“Dancing at the Harris” Review – Chicago Talent Especially Shines

"Allegro Brillante" danced by Miami City Ballet


Since 2006 the free-to-attend Chicago Dancing Festival has gone a long way to make potential audiences aware of dance treats in the coming season.  This year’s Thursday evening performance at the ever so dance friendly Harris Theater at Millennium Park kept to this tradition, giving audiences lovely teasers of what the upcoming dance season has in store. 


"Allegro Brillante" danced by Miami City Ballet


Tchaikovsky and Balanchine got a fair share of the attention, starting with Miami City Ballet’s performance of “Allegro Brillante”.  This was especially a chance for lead ballerina Patricia Delgado to shine in choreography that was at once classical and also evoking a free feel that would come to be the hallmark of so many Balanchine works in years to follow this 1956 oeuvre.  When the men started pairing in leaps across the stage in what was to become a Balanchine imprimatur of sorts it felt like old home week.


"In the Meantime"


“In the Meantime” was a delightful collaboration by choreographers Lane Alexander of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Mark Howard of Trinity Irish Dance Company, and Claudia Pizarro, who also performed with Ensemble Español.  This was almost a primer on the universality of rhythm in global cultures, evoking smiles and appreciation of this global city’s hometown talents by the hometown crowd.


American Ballet Theater Soloists. Photo courtesy of Chicago Dancing Festival


Like Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theater is also slated to perform this year on Chicago’s stages and they sent two dancers to perform the “Grand pas de deux of The Sleeping Beauty”, again set to the score by Tchaikovsky.


"I am Mister B" by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Photo by Todd Rosenberg


Especially in the opening scenes set to more Tchaikovsky music, Hubbard Street Dance Company’s “I am Mister B” created what felt like a film montage of George Balanchine at work in the dance studio, correcting young dancers at the bar and cajoling his corps of dancers to make his choreography come to life.  All the dancers---men and women- dressed and danced as “Mister B” with a wide range of movements that seemed a fitting tribute to his creative legacy.


It was difficult not to feel a swell of local pride seeing this Hubbard Street Dance Company piece. 


"Maninyas" by the Joffrey Ballet


When The Joffrey Ballet unleashed “Maninyas” in the finale it was far more than hometown advantage that caused the enthusiastic audience to jump to its feet in applause.  This was extraordinary choreography by Australian Stanton Welch that seemed to take every inch of stage space into careful consideration as it filled every fraction of a second.  At once the womens’ costumes were draped, swished and put aside and then back again to help convey the dance’s theme of the unlayering that happens in intimacy.   Sometimes with a head bobble and often with fingers splayed just so, the movements always spoke to something exotic in the air.  No opportunity for creative flair was missed.  These were new movement sequences that engaged and make you perk up to take in this seemingly new species of dance. Diaphanous curtains created veils from which dancers emerged, or in one humorous moment, two male dancers give a woman dancer a quick swish under the curtain prior to almost prancing center stage with joy. 


There was so much to “Maninyas” that one is left feeling that you could watch it again and again and see something new each time.  Hopefully this piece will be part of at least one of the Joffrey’s full-length performances on Chicago stages this coming year.


Save the Date:  the 2016 Chicago Dancing Festival 10th Anniversary Season returns the Week of August 22, 2016.  Keep your eye on Chicago-Splash.com for calendar announcements and other previews.




Photos:  Cheryl Mann, unless otherwise indicated

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