I think that Chicago Dancing Festival is wonderful. “It was founded by Lar Lubovitch and Jay Franke in 2007 to heighten awareness of dance in Chicago, to increase accessibility to the art form, and to provide inspiration for local artists. Its mission is to present a wide variety of excellent dance, enriching the lives of the people of Chicago and providing increased accessibility to the art form, thereby helping create a new audience. Its vision is to raise the national and international profile of dance in the city, furthering Chicago as a dance destination.”
If final performance of this year’s season, which I saw at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph Street, exemplified the series, certainly the mission was achieved. The performance was sponsored by Jamie and Rob Taylor. As an audience member, I find the opportunity to experience dance across a wide spectrum at one sitting stimulating and enlightening. In addition, all of the performers I saw on Saturday, August 24th, demonstrated outstanding technical skills. The dances varied from one performer, Samuel Lee Roberts of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, In/Side by Robert Battle to the large troop of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater*, Bolero by Dame Libby Komaiko. With two performers, it also varied from the very classical and beautiful Brooklyn Mack* from the Washington Ballet and Tamako Miyazaki* from Columbia Classical Ballet, pas de deux from Diana and Actaeon by Agrippina Vaganova to Giordano Dance Chicago, Two Become Three by Alexander Ekman (2012 CDF Commission) with Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia performing this charming and humorous work.
A large cast, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater*performed Bolero by Dame Libby Komaiko, ritualistic and predictable as contrasted to another large cast Philadanco*, Wake Up by Rennie Harris, telling a dark and deep story using hip hop as it’s basis, creative and unpredictable.
But let me begin at the beginning with the moderately sized and amazingly skilled, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, In the beginning… by Lane Alexander and Bril Barrett. This group needs no music, as the beat of their feet does it all. The sounds of the taps, the precise movement and the energy they display delivered a performance that was a joy to experience.
The Joffrey Ballet, Interplay by Jerome Robbins followed, and what a contrast in every way. Dating to 1945 this piece in four movements was playful and charming. The music by Morton Gould was upbeat and pleasant. The costumes were colorful and in keeping with the mood. At times I thought I saw bits of “On the Town” peeking through. The Joffrey Ballet performers were perfect technically and this was a wonderful addition to the evening’s program.
On his own, Samuel Lee Roberts of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented In/Side by Robert Battle to music sung by Nina Simone taking command of the entire stage and our attention. This was a deep and moving piece expressed in powerful and precise movement.
Philadanco*, Wake Up by Rennie Harris to contemporary music turned hip-hop inspired movement into a powerful, deep story. This group (from Philadelphia) sustained energetic movement amazingly. The powerful presentation of this story held the attention of the audience for an extended time, and was greeted with a standing ovation.
Following was Giordano Dance Chicago, Two Become Three by Alexander Ekman (2012 CDF Commission) to music by Fredrick Chopin was performed by Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia with voiceover by Alexander Ekman. The voiceover embellished the story told by the dancers. It was an approach I had not seen before. The piece was beautifully performed, charming, and humorous until the end. I loved it.
Since classical ballet is the foundation for so many kinds of dance that followed, it was wonderful to have Brooklyn Mack* from the Washington Ballet and Tamako Miyazaki* from Columbia Classical Ballet in the pas de deux from Diana and Actaeon by Agrippina Vaganova (1935). This was breathtaking in its beauty and power. Though I have seen this performed previously, I thought this ranked with the best. It was simply wonderful and my compaion and I felt fortunate to have seen it.
Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater*, Bolero by Dame Libby Komaiko (1993) to music by Maurice Ravel was the perfect end to a wonderful evening. This company has been in residency at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago since 1976. I have heard of this company but have never before seen them perform. Having visited the Flamenco Museum in Seville, Spain several years ago, I was especially captivated by the hand movements. The costumes were beautiful. This is also a classic form of dance. The beat of the men’s boots was reminiscent of the beat of the Human Rhythm Project and brought the evening full circle to the enjoyment of all. Watch for the return of Chicago Dancing Festival at the end of August, 2014.
Photos: Cheryl Mann unless otherwise indicated.