CDF13 Recap

Joffrey's Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels in
Tamako Miyazaki and Brooklyn Mack in
Giordano Dance Chicago in
Chicago Human Rhythm Project in
Brooklyn Mack and Tamako Miyazaki in
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in
Joffrey Ballet in
Joffrey Ballet in
Joffrey Ballet in
Joffrey Ballet in
Joffrey Ballet in
Philadanco in
Hubbard Street's Johnny McMillan and Alice Klock in
Brian Brooks in
Chicago Human Rhythm Project in
 
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Last week Chicagoans were treated to five free dance concerts courtesy of the 2013 Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF). For the third year, I was one of CDF’s official bloggers covering the performances. Here’s a recap of the events as well as some awesome performance photos by the lovely Cheryl Mann*.

The Harris at 10! Anniversary Special at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

Solitaire – A Game of Dance at the Museum of Contemporary Art/MCA Stage.

Dancing in Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

Celebration of Dance at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Huge THANKS to Lar Lubovitch, Jay Franke, David Herro, Evin Eubanks, The Silverman Group, venues, sponsors and all the artists who shared their beauty and talent. It was another great fest packed full of amazing performances. It is one of my favorite, most exciting, exhausting and inspiring week of the year. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do to top it next year.

*Photo credits: all photos by Cheryl Mann.

1. Joffrey Ballet’s Victoria Jaiani and Fabrice Calmels in “Son of Chamber Symphony.”

2. Tamako Miyazaki and Brooklyn Mack in “Diana and Actaeon” pas.

3. Giordano Dance Chicago’s Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia in “Two Become Three.”

4. Chicago Human Rhythm Project in “In the Beginning…”.

5. Tamako Miyazaki and Brooklyn Mack in “Diana and Actaeon” pas.

6. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers Jesse Bechard, Johnny McMillan and David Schultz in “Casi-Casa”.

7. Joffrey Ballet in “Episode 31″.

8. Joffrey Ballet in “Interplay”.

9 & 10. Joffrey Ballet in “Episode 31″.

11. Joffrey Ballet dancers John Mark Giragosian and Anastacia Holden in “Tarantella”.

12. Philadanco in “Wake Up”.

13. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers Johnny McMillan and Alice Klock in “Little mortal jump”.

14. Brian Brooks in “I’m Going to Explode”.

15. Chicago Human Rhythm Project in “In the Beginning…”.

CDF13: Dancing in Chicago

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in "Transparent Things". Photo by Rose Eichenbaum.

A crowd of 2,200 people came to the Auditorium Theatre Thursday night for another free performance in the Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF). If you were not one of those people, I’m truly sorry. Dancing in Chicago, featuring all-Chicago companies plus CDF co-founder and Chicago native Lar Lubonitch’s New York-based troupe, was one of the best nights of dance I’ve seen – and I’ve seen A LOT of really good dance. From flamenco to a flirty pas de deux, Picasso to vacuum cleaners, the evening had it all.

I’ve never heard or said the word amazing so much in one night. In fact, that word is still swirling in my head as I think about the performance, but is it accurate? Let’s see. Dictionary.com defines the word amazing as “causing great surprise or sudden wonder” -yep. Or “to astonish greatly” – check. Synonyms include: “astound, dumfound, stun, flabbergast” – ditto.

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater started the show with their stunning full-company Bolero (1993). Set to Ravel’s 17-minute masterpiece of the same title, this epic work by artistic director Dame Libby Komaiko gradually fills the stage with red dresses, shawls, fans, tradition and passion. I’ve taken class from Dame Libby and while the flamenco movements seem simple, I assure you they are more difficult than they look. I could’ve done without the large Picasso projections across the backdrop. They were distracting and took attention away from the dancing. Bolero also closes the Celebration of Dance performance tonight at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago astounded in two excerpts from Master Choreographer Mats Ek’s Casi Casa (2009). A brief cameo by the “hat man” (Quinn Wharton) lead to a moving male trio danced by Jesse Bechard, Johnny McMillan and David Schultz. Next the ladies danced a demented jig with vacuum cleaners and delighted the audience with their despair for the household chore. (You can see Casi this October in their Fall Series at the Harris Theatre.) Act One ended with Balanchine’s perky Tarantella pas (1964) danced by Joffrey Ballet dancers Anastacia Holden and John Mark Giragosian. This dynamic duo had the audience dumbfounded with their speedy turns and grand jumps. Holden lights up the theater with her smile, while Giragosian played the sassy pirate.

