A scene from ‘The Green Table’ featuring Fabrice Calmels and Anastacia Holden
Fabrice Calmels and Anastacia Holden in The Green Table

A few years ago, in the depths of the recession, a friend of mine told me earnestly that she would be focusing most of the money she spends on live entertainment on dance performances. Because, she explained, “You get to hear the symphony, and you get dancers to look at. Twice the bang for your buck.”

No matter what you think of that calculus, it’s worth noting that had she attended Wednesday night’s season opening at the Joffrey—a three-act ballet called Human Landscapes, running through October 28—she would have added one more thing: You get a chance to see some exquisite examples of the costumer’s art. They include drapey Martha Graham-esque gowns in the first of the three ballets on the program, Forgotten Land (choreographed by Jiří Kylián; music by Benjamin Britten; costumes by John F. MacFarlane) and an explosion of tulle juxtaposed with scarlet toe shoes in James Kudelka’s Pretty Ballet (costumes by Denis Lavoie). The 10-year-old girl sitting behind me was loving it.

Some might still quibble with the Joffrey’s conservative programming—which includes German choreographer Kurt Jooss’s masterpiece, The Green Table. It opens with a group of well-dressed diplomats whose decisions cause horrific consequences. From movement to costuming, this is one literal dance. (Its subtitle is “A Dance of Death in Eight Scenes.”) But hey, it was created in 1932. And unfortunately, its themes are still all too relevant today.


Photograph: Herbert Migdoll