Movie review: 'Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance'
Ballet has become so culturally irrelevant that people need to be reminded that a century ago it was cutting-edge contemporary art, enlisting the titans of the age in choreography, music and design. Robert Joffrey loved the groundbreaking works of that era and not only revived and reconstructed them for his own company (founded in the late 1950s), but embraced and updated their guiding aesthetic.
His story and that of his partner Gerald Arpino is retold in the 82-minute documentary “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” through the reminiscences of former Joffrey Ballet dancers and associates. There’s a lot of valuable information here, but for all the archival footage on view, dance is rarely allowed to make its effect. It's nearly always shackled to voice-over commentary or dismembered by nervous editing. If “Ballets Russes” and the recent “Pina” made you understand the speakers’ enthusiasm, this film makes you take an awful lot of gush on faith.
Directed by Bob Hercules, the film will have its Los Angeles premiere on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School downtown. A VOD/DVD/digital release is planned for June.
-- Lewis Segal
Photo: Gerald Arpino, left, and Robert Joffrey in the 1960s at the American Ballet Center. Credit: Herbert Migdoll