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company opened Act Two with Transparent Things accompanied on stage by the lovely Bryant Park Quartet.  Lead by the joyful, jester-like Attila Joey Csiki, this wondrous work by Lubovitch was inspired by Picasso’s Saltimbanques painting depicting a group of street performers. The ebb and flow and circular structure of Lubovitch’s movement that I love was on full display here. The four-section piece, although based in modern technique, read like a story ballet. The third section ended with the performers “falling asleep” amid the musicians creating a terrific tableau with Csiki’s head resting on the cello.

Closing the show was a truly inspired pairing of the Joffrey Ballet with contemporary Swedish choreographer Alex Ekman. Thanks Lar! (This CDF commission will also appear in Joffrey’s Contemporary Choreographers program at the Auditorium next February.) Joffrey went way outside their comfort zone in Episode 31 and to say it paid off is a huge understatement. The dancers really went for it and they blew the roof off (or, at least, the walls). This astonishing undertaking had dancers decked out in rad Eurpoean-style school uniforms and incorporated ballet, tap, modern, yelling, coughing, flopping, a video intro and a hodgepodge of props thrown in for good measure. At one point, the side walls or “Reducing Panels” of the proscenium flew out (Flabbergasted!), creating an even larger deconstructed set for the dancers to play on. And they had a blast. A strong, if long, duet by Derrick Agnoletti and Aaron Rogers held focus in the middle as white-faced dancers looked on. A lone dancer (Dylan Gutierrez) opens and closes the piece by turning on and then off a light bulb set downstage left.  Throughout the work, he slowly walks one loop around the stage watching the events unfold. I’m sure it was tough to not participate in the craziness happening on stage, but the work wouldn’t have been the same without that character. The reaction from the audience was incredible with the ovation overflowing into the lobby. It was an incredible way to finish off another great night of dance. Bravo!

The entire evening was, in a word, amazing.

CDF13: Solitaire – A Game of Dance (gala)

Alvin Ailey dancer Samuel Lee Roberts in "IN/SIDE". Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Last night the Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF) hosted a benefit gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and premiered the Solitaire – A Game of Dance performance that will be repeated this Friday at 6 and 8 pm. Guests mingled in the lobby with wine and passed hors d’oeuvres while perusing silent auction items. MCA Director of Performance Programs Peter Taub introduced CDF co-founders Jay Franke (in the cutest shorts suit!) and Lar Lubovitch, who in turn introduced our favorite local dance fan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel. After telling the dancers backstage to “break a leg” (Eek!), he proceeded to boast about “the largest free dance fest anywhere in the country”. He brought his family along including his parents who were celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary (aww). He talked about the 750 free events that have taken place in Chicago this summer and said that next year the hope is to take CDF around the city and “break out to all the neighborhoods”.

Franke graciously thanked everyone that helped to make CDF13 possible and Lubovitch, a man as eloquent with words as he is with choreography, gave us a history of the game solitaire (“the game of patience”) and a brief essay on how hard it is dancing and creating a solo. But he promised the performance would show just “how vast and varied the art of dancing alone is”. The show indeed did just that. A hand of cards projected on the back wall served as program notes and transitions. Before each solo a card was flipped with the picture and name of the artist about to perform.

First, the exquisite Victoria Jaiani of the Joffrey Ballet danced a breathtaking and heart-wrenching (yes, I cried) Dying Swan variation from 1905. She seemed to float across the stage in her entrance. From her delicate death, we jump to the dramatic, super strong solo In/Side (2008) performed by Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre‘s Samuel Lee Roberts. His sheer physicality was expertly matched by Robert Battle’s intense choreography. Ensemble Español‘s Julia Hinojosa danced a beautiful ode to Cuba in this flirtatious, percussive solo complete with a gorgeous long ruffled skirt and a large white fan. Ensueños de mi Caribe (2012), inspired by the city of Havana, showcases the traditions of flamenco. The petite Camille A. Brown commanded the stage in a powerful, puppet-like excerpt from her 2012 work Mr. Tol E. RAncE celebrating black performers and challenging stereotypes.

Natya Dance Theatre dancer Krithika Rajagopalan. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Things lightened up as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers Johnny McMillan, David Schultz and Jonathan Fredrickson took the stage in Alejandro Cerrudo’s charming PACOPEPEPLUTO (2011), a fun, technically challenging and “cheeky” trio of solos set to Dean Martin songs. Krithika Rajagopalan of Natya Dance Theatre, wearing a stunning orange and red sari, was a study of intricate detail and expression in Sthithihi – In the Stillness (2013). The placement of each finger or the raising of an eyebrow telling an entire story. The performance went from stillness to the extreme with Brian Brooks’ frenetic 2007 solo I’m Going to Explode. Towards the end of the solo, he spirals down onto his knees leaving one arm extended up to the ceiling reminding me of the swan dying at the beginning of the show.

