Theatre

Giselle, Adolphe Adam’s beautiful tale created for the ballet’s premiere in Paris back in 1841, has been re-imagined by the Ballet Master and Stager Lola de Avila, marking the opening of Joffrey Ballet’s 2017-2018 Season. Set in the Middle Ages on the day of the grape harvest festival, Act I takes us to the happy village and its villagers celebrating the harvest with dancing. The mood is cheerful and lighthearted, the music is fantastic (live orchestra under music director Scott Speck); colorful costumes and a gorgeous set (scenic and costume designs by Peter Farmer) prepare us for what’s about to unfold. Young and beautiful, child-like Giselle meets nobleman Duke Albrecht who comes to the village dressed as a peasant. Albrecht (very talented Temur Suluashvili) is actually engaged to marry Bathilde (Jeraldine Mendoza), the daughter of the Prince of Courland, but Giselle is unaware of any of that. The two flirt and dance together, and Giselle falls madly in love. Victoria Jaiani ,as Giselle, is divinely graceful; if she was any more weightless, she’d likely fly away. Rory Hohenstein, who portrays Hilarion, a young villager in love with Giselle, is wonderful; his acting is on par with his dancing- so expressive and precise, one can almost hear what he’s trying to convey. Both Hilarion and Giselle’s mother Berthe (Olivia Tang-Mifsud) try to worn Giselle of Albrecht’s deceitful nature, but she won’t listen.

If traditional classical ballet moves and dancers’ perfect form keeps Giselle true to the Romantic ballet era, what comes next sets it apart from most ballets of that time and their usual happy endings. When Giselle finally learns the truth about Albrecht, she becomes inconsolable, her love passion turns into heartache so severe her heart literally breaks; she collapses and dies. This day didn’t end so well after all.

Act II: no more fun and games, we’re at Giselle’s graveyard on the night of her burial. Lit up by very realistic-looking moon, the set is mysterious and lifeless. Motionless Hilarion is grieving Giselle’s death, when he’s suddenly frightened by Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. According to German poet Henrich Heine, the legend of Wilis came from Slav folklore: the spirits of young brides who died before their wedding could not rest in peace because of their unfulfilled desire for dancing on their wedding day. Vengeful Wilis rise from their graves at night and attempt to lure young men and dance them to death. It is believed that the phrase “gave me the Wilis” comes from this legend.

The stage is quickly traversed by a side-way moving female dancer in a very spooky manner. Then, dressed in white wedding gowns with flower garlands in their hair, the Wilis show up. Though their dance is breathtakingly slow, dreamy and completely void of any emotion, they appear to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. The ballerinas join together in a circle creating a wispy fluff with their puffy dresses. Surreal feeling, created by the light (lighting design by Michael Mazzola), the subdued colors of the costumes and the Wilis’ seductive dancing is enough to give anyone the wilis.

Hilarion is sentenced to death by dancing and is subsequently thrown into the nearby lake. Albrecht enters looking for Giselle’s grave, and Giselle’s spirit appears to him. He begs her for forgiveness; fortunately, her love for him is unchanged and she protects him from the Willis who insists on dancing him to exhaustion. As the day breaks, Albrecht’s life is spared, the Wilis return to their graves, and Giselle’s spirit, freed from vengeance, returns to her grave and can now rest in peace. Unbelievably beautiful (and just in time for Halloween)!

Joffrey Ballet’s Giselle is being performed at Auditorium Theatre through October 29th. For more information visit http://www.joffrey.org/giselle.

Published in Dance in Review

The first time I went to the opera was in elementary school to see La Triviata. It was a school sponsored field trip that took kids to Los Angeles to see the opera, the symphony, museums, and the ballet, exposing them to the arts at an early age. Though I had no idea what was being said, or what I was really watching, I loved it, and not just because I wasn’t in class on a school day. The orchestra, the singers, the theater itself, it was all so grand for a child. Though I didn’t have the same reaction to the Lyric Opera on Friday, it was nonetheless that childhood experience that helped to shape my appreciation and love for the opera.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2017 season with Orphée et Eurydice. The plot centers on Orphée (Dmitry Korchak), whose singing was so beautiful that it could charm the fierce guardians of the Underworld. Encouraged by the god of love, Amour (Lauren Snouffer), Orphée travels to Hades to bring his dead wife, Eurydice (Andriana Chuchman), back to earth. This opera was a powerhouse of talent with 60 members of the Lyric Opera Chorus, 47 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, and 43 dancers of The Joffrey Ballet all working to put on this production; not to mention the ushers, the ticket agents, the janitors, and more, just to stage this opera with a run time of a little more than 2 hours.

