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The Joffrey Ballet
Rehearsing "Crossing Ashland."
Herbert Migdoll

It’s come to this: We absolutely dread crossing the street--any street--in Chicago right now. (Teeter over snow mountain. Slosh through sludge lake. Slip on manhole cover. Repeat.)

But the experience takes on all new meaning in Crossing Ashland, a beautiful ballet by a local, up-and-coming choreographer named Brock Clawson. The work is inspired by one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, and it’s part of The Joffrey’s contemporary winter program at the Auditorium Theatre. (Performances run today through February 23.)

Clawson lives on the North Side and says he walks across Ashland Avenue almost daily, and his 23-minute ballet explores what he perceives to be the guarded way people go through their lives. In Crossing Ashland, some dancers interact and embrace while others seem to go through the motions in a perfectly executed but detached way.

The two other ballets you’ll see are Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum, a geometric piece set to modernist piano music, and Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31, an explosive work that ends on a contemplative note with the reading of a Christina Rossetti poem.

It’s all (thankfully) a long way from a fussy production of Sleeping Beauty, but there’s enough passion in this program to make it a perfect Valentine’s Day date.

Tickets $31 to $152; Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; 800-982-2797 or

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