River North Dance Company Silver Anniversary Performance Review – Came a Long Way, Going Further


From his wheelchair 22-year veteran and Artistic Director of River North Dance Company Frank Chavez introduced his first work ever conceived while he was chairbound, “In the End”, a choreographed discourse on platonic relationships among men.  



This was the standout middle act in a three-performance silver anniversary gala night for the company and debut of a work that quickly made its entrée to the pantheon of memorable world class choreography.


Here is a video clip of the dance ---


BROADCASTCLIPSINTHEEND2 from Thomas Clayton on Vimeo.


The six dancers – Levizadik Buckins, Drew Fountain, Hank Hunter, Ethan R. Kirschbaum, John Litzler, and Ahmad Simmons – first come to us as a sinewy chain that seemed to say “male bonding” as the line strained and at times seemed to let individual dancers erupt above and then return to the safety of the muscled entourage.




There were five movements to this piece, three duets and two all ensemble, where the mood of each was expertly emphasized by sensitive Lighting Design by Joshua Paul Weckesser



After the four preliminary movements, the finale where we see the men literally jerked and tossed about at odds with one another and themselves in costumes of the workplace was particularly memorable and striking. 



Without words, Chavez’ choreography makes the case for all that is lost when natural male bonds are broken.




Another premiere (U.S.) of the evening was “Flesh”, by choreographer Iván Pérez, intertwining dance with readings of a poem on life, love and loss called “The Knife” by Keith Douglas



Choreographer Pérez comments that he was 24 when he lost his parents, the same age that poet Douglas was when he wrote this poem during WW2.


Here is a video clip of “Flesh”—


BROADCASTCLIPSFLESH2 from Thomas Clayton on Vimeo.


The fluidity of the dancers ,who were often paired rolling across and around each other on the floor, coupled with the poem and music by Eric Whitacre and Arvo Pärt, combined to portray a visceral sense of loss.  Dressed in earth tones (Costume Design:  Carlijn Petermeijer) it was easy to also imagine the dancers as dying leaves twirling together as they hit ground on a cold autumnal moving to winter day. 



The dancers (I- Jessica Wolfrum and Ahmad Simmons; II – Hanna Brictson, Hank Hunter, Thean R. Kirschbaum, Olivia Rehrman; III – Hayley Meier and John Litzler; IV – Hanna Brictson, Hank Hunter, Ethan R. Kirschbaum, John Litzler, Hayley Meier, Olivia Rehrman, Ahmad Simmons and Jessica Wolfrum) were flawless, and seemed to dance without effort.  This left the emotional power of the work’s statement about grief as the main moving takeaway.



As if to say, “You’ve come a long way baby!”, the evening finale,”Reality of a Dreamer”,  was a jazz dance work that helped put River North Dance Company on the map 25 years ago.  The choreography was by group founder Sherry Zunker set to the disco feel music of Douglas Johnson and the Eurythmics.  This was a welcome reminder of how River North Dance Company came to make such a quick impact on the Chicago dance scene when it was founded a quarter of a century ago. 


You can see these works and other performed by River North Dance Company tonight and tomorrow (October 10 and 11) at the Harris Theater (205 East Randolph, Chicago).


For tickets visit the River North Dance Company website or call 312 334 7777.




Photos:  Cheryl Mann







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