There wasn’t much to this opera lyric-wise. There are many repetitious lines to accompany the score, but very little substance despite being such an enthralling mythological story line. What made this opera worth seeing was the Joffrey Ballet. Their performance was one of the best I have seen from the company. They added movement and beauty to the opera, bringing visual clarity to the mythical worlds of Hades and Elysium. Overall, it was a spectacular engagement of the fine arts. A performance that should be enjoyed by the masses.

Unfortunately, the opera is inherently old and doesn’t attract the masses. It’s target audience is old. The theater it performs in is old. The Lyric Opera is currently fundraising in order to renovate its theater, but it hasn’t had much luck. Tickets prices are exorbitant and the people who can afford to go are old. Like any passing of the guard, the opera needs to focus on reaching out to the next generation of opera-lovers, otherwise their primary patrons will be gone within the next decade or so with few people left to appreciate, or afford, the opera. And that’s why exposure at a young age is so vital. You’ll be hard pressed to find many millennials who say “I love the opera” or even “I’m going to the opera!” Just in my immediate circle of friends and co-workers, very few people had even seen the opera. What the Lyrics Opera should do is work with local school districts; bus kids in from all area of the city and the surrounding area to see performances throughout their season. They should offer discount nights in order to attract new audiences, or play the show live in the park for discounted tickets or free; anything to increase opera’s fan base and expose the art to different audiences the most important of those being youths. I was lucky as a child to have had the opportunity to see the opera, and I’ve been lucky to have gotten to see shows as an adult. I only hope the Lyric Opera of Chicago does community outreach like this, or increases its outreach or I fear, like Eurydice, it will die, only there might not be an Orphée around to save it.

Remaining performance dates for Orphée et Eurydice are Oct. 12th and 15th at 2pm. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to lyricopera.org/orphee.

Published in Theatre Reviews

Collaboraction, Chicago's social issue-driven contemporary theater, announced today its line-up of 24 world premiere short pieces for PEACEBOOK, a free, collaborative city-wide festival of theater, dance, music, visual art and spoken word, all focused on cultivating peace in Chicago.

Actor David Dastmalchian (Twin Peaks), Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid), GQ (Q Brothers), Kevin Coval (Louder Than a Bomb), noted director Mignon McPherson Stewart, Sir Taylor (Example Setters) and Bril Barrett (Making a Difference Dance) are among the artists and activists creating fresh new works in support of Chicago's peace movement. 

Each piece is seven minutes or less, and range from solos to large collaborations. 

In sum, the 24 "chapters" that comprise PEACEBOOK unite more than 200 artists, from household names to neighborhood peace activists, all intent on creating real connections with Chicagoans in communities around the city.
 
PEACEBOOK launches with a one-day, marathon premiere of all 24 chapters on Saturday, August 26, 2017 in the Goodman's 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are 3 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Englewood), 5:30 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Hermosa) and 8 p.m. (PEACEBOOK Austin). 

All three programs are presented free of charge. Free ticket reservations, with an option to donate what you can, will launch Wednesday, July 19 at 10 a.m. To reserve tickets and for more information, visit collaboraction.org/peacebook2017, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Collaboraction, (312) 226-9633.
 
Following their Goodman debuts, the 24 acts will be divided into three programs of eight works that will tour to these south, west and north side neighborhoods next fall as part of the Chicago Park District's Nights Out in the Parks program:
 
PEACEBOOK Englewood
Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St.
Thursday and Friday, October 5 and 6 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 7   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa
Kelvyn Park, 4438 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Thursday and Friday, October 19 and 20 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, October 21   Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m.
 