The evening ended with guests gathering in the upstairs galleries for drinks, dinner, dancing and a live auction. Once again, CDF did what it does best, which is bring a wide range of dance forms together on one stage performed by some of the best dancers around. You may not enjoy every style of dance you see here, but you can’t deny the talent, commitment and artistry involved.

2013 Chicago Dancing Festival

Chicago Dancing Festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

It’s almost that time of year again. In late August (20th-24th), the seventh annual Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF) hits Chicago stages for another year of fantastic FREE dance concerts. Once again, for the third year, I will be part of CDF’s blogger initiative covering the performances and providing dancer/choreographer interviews and behind-the-scenes rehearsal sneak peeks. Woot!

This year’s line up of performers is fantastic. Local companies Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet as well as NY-based companies Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Brian Brooks Moving Company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company all return to the fest. CDF newcomers include Chicago’s Ensemble Español and Natya Dance Theatre and Philadelphia’s Philadanco, plus artists Brooklyn Mack of Washington Ballet and Tamako Miyazaki of Columbia Classical Ballet and Dortmund Ballet.

2013 Chicago Dancing Festival will also have two commissions: a new piece by Chi-town tappers Lane Alexander and Bril Barrett and the Chicago premiere of Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31 by Joffrey (this work will also appear on their Winter program in Feb 2014). Live music will accompany the Lubovitch company and Ensemble Español. Tuesday (Aug. 20) opens the festival with a celebration for the Harris Theater‘s 10th anniversary. Wednesday (Aug. 21) is the CDF gala performance and benefit at the Museum of Contemporary Art/MCA Stage. It’s the only event in which you need to purchase a ticket ($250). Thursday (Aug. 22) showcases Dancing in Chicago with an all-local show at the Auditorium Theatre. Friday is a free repeat of the gala performance, Solitaire – A Game of Dance, featuring all solo works. And, Saturday is the much-loved, highly-attended Celebration of Dance at the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

All performances – except the gala – are free. Tickets for indoor events need to be reserved, but the outdoor Pritzker show is open to the public. The ticket release for the performances is staggered and there is a limit of two (2) tickets per order. Stay tuned for a post with the ticket release dates and performance times.

Preview: Studio Mangiameli’s Quejíos

Flamenco artist Chiara Mangiameli.

Aside from a two week workshop with Dame Libby Kamaiko about 20 years ago, I don’t know much about flamenco. So for this preview, I relied on the expertise  of flamenco dancer/singer/teacher Chiara Mangiameli of Studio Mangiameli to tell me about her upcoming show. We corresponded via email last week.

First, please tell me about your background. Where you grew up? When and why you started dancing?

I was born and grew up mostly in Milan, Italy but we moved often due to my father’s job so at a young age I spent time in the States and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started with ballet but didn’t stick with it for very long, I tried tap and realized at a young age that rhythm made sense to me. I could hear and replicate syncopated patterns pretty easily. I tried African dance as well in college but nothing really stuck until I discovered flamenco as an adult. That’s when I finally got serious about dance. I took my first flamenco class in Chicago with Michelle Nascimento who was my teacher for several years and with whom I traveled to Seville, Spain for the first time.

Tell me about your music Ensemble Idilio.

“Idilio” is a group I co-founded with my friends Diego Alonso and Kassandra Kocoshis. I had recently returned from a long stay in Seville where I had spent time studying and listening to the “cante” (flamenco singing). I had a great desire to sing at that time and work with people in Chicago that felt as passionately about that style of music as I did. I ended up incorporating my Italian background in a couple of the songs, one of which I co-wrote with my friend Carlo Basile. whom I had previously worked with in his group Las  Guitarras De España.

What brought you to Chicago?

I moved with my mother the summer going into my third year of high school. I ended up going to The Theater School at De Paul University and pursuing theater.

What made you decide to open your studio?

I had been teaching flamenco classes in a couple different studios in Chicago including the Flamenco Arts Center. I had a strong student basis and started for the first time choreographing dances that we would then showcase in a small theater. I found it was a great tool to motivate the students and also give them an opportunity to work with live musicians which is how flamenco is traditionally done. At the same time I was traveling to Seville regularly to continue my education and the more I learned, the hungrier I was to teach and push the students further. Opening  my own studio in June of 2011 gave me the freedom to add more classes, set my own schedule and establish my own environment and aesthetics. It also motivated me to become more creative with my student showcases starting with “A Través Del Espejo (Through The Mirror)” in 2012, and “Quejíos – Cries In The Air” which we will premier at the end of this month.

