In retrospect, cultural upheavals look so dramatic. Yet we forget the day-to-day exhaustion that goes into resculpting the status quo.
New York 1967: The Joffrey Ballet does the unthinkable, turning rock music, war and revolt into a new template for ballet. Ballet! It hadn’t been done before, and yet here was founder Robert Joffrey making a work called “Astarte,” with a rock band in the orchestra pit and space-age goddesses grooving in psychedelic unitards. The set design included a light show and films of the dancers going go-go at a club in the East Village.
At the end of the ballet, the rear stage doors opened. Calmly turning his back on the audience, the leading man strolled through them, out of the theater and onto 56th Street.
Talk about breaking down walls. The revolution might not have been televised, but it was choreographed. As the film “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” reminds us, “Astarte” landed the troupe on the cover of Time magazine. It led to more rock collaborations: with Twyla Tharp in 1973 — “Deuce Coupe,” using Beach Boys songs and her modern dancers alongside the Joffrey ballerinas — and, much later, to “Billboards,” the 1993 ballet with music by Prince.