River North Dance Chicago Review – Masterpiece Chaves Choreography Bookends


For many, the main attraction of the River North Dance Chicago performance may have been the two world premieres at its center---


“Beast”, a work about woman power choreographed by River North’s own Hanna Brictson--



as well as an interesting lamentation on climate change, “the frost that binds”, choreographed by Adam Barruch, that had especially interesting ensemble moments as the dancers form and reform huddles that one can imagine as humanity clinging to a shrinking habitable planet. 



Also, this performance included a re-mount of “Flesh”, choreographed by Iván Pérez, a work about memory and mortality with many high points, such as a couple dancing gymnastically as they maintained a seemingly fierce lip locked kiss.



For many who have seen River North before, the thrill of seeing Chaves’ choreography at both the beginning and end of the evening may have been the bigger deal. 



The second chance to see “In the End”, a dance about mens’ platonic relationships with one another and how they change as men move through life, has the same thrill as getting a chance to see Balanchine’s work again and again. 



Indeed, “In the End” is on par with that of any choreography giant.  



First we see near naked men holding each other in a muscled chain that one or another periodically breaks from and dangles to insert back into. 



Later in this piece the dances of duos so perfectly physically matched make you almost wonder if there are mirrors at work. 



Alone in suit-clad silos of the work world, each seems ricocheted by the pulses acting on their bodies.   When they strip themselves of these suit straightjackets you sigh in relief that life is returning to how it should be.



Savoring “In the End” for a second time, it was interesting to exchange impressions with Betsy Shepherd, a newcomer to River North Dance Chicago who found herself there because her one-time spinning class substitute teacher was one of the troupe—Olivia Rehrman.   Shepherd commented, “We’ve seen the Joffrey Ballet perform many times but haven’t seen much dance outside ballet.  I like the sturdiness and athleticism of this dance.  It feels so contemporary and so current, and yet still abstract.”


Referring to “In the End” Shepherd continued, “It’s not often that you see dancers who are so alike and all men dancing together.  The symmetry and consistency of their bodies moving the same way was so different.  It’s a display of strength without the ballet moves and I’m having to adjust.  I do like it.” 


The Latino-feel revival of Chaves’ 2005 work “Habaneras, the Music of Cuba” was a spirited end to the evening.  It was flowing colorful skirts, large arm movements and big steps—all with grace to Latin beats.  At one point dancer Hayley Meier pirouetted center stage at a fast clip seeming to unleash the clapping plaudits that the appreciative audience had bottled within.   Lighthearted and joyous, this was a well-considered pick to end the performance. 


River North Dance Chicago’s performance was part of the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University’s “Made in Chicago” Series and part of its 125th Anniversary Celebration.  The Auditorium Theatre’s 2014 – 2105 Season continues through June.  For tickets visit the Auditorium Theatre website or call 800 982 ARTS (2787).




Photos:  Cheryl Mann 


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