Chicago arts organizations have been returning to the stage, and the Joffrey Ballet is ready for its 2021 debut. We look at Joffrey’s first in person production since the pandemic, set to hit the stage at its new home away from home, Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Joffrey returns in “Home: A Celebration,” as it welcomes back company dancers and instructors, it’s also welcoming choreographers, including Chanel DaSilva. As one of Joffrey’s 2020 Winning Works choreographers, the New York based artist is back with a dance interpretation and reimagining of the old Negro Spiritual, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” accompanied by Zoe Keating.
“I thought, what if I make a piece based around ‘Swing Low,’ this chariot comes down and interacts with you and sweeps you back up into the great beyond?” Chanel DaSilva says.
DaSilva reimagined that chariot as angels, instead.
“The idea of the wings brought about angels and what does that even mean? Do they exist on earth or interact with humans? I tried to highlight the majesty of angels and the complexities of what it means to be human.”
DaSilva describes the angels as messengers, guiding people through the human experience. Or in this case, dancer Fernando Duarte.
“There’s angels that come across and I don’t see or feel them, but they’re pushing me in the right direction,” Company dancer Fernando Duarte says. “On the first day she asked us, ‘‘What does it mean to you to have a guardian angel? I told her you’re my guardian angel ... you brought me back to dance.”
But DaSilva doesn’t expect everyone to receive her work in the same way.
“For me when I make work, I don’t tell my audience exactly how to feel. Just asking questions via my art. When you watch, there are several interpretations. My job as a choreographer is to investigate,” DaSilva continues.
As for “Home: A Celebration” as a whole, Joffrey’s Artistic Director Ashely Wheater says there is one moment he is looking most forward to when the dancers’ return to the stage.
“For every piece to feel the power of the orchestra and the power of the public,” Ashley Wheater says, “That we’re all together, sharing this space in the spirit of dance is really, from the heart.”
Home: A Celebration opened tonight and runs through Oct. 24.
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Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.