Tell me about the show. Where did the idea come from? Did you create all of the choreography and score the music?

The initial idea for the show was to showcase the “cante,” the expressive power and raw emotion of flamenco singing. Have every dance piece reflect its mood, its dynamics. I asked my friend and Madrid-based writer Luis Lorente if he would write a poem inspired by the word “Quejíos,” Andalusian slang for “cries.” Flamenco songs are often composed of small verses, poetry of the people expressing every day life. The poem seemed like a natural fit, a beautiful tool to further illustrate the soul of flamenco.

There are 32 students showcased in this new work, two Chicago based guitarists Carlo Basile and Diego Alonso who composed most of the music for the show and percussionist Bob Garrett. Our guest singer and Seville native Alfonso Cid, will lend his beautiful voice to this production. For the first time we will also be at times veering form flamenco’s tradition of live music and incorporating recorded compositions, including a  modern piece by a French composer which we use for our castanet choreography. I started working on the choreographies and staging in September of last year, and consider them all a  product of the teachers and dancers that have inspired me and taught me over the years. In particular, Madrid based dancer Paloma Gómez who introduced me to the beautiful language of castanets and Clasico Español.

Tell me about your new solo.

My new solo is  in the rhythmic structure of “seguiriya,” a form that I’ve wanted to perform for many years. The singing is very technically demanding and since the dance is entirely based on the song, I wanted to work with a strong singer whose energy I could feed off of. This new work ties back to the “Quejíos” poem and while it displays a lot of traditional elements belonging to this dance style, it also incorporates unexpected moments from Diego Alonso’s original guitar composition.

What is a “seguiriya”?

Seguiriya belongs to the “cante jondo” category of flamenco. Best translated as “deep song,” it is one of the most somber forms in flamenco. The rhythmic structure is complex and has, in my opinion, a kind of trance-like quality to it. It is said that while gypsy blacksmiths worked they would pound out its rhythm as they sang, The themes associated with seguiriya often deal with painful loss.

Studio Mangiameli presents Quejíos – Cries In The Air at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., Thursday, May 31 and Friday, June 1 at 8 pm. Tickets are $25 ($15 for kids 12 and under). Buy tickets here

 

 

Ballet Hispanico Comes to the Dance Center

Ballet Hispanico in "Mad'moiselle". Photo by Eduardo Patino.

This weekend, March 22-24, Ballet Hispanico (BH) under the direction of Eduardo Vilaro, Columbia College alumni, former Dance Center artist-in-residence and founder and former artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater, takes the stage at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago.  Vilaro’s newest work Asuka, set to salsa music by the legendary Celia Cruz, will make its Chicago debut on the mixed repertory program.  “It is thrilling to be back,” said Vilaro.  “The Dance Center was home for me for almost four years…and has been a major dance force in the national community since its inception.”  BH has been busy touring the past few weeks, so I corresponded with Vilaro and dancer Jamal Callender (graduate of The Julliard School and former member of Hubbard Street 2) via email.  Callender told me the best thing about being back in New York after his season in Chicago with HS2 is getting to see his family and his many friends and Julliard peeps dancing on Broadway and on the movie screen. He’s enjoying his time at BH.  “Mr. V is very forward-thinking and I like the relationship I have with him.  I appreciate his advice and the way he looks out for me and all the artists,” said Callender, who is dancing in three of the four pieces. “The repertory catered to me so well. It’s beyond diverse. It’s eclectic, like me.  I feel like an artist here!”

Vilaro, who began dancing with BH in 1985, talked about how the company has changed since he was a dancer there.  “When I started dancing there, it was a modern dance company with some neo-classical ballets.  Our founder, Tina Ramirez had a strong theatrical background, having had a career in Flamenco and Broadway.  The repertory reflected that.”  Now as artistic director, he wants to work with choreographers that explore Latino culture…so the work is more contemporary without losing sight of its heritage.  As an example, his Asuka celebrates a Latin American music icon, but focuses on how her music impacted the Latin community rather than a narrative of her life.  Alongside Vilaro’s piece is Andrea Miller’s Moor-influenced Naci and a duet about human struggle titled Locked Up Laura by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

Also on the program is a commission work from African American choreographer Ron Brown.  Set to songs by Peruvian singer Susana Baca, Espiritu Vivo deals with personal loss and recovery.  “His work is a direct connection to the African influence in the Latino world,” said Vilaro.  “There is a deep connection that can be seen in the seamless harmony of his movement with the music.  It can also be seen in the articulated hips and torso found in Latin social dances.  Ron is a special human being and his gentle strength embraced by the dancers helped lead them to fully understand his work.”  For Callender, dancing in Brown’s piece is a full-circle moment.  “When I was younger, I remember watching Ron in the dance studio working with his company.  I used to it by the door in awe and just admire everyone in the company.I remember going with my Mom every year to the Joyce to see them perform.”

