When Ashley Wheater began thinking about the 2011-2012 season of the Joffrey Ballet, Barack Obama hadn't yet been elected president.
It's been at least four years since Wheater, the artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, began crafting the upcoming season, called New Generation, which opens with the World Premiere of Don Quixote, and includes pieces from some of the dance world's most exciting choreographers, Wheater says.
"I really believe a ballet company needs the influx of great work and great choreography and to do that, you need to know where you'll be in four years," Wheater says.
Wheater says audiences had been asking for the company to do Don Quixote, but what is most exciting about the ballet is it's the first time since Robert Joffrey choreographed The Nutcracker more than 60 years ago that the Joffrey has commissioned a full-length ballet.
Told in two acts with choreography by Yuri Possokhov, the ballet, performed October 12 to 23, really tells a story as opposed to just being dancing, Wheater says.
After holiday classic The Nutcracker runs December 9 to 27, the company will ring in the new year with On the Threshold, a collection of three works by three choreographers Wheater calls "incredibly talented." The program will include the U.S. premiere of Infra, a ballet choreographed in 2008 by Wayne McGregor that features an LED screen along with the dancers. Also featured in the program is In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, choreographed by William Forsythe, who Wheater says got his start at the Joffrey and who Wheater himself worked with when he was dancing with the company in the '80s.
"It's definitely 21st-century dancing," he says. "It's a little far out there, but it's a great appeal for the younger generation to show ballet is not all long tutus."
The program will also feature Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, performed last season, but brought back as an audience favorite.
The season will conclude with the spring show Spring Desire featuring a new, as of press time, unnamed piece by choreographer Val Caniparoli along with Edwaard Liang's Age of Innocence, which uses the music of Philip Glass. Wheater says many organizations in Chicago are celebrating Glass, and the piece is the Joffrey's nod to the composer.
"It would be amazing if he would come conduct it," Wheater says. "It really is in honor of him."
The final piece in the program is In the Night, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, which follows the relationship of three couples.