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Joffrey Ballet revives Kurt Jooss ‘The Green Table’ for 80th Anniversary

September 16, 2012

Rehearsal of The Green Table, 1964 (?), v.l.n.r.: Jean Cébron, Kurt Jooss, Pina Bausch & Erika Fabry (© Gert J van Leeuwen)

By Philip Potempa

The Joffrey Ballet’s 2012-2013 Season launches this fall with a mixed repertory program titled “Human Landscapes,” featuring three choreographers exploring principles of the human spirit through dance.

The Joffrey brings James Kudelka’s critically acclaimed “Pretty BALLET” back to the stage along with Jiří Kylián’s rarely seen work “Forgotten Land,” with the highlight of the season surrounding a performance run of the ground-breaking anti-war ballet “The Green Table,” choreographed by Kurt Jooss in the aftermath of World War I.

The “Human Landscapes” program is presented in 10 performances only at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Oct. 17-28.

The dance ends with a repeat of the opening scene, a device the choreographer uses to show his mistrust in the talks of the diplomats; completely indifferent to the ravages of war, they continue their hypocritical negotiations.”

“The artists whose work we present this season hold a special place in Joffrey history,” said Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director.

“Not only is ‘The Green Table’ recognized as one of the most important works of German Expressionism, it was the first ballet Robert Joffrey saw as an audience member when he was 11-years-old. The impact of that experience prompted him to restage the ballet with the Joffrey in 1967. In the 1980’s, Robert Joffrey was a champion of the choreography of Kylián and Kudelka, artists who were not well known to American audiences. Their works have been part of our repertoire ever since.”

Kudelka’s “Pretty BALLET” is returning to their stage after the Joffrey presented its World Premiere in 2010.

The Green Table: Photo by Herbert Migdoll, Photographer. Choreography by Hurt Jooss Photo from 1967 or later. NYPL Digital Gallery

Set to Bohuslav Martinů’s Symphony No. 2, Kudelka’s four-movement work uses demanding movement phrases full of quick, sharp changes of direction, along with intricate spatial patterns and a haunting adagio pas de deux with a ballerina in blood-red pointe shoes, all to explore the subject of ballet itself as a balance between romantic ideals and industrious principles.

As for Jiri Kylián’s 1981 work “Forgotten Land,” is has not be performed by the Joffrey since its company premiere in 1985.

With music by Benjamin Britten (2013 will be the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth) and inspired by a painting of women on a beach by Edvard Munch, this dance uses a motif of pulsing, circular movements reminiscent of waves to invoke treasured memories of lost homelands, lost lovers and lost time.

The Green Table: Photo by Herbert Migdoll, Photographer. Choreography by Kurt JoossPhoto from 1967 or later. NYPL Digital Gallery

The fall program close with Jooss’ “The Green Table,” is already building audience anticipation, defined as “an international dance classic and a pure example of Jooss’ individual style and German Expressionism.

Originally choreographed in 1932, the Joffrey talents have already said how proud they are to present this work in honor of its 80th Anniversary.

The Joffrey Ballet was the first American company to dance “The Green Table” as a company premiere in 1967. Subtitled “A Dance of Death in Eight Scenes” and set to music by Frederick A. Cohen, “The Green Table” is a commentary on the futility of war and the horrors it causes.

The Character of Death in The Green Table: Photo by Roger Wood, Photographer. Choreography by Kurt Jooss. Photo from 1945. NYPL Digital Gallery

It opens with a group of diplomats (the “Gentlemen in Black”) having a discussion around a rectangular table covered with a green cloth. They end up pulling guns from their pockets and shooting in the air, thus symbolizing the declaration of war. The next six scenes portray different aspects of wartime: the separation from loved ones in The Farewells, war itself in The Battle and The Partisan, loneliness and misery in The Refugees, the emotional void and forced entertainment in The Brothel, and, finally, the psychologically beaten and wounded survivors in The Aftermath.

The ballet then ends as it began, with the “Gentlemen in Black” around the green table. Throughout these episodes the figure of “Death” is triumphant, portrayed as a skeleton moving in a forceful and robotic way, relentlessly claiming its victims.

Single tickets for “Human Landscapes” range from $31 to $152 and are available for purchase at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., as well as the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, all Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, by telephone at (800) 982-2787, or online at

The Green Table: Photo by Herbert Migdoll, Photographer. Choreography by Kurt Jooss. Photo from 1967 or later. NYPL Digital Gallery

The complete performance schedule for “Human Landscapes” is as follows: 7:30 p.m. performances on Wednesday, Oct. 17 and Friday, Oct. 19 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 and then again, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 and Friday, Oct. 26 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28.

For more information about The Joffrey Ballet and its programs visit


From → Ballet, Dance History

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