Aside from touring, the company was recently asked to perform at the victory parade for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.  After dancing for the crowd Vilaro and crew taught the fans a simple salsa step in honor of wide receiver Victor Cruz, who claims this as his touchdown dance.  “I was thrilled that dance was represented alongside such a beloved American sport,” Vilaro said.  “There is a large world out there that needs to have more dance in their loves and I hope we gained some new friends.”  Callender added simply, “It was a blast.”

Ballet Hispanico, Thursday-Saturday, March 22-24 at 8 pm

Dance Center at Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $26-$30. Call 312.369.8330 or visit colum.edu/dancecenter.

*There is a post-show discussion on Thursday, March 22 and a pre-show talk at 7 pm on Friday, March 23.

Adventures in Dance

"Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter". Photo by German Anton.

This weekend, two local dance companies are staging children’s shows set to entertain both kids and adults alike.  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s (HSDC) second company, HS2 brings back last year’s hit Harold and the Purple Crayon at the Harris Theater and Luna Negra Dance Theater (LNDT) launches its children’s dance series Luna Niños with the Chicago premiere of Monaquilla and the Thief of Laughter at Stage 773.  Both one-hour performances are interactive, incorporate video projections and designed specifically for young audiences.  Ticket for both shows are $15.

HS2 premiered Harold in 2010 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and then to packed houses here in Chicago (read my preview here).  This year’s show based on the beloved children’s book by Crockett Johnson promises a new cast and vamped up lighting design (Mattew Miller) to compliment the sets and projections (Ryan Wineinger) and costumes (Rebecca Shouse).  Chicago composer Andrew Bird provides the music with HSDC dancer Robyn Mineko Williams and HSDC Artistic Associate Terence Marling choreographing.

Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter, which premiered in Spain with Titoyaya Dance Project in 2008, has its U.S. debut this Saturday.  Created by LNDT Artistic Director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, Moniquilla is a mystery adventure styled after Scooby Doo and Indiana Jones (Sansano’s favorites as a kid).  Moniquilla enlists the help of her friends Matias and Veronica to help her find out why the children across the world can’t laugh anymore.  A narrator and video projection/sets by Luis Crespo help the story along, but it is the audience that ultimately must solve the mystery.  A bicycle with sidecar, swinging axes, snakes (egads!), spies, and of course a villain add to the story set to a dramatic score including Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet and classical flamenco music.  “It was a  good chance to use music that I loved, but never found the right fit for,” says Sansano.  “When I was thinking about the music, I thought a lot about Walt Disney.  He used to make all the soundtracks for the movies.  Every single movement was in the music.  It was real choreography.”  Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean this choreography is simple.  Sansano’s trademark style involving fast, quirky movements with seamless transitions is on full display along with some slapstick moves reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.  I sat in on a run of the first half of the show last week and I can’t wait to see how it ends!  It’s fun, funny, and as Sansano says, “a treat for the senses.”

Hubbard Street 2, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Dec 3&4 at 2pm

Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312,334,7777

Luna Negra, Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter, Dec 3 at 10a & 1p, Dec 4 1&4pm

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, 773.327.5252

 

Giving Thanks

It’s that time of year again (already!), time for turkey and PIE!!!  Oh, and also giving thanks.  Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP) taps into the spirit of giving this weekend (November 26 & 27) presenting Global Rhythms at the Harris TheaterGlobal Rhythms is a shared-revenue performance and this year features Ensemble Español, Step Afrika! and The Mexican Folkloric Dance Company along with CHRP dancers.  CHRP’s Thanks 4 Giving program let’s audience members feel good while entertaining them.  You can receive a 10% discount on your performance ticket by choosing one of the participating local non-profits affiliated with this year’s show (listed here).  The organization of your choice will receive 50% of the ticket price in return.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Global Rhythms, Nov 26 at 8pm, Nov 27 at 7pm, $15-$55

Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312.334.7777

 

New Men’s Flamenco Classes!

Flamenco Chicago, a local dance studio (2914 W. Belmont) dedicated to the art of flamenco, is now offering all male classes. Ensemble Español dancer Sean Arana will be instructing the six-week session ($95) which begins next Tuesday, November 15th and is scheduled for 8:15 – 9:15pm weekly.

Advanced registration required.  For more information contact:  rosetta@flamencochicago.com