The Joffrey Ballet will be heating up the stage as it opens its winter engagement this week.
"American Legends," the mixed repertory program by The Joffrey, runs Wednesday through Feb. 24 at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre.
"The influence of America is global," said Ashley C. Wheater, Joffrey Artistic Director. Wheater, a native of the U.K., said he came to the Joffrey in '85 as a dancer and had the wonderful experience of performing the works of dynamic American choreographers.
When it comes to dance and stellar American choreographers, Wheater said those artists were also particularly inspired by vibrant composers and their legendary musical works.
"What I wanted to do with this program is pay tribute to that time" (and the American choreographers and composers), he said.
Prior to performing the winter program in Chicago, the Joffrey was in the middle of an extensive tour and will once again continue with its 22-city tour after the Windy City performances.
Touring and showcasing their eclectic repertoire, Wheater said, is "the mission" of the Joffrey.
On the "American Legends" program, dance fans will see works by Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and Gerald Arpino, the late co-founder of The Joffrey.
From Robbins, the dancers will perform "Interplay," a light-hearted piece dating to 1945 that features the signature style of movement found in Robbins' "West Side Story.".
"Jerome Robbins is the quintessential American choreographer and his work resonates with audiences as it did back in the '50s," Wheater said.
The artistic director said he's thrilled to also be bringing Arpino's classic "Sea Shadow" to audiences this season.
"Gerald Arpino has played such an important role in the Joffrey and this year would have been his 90th birthday," he said.
"Sea Shadow," performed in tribute to Arpino, hasn't been performed in quite a while. "I'm glad we're bringing it back," Wheater said.
The troupe will also present Portland, Ind. native Twyla Tharp's popular "Nine Sinatra Songs," which features signature tunes by Ol' Blue Eyes and costumes by Oscar de la Renta.
"It's a wonderful piece," Wheater said. "Twyla was one of the first choreographers to take pop music and set it to ballet."
In addition, Wheater is honored to present a Chicago premiere by Stanton Welch titled "Son of Chamber Symphony."
"It's a beautifully put together piece of work," Wheater said about Welch's ballet. Welch is the artistic director of the Houston Ballet and his new piece had its world premiere at the Jacob's Pillow Festival last August.
"Stanton's an immensely gifted choreographer," Wheater said, adding his contemporary, engaging and theatrical work is set to the music of John Adams.
"American Legends" by The Joffrey Ballet will be performed Wednesday through Feb. 24 at The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. Tickets are $31 to $152. FYI: Call (800 982-2787 or visit ticketmaster.com