PEACEBOOK Austin
La Follette Park, 1333 N. Laramie Ave.
Thursday and Friday, November 2 and 3 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 4  Dome of Dance competition at 3 p.m., community meal and peace panel at 4 p.m., show at 5 p.m. 

Park performances are free. Each night features a different musical guest. Before every Saturday show is a free community meal and peace fair with panels, workshops and community organizations from a diverse array of Chicago peacemakers.
 
"In these times of rising homicides and racial tension in Chicago, we believe in the power of theater to incite empathy, knowledge, dialogue and change around peace in Chicago," said Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley. "With over 200 artists from all throughout the city and partnerships with the Goodman Theatre and the Chicago Park District, we are establishing PEACEBOOK as a place for our city to come together around this most critical social issue with our future at stake." 
 
For PEACEBOOK updates, visit collaboraction.org, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube or Instagram, or call the Collaboraction box office, (312) 226-9633.

More about the plays

The following 24 prayers for peace were selected from over 100 submissions of theater, dance and spoken word works, all envisioning a more peaceful Chicago:

PEACEBOOK Englewood (Hamilton Park):
 
Dandelions
by Marsha Estell, directed by Mignon McPherson Stewart
A heartfelt story about loss and how violence and peace are not always mutually exclusive.
 
Example Setters
by The Example Setters
A spoken word piece by teens who want to set the Example in the city of Chicago.
 
#Hashtag Who's Next The Musical
written and directed by Frederick Alphonso
A song that invites us to join/live the justice revolution through facing our constructed narratives around crime.
 
Hoods
by Kaye Winks, directed by Schoen Smith
The Chicago family, made up of different neighborhoods in the city, sits down for a group art therapy session to talk out their long-established communication problems.
 
June-Dastmalchian Collaboration (working title)
devised by David Dastmalchian and Aisha June
LA film, TV, and stage actor, David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight, Ant Man, Twin Peaks) returns to Chicago to team up with Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker ensemble member, Aisha June, to write and perform in a devised work about peace in Chicago.
 
Obama, the Musical
by Yuri Basho Lane, directed by Elizabeth Lovelady
A beat-box musical examining Barack Obama in three stages of his life.
 
Triumphs, Burdens, and Laughs
choreographed by Elysia Banks
South Side native, Elysia Banks, choreographed this dance piece to highlight the resilience of South Side communities and pay homage to their grit and fortitude.
 
What Do You See?
by Brian Keys, directed by Kristina Valada-Viars
Keys' solo show examines the confrontation between a black man and society that takes us to the core of our prejudices.

 
PEACEBOOK Hermosa (Kelvyn Park):
 

Barbarism
by Jason Grote, directed by Iris Sowalt
A woman with PTSD and apocalyptic survivor's guilt takes audiences on an exploration of the gilded cages in her mind as she reveals the fragility of the human spirit.
 
Conflict
devised by the Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble, directed by Luis Crespo
The Collaboraction Teen Peacemaker Ensemble grapples with the real cost of hate in Chicago and its future.
 
Eckhart Park Echoes
by Nancy Garcia Loza, directed by Juan Castaneda
A peaceful protest by way of storytelling. Garcia Loza's solo show offers a snapshot of her aunt's life as it unfolded on a Chicago block for forty years in West Town.
 
Finding a Loving Motherland
devised by Sami Hussain Ismat
A satirical tragi-comedy about a refugee escaping Syria only to encounter ridiculous bureaucratic and racial discrimination, fear of white supremacy in Trump's America, and crime in his new neighborhood.
 
A People's History of the Block
by Kevin Coval
Coval, of Louder Than a Bomb, explores peace through the words of real Chicagoans he met while touring with his newest poetry book, "A People's History of Chicago."
 
Recipe for Peace
devised by Dionne Hawkins
Tune into this cooking show where the host prepares the ingredients to create peace, by the artistic director of the Austin Town Hall Theatre Company.
Rangel-Delgado Collaboration (working title)
adapted and directed by Sandra Delgado, from the writings of Sammy Rangel
Acclaimed Chicago actress Sandra Delgado collaborates with peace activist and TED Talk standout Sammy Rangel, author of "Fourbears: Myths of Forgiveness," to tell his inspirational story of hope and redemption.
 
