially when figures of the past returns to try and end their relationship. 

The dancers were incredible. Jane (Victoria Jaiani) and Edward (Fabrice Calmels) had an unbelievable chemistry that was tangible throughout the whole audience. Every touch made the audience hold their breaths, for they could feel the suffering that the two lovers were going through. All the dances communicated the words of longing and conflict Charlotte Brönte wrote so many years ago.  

The venue, The Auditorium Theatre, was magnificent itself. It helped the audience get into the mindset of the story before the ballet even began. The production side of the performance was extraordinary. The costumes had both a historic feeling to them, and also enhanced the dancers’ every move. The scenery really helped tell the story, especially through the many different panels that were used in the performance. A few of them were opaque, they separated the stage into scenes, such as a door or the forest landscapes, used to give the stage more depth. At the beginning of the performance Jane tells her story to the people that rescued her from the forest she was found. Before she starts to tell her tale, Jane  goes to the end of the stage, behind a sheer panel, to demonstrate the time difference between to her now and the story. That way the audience can still see her, but understands that the focus of the narrative it is what is happening in front of the panel. 

The highlights of the night were the personification of Jane’s demons and Rochester’s wife’s appearances. To help the audience understand how the main character was feeling, there were moments where these ‘demons’, all dressed in white, appeared and danced with her. With the dark music involving them, it was a smart decision that really helped the audience comprehend how much she was actually suffering, because you could visually see her feelings through her movements, she tried to run away from the ‘demons’ but they would always catch her and literally throw her back to where she was initially. 

Every time Rochester’s wife, Bertha Mason, appeared it was amazing. The dancer, Yuka Iwai, who portrayed her did an amazing job in translating the character’s madness with her sharp and erratic movements. The songs that she danced to all had heavy drums that enhanced her movements with deep beats that resonated through the audience with each step and twirl. The settings, especially the ones involving the fires, were breathtakingly primal. 

From the choices of clothing and music, to the actual dance moves, everything helped translate the vital story  emotions and elements of the book from page to stage. The audience felt every single emotion that the dancers were trying to evoke. A beautiful adaptation of a story about hardship and an unconventional love story that, to this day, leave everyone who encounters it bewitched. 

Joffrey offers student rush tickets for all of its performances for $20. Student rush tickets come with some stipulations but can be worth the wait if you are willing. To purchase student rush tickets buy online starting two hours before any performance using code JRUSH. Students must present a valid student ID at the box office to pick up purchased tickets. The next performance is “The Nutcracker” which opens Nov. 30 and runs through Dec. 29.