River North Review - A Tribute To Frank Chaves

In August of this year, River North Dance Chicago announced that its artistic director, Frank Chaves, would retire after 23 years with the 25 year old company; he had choreographed 25 works for them after transitioning from his former career as a dancer with Chicago’s Hubbard Street. Mr. Chaves is credited with steering River North to its current internationally-known status. On October 3, 2015, the company celebrated Mr. Chaves’ last performance with them, with a special Fall engagement at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Chicago, as part of the “Made in Chicago” dance series. The venue, itself set to celebrate its 125th year anniversary this December, was a perfect setting for the scope of the tribute to Mr. Chaves was grand and memorable. The immaculately maintained historic site with its incomparable acoustics served as backdrop and shrine to the nine remarkable dances, three of them choreographed by Chaves himself: "Love Will Follow", (2001), "Temporal Trance", (1998), and "Habanera, the Music of Cuba",(2005).

 

Frank Chaves

 

The Man That Got Away

"Love will Follow"is a romantic piece featuring six couples, in formal suits and gowns elegantly ballroom dancing to the music of Kenny Loggins. "Temporal Trance" is a paean to Mr. Chaves’ dying mother, and consists of three discrete sections, a drama-filled structured opening concluding with a rapidly-paced finish. Chaves has remarked about this piece, “I explored…very different qualities of movement in order to represent the different stages we all go through in death and the loss of a loved one”. In "Habaneras", dedicated to his father and his native land, Cuba, this vibrant and exuberant six-part full-company piece is set to the tunes of that country’s most popular composers, Silvio Rodriguez, Ernesto Lecuona and Carlos Puebla.

  

A Mi Manera

 

Train

Other dances on the program included: "Beat", a piece of structured improvisation for three dancers, created by Ashley Roland; "A Mi Manera", another trio of dancers, each of whose role was created by a different choreographer, Ginger Farley, Kevin Iega Jeff and Sherry Zunker, a witty piece to the music of Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra,  performed by The Latin Kings; "The Man That Got Away", a solo, also choreographed by Zunker, and danced by Lauren Kias, to the music of Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin, sung by the immortal Judy Garland , a tale of a woman’s loss  and a man’s indifference; "Renatus", a thrilling solo  performed by Jessica Wolfrum, who entwines herself around  a gorgeous red gown, ultimately appearing to strip it off, emerging in a flesh-toned body suit like a  butterfly from its chrysalis, and choreographed by Nejla Yatkin ; "Turning Tides", a solo followed by a piece for the entire company and apprentices, by Randy Duncan; and an excerpt from "Train", choreographed by Robert Battle , currently Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and danced solo by Hanna Brictson, depicting a dancer’s warrior-like career on stage.

  

Temporal Trance

 

Beat

Before and in-between the dances the audience was treated to short films of and about Mr. Chaves, demonstrating his commitment to energy and emotion, which obviously infused his creations and his dancers. Some of his memorable remarks included reflections about his own internal process and his feelings about igniting passion in his dancers. He said,“As soon as I hear music, my head fills up with dance steps”, and described the thrill of reward when “a human being blossoms who you had no idea was inside this person”.

  

Renatus

 

Habaneras

Two ballerinas also announced retirement that evening, and they and Frank Chaves took a long and rousing encore with roses, cheers, kisses and hands clasped to hearts.

River North Dance Chicago website for more information.

 

Photo credit:  Courtesy of River North Dance Chicago

 

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