We'll Be Doing This Together
by Ann Kreitman
This non-traditional, interactive theater piece asks the audience to create gentle and joyful connections between strangers.

 
PEACEBOOK Austin (La Follette Park):

17 to (New) Life
devised by GQ and Tyrone Taylor
GQ of the Q Brothers and Tyrone Taylor co-create and perform this ritual of healing based on Taylor's real life events, including murder, incarceration, freedom and search for transformation.
 
Some Thoughts On Race and Racism In Chicago From Some People Who Aren't Sure What To Do And Who Sat Down And Talked About It
by Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman, directed by Josh Sobel
This piece of verbatim theatre talks about race through white eyes, using words from a collection of interviews that shed light on how we see ourselves and each other as a community.
 
Dear Masculinity
by Eneale Pickett, directed by Rain Wilson
This play, by a west side native, is a collection of letters written by men to their masculinity.
 
EmpoWOMENt
devised by Bril Barrett
A team of female dancers proved tap-dance can be an effective form of protest and a powerful catalyst for change in this work choreographed by the acclaimed founder of M.A.D.D. (Making a Difference Dancing).
 
High and Dry
by Greg Hardigan, directed by Genevieve Fowler
A man has a chance encounter with a woman on the street and must confront his role in creating peace in Chicago.
 
The High Priestess
devised by Dr. Laura Biagi
Inspired by the two cards of the major Arcana of the Tarot, this performance art piece revolves around the power to give social meaning to sounds and the concept of failing and undoing by meditating on four alphabets: Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew and Latin.
 
The Making of an Example Setter
by Sir Taylor, directed by Anthony Moseley
Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley teams up with the leader of The Example Setters, former Jesse White Tumbler and member of the U.S. Olympics team, Sir Taylor, to tell a new story of healing in Chicago. 
 
Quiet Time
by Erica Mann Ramis, directed by Nat Swift
A woman's thoughts are played out on stage as she meditates in an effort to navigate the maze of her grief after the loss of her husband. 

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction (collaboraction.org) collaborates with artists, community activists, and citizens from throughout the city to create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries and explore critical social issues with a diverse community of Chicagoans. Collaboraction has worked with over 3,000 artists to bring more than 60 productions and events to upwards of 250,000 audience members.

Production highlights include Collaboraction's acclaimed series of Crime Scene productions responding to Chicago's current crime epidemic, 15 years of the SKETCHBOOK Festival, Sarah Moeller's Forgotten Future: The Education Project in 2014, 2010's Chicago premiere of 1001 by Jason Grote, 2008's world premiere of Jon by George Saunders and directed by Seth Bockley, and 2007's The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: an instant message with excitable music by Rolin Jones.
Collaboraction, based on the third floor of Wicker Park's historic Flat Iron Arts Building with three theatre spaces, is led by Artistic Director Anthony Moseley and a dedicated staff and board of directors. Collaboraction is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation via the MacArthur Foundation, and the Wicker Park & Bucktown SSA #33 Chamber of Commerce. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

As Chicago Tap Theatre embarks upon their mission to “Shuffle off to Europe” where they will join tap dance companies Tapage and Tap Olé in their home countries to perform Liason, the talented outfit impresses upon its audience yet another fantastic production in its third remount of Changes, a sci-fi adventure set to the music of the late, great David Bowie. In reverence to 1940’s science fiction, seemingly with pages from the old Flash Gordon serials put in play, we get a nasty trio of futuristic villains who have made captive a host of dreamy angels, crippling each by removing their wings, and a hero who must set them free and may only be able to do so by teaching the imprisoned seraphs to fight back (via a tap dance-off, of course).


Artistic Director Mark Yonally’s creative vision is what makes this production such an amazing spectacle. It is visually compelling, thanks to the costume design by Emma Cullimore and its punch-packing choreography, and musically fulfilling as the music chosen behind each dance routine is wisely chosen by Music Director Kurt Schweitz to provide much impact. Kristen Uttich, well cast as the show’s hero, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally as the lead Alliange and Mark Yonally as Altego with Aimee Chase and Heather Latakas as his Henchpeople, lead a gifted ensemble in what turns out to be a pretty engaging story of good versus evil filled with touching moments of beauty, soul and hope and thrilling climaxes when powerful confrontation erupts.


