The Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF) Masters program last night at the Auditorium Theatre was a spectacular night of dance. The packed house was jazzed and ready for a great show giving Mayor Emanuel (who was in attendance again this evening) thunderous applause for just being there. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also the city’s number one dance advocate and biggest fan. The show opened with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) performing Jirí Kylían’s Petite Mort (1991), a gorgeous work to two Mozart piano concertos that has been in their rep since 2000. Between the music, the choreography and the beautiful dancers, it really doesn’t get any better than this. (I told Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton at intermission that I was getting tired of trying to find new words to describe HSDC and that I might just have to make something up. Stellatasticerifficabulous? Nah, that’s harder to say – and type – than Suluashvili!) Anyway, the bar had been set.
River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) followed with Charles Moulton’s Nine Person Precision Ball Passing (1980) which they performed earlier in the week at the opening gala. On Monday, RNDC performed it flawlessly, but two balls during the seven-minute piece “got away” drawing giggles from the audience. Moulton told me last week that “mistakes are part of it” and that they are inevitable. With extra balls hidden in their costumes, the number kept pace and you wouldn’t know something happened except for those darn balls rolling on the stage. I liked that they dropped a ball. It shows they are human (‘cuz some of the things they can do really make you wonder) and it showed their professionalism and focus when they kept on going. Act I ended with Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili from Joffrey Ballet dancing the Act II pas de
deux (1841) from Giselle. Please note: I love the Joffrey and Giselle is my favorite ballet (yes, I named my dog Giselle), so it hurts me to say that this was the weakest number in the show. Jaiani was gorgeous, as usual, but the tempo of the audio track was off. It was too fast when it should’ve been slow to show off her ridiculous extensions and slowed down during the filler parts. Plus, you really need to understand the relationship of the characters to fully appreciate what is happening on stage. They would’ve been better served doing a bravura pas from Don Quixote or Le Corsaire or even the White Swan pas they performed earlier in the week.
The second act began with the Martha Graham Dance Company in Embattled Garden (1958). I loved it! Even though it was choreographed 53 years ago, the work holds up. The sets by Isamu Noguchi looked like they were from Beetlejuice. The basic, colorful costumes and strict technique all blended into a dramatic story of biblical seduction. High drama! Artistic Director Janet Eilber came out before the piece to set up the plot and let us know what we were going to see. Smart move. Maybe this would’ve helped with the Giselle pas. The Eve character’s (danced by Mariya Dashkina Maddux) hair was a character unto itself, whipping violently back and forth to the music as if it had its own choreography. The Masters program closed with
Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in The Legend of Ten. Choreographed by CDF co-founder Lar Lubovitch in 2010, the piece for – you guessed it – ten dancers was wonderful. Set to two movements from Brahms’ Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Opus 34, Legend showed that Lubovitch is a master with not only movement, but music. The seamless flow of the dancers’ energy was hypnotic. It could literally lull you into a stupor, but then you would miss the quick little solo turns by each dancer and the smart, luscious partnering by Jenna Fakhoury and Reid Bartelme.
The main thing I’ve noticed in this week of dance so far is the appreciation and appetite for dance in Chicago. The audiences have been attentive and generous and eager for more. That’s my kind of town!