Changes includes many Bowie favorites that are accompanied on strings by Molly Rife and violinist Anna Gillan, who oversee the dancers at the rear of the stage. “Life on Mars” opens the show followed by “Starman” and “Space Oddity” setting the tone for this energetic production that comes with many “wow” moments. Much of Bowie’s music is set to a house mix adding extra thump and larger-than-life tempo, of which I have to wonder was necessary, as opposed to playing the songs in their original recorded versions, my guess being the extra boost provided a clearer pocket for the dancers to perform within or perhaps may have been needed to hear the songs distinctly above the often-thunderous flurry of tap dancing. A feast for Bowie fans, the production also comprises such hits as “Under Pressure” “Changes”, “Ziggy Stardust” and other faves that will have you poking through Spotify to relive the production's many great moments upon exiting the theatre.


Chicago Tap Theatre keeps this commanding form of dance alive, and even in bloom, with one fantastic production after another, Changes being no exception. Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end, Changes has the perfect combination of dance, music and visuals to make this retro-sci-fi rocket take off.


Changes is being performed at Stage 773 through July 16th. For tickets and/or more show information, or to find out how you can help get this talented dance company to Europe, visit ChicagoTapTheatre.com.

Published in Dance in Review

Let’s welcome in summer and enjoy the history of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Harris Theater with a collection of eight dances of varying styles and intriguing music. Pieces old and new, reworked and original amazed one after another including Lucas Crandall’s (Imprint - Duet), William Forsythe’s (reproduction of One Flat Thing), Alejandro Cerrudo’s (One Thousand Pieces - Water Section), Jim Vincent’s (Palladio), Crystal Pite’s (A Picture of You Falling), Twyla Tharp’s (The Golden Section), and Lou Conte’s (Georgia and the 40’s).

This historical glance 40-year glance at the iconic dance company brings forth a walk through time and the growth of Hubbard Dance. Lou Conte’s romantic summer love of ‘Georgia’ was originally premiered in 1987 as part of “Rose from the Blues” and makes you ache for the loss of summer love. Even more history is bestowed upon the crowd with the happiness, creativity of the 40’s, also by Conte. Infusing big band music, 40’s style dance, jitterbug moves and the feeling of the celebrations of old Hollywood, the piece is truly a joy to watch.

“The Golden Section” choreographed by Twyla Tharp/Tharp Project, in its golden velour and unabashed 80’s energy that had originally been performed on Broadway in 1981, brought a liveliness and fun to the stage. The enthusiasm and vibrancy had audience members bobbing their heads and giggling along with the sheer fun of the dancer’s movement and energy.

Something for everyone, Hubbard Street’s Summer Series 39 will truly grab your attention with the loving duet of “Imprint” by Lucas Crandall and romantic “Palladio” by Jim Vincent. Theater goers will fall under the mesmerizing spell of the smokiness and ethereal beauty of ghostlike figures and sounds of water in “One Thousand Pieces” by Alejandro Cerrudo. Children and adults alike will be enthralled with the chaotic energy of “One Flat Thing”, in awe of the dancer’s abilities to move between, over, under and through the flat things with such speed, grace and fluidity.

Beautiful and graceful, “A Picture of You Falling” by Crystal Pite will capture the audiences’ attention from start to finish, leaving you out of breath, and wondering, if this is how it really will be in the end.

Through a night of innumerable feelings and experiences, this historical journey into the past of “Hubbard Street Dance at 40”, was a thrill for all families and fans of dance. So very few places can provide such a complete feeling of history and nostalgia while also inspiring all of us to see what the future will bring.

Hubbard Street’s Summer Series 39 was performed at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. For more information on this amazing dance company and to see future events, visit www.HubbardStreetDance.com.

 

Published in Dance in Review

Giordano dance Chicago has opened its 2017 season with its Spring Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Divided into six distinct pieces, the show is a high energy celebration of jazz dance; it’s well polished, exciting and expressive. Not a word is spoken, but each piece tells a story so vividly that one might wonder why we would need the spoken language after all.  Opening with ‘’Grusin Suite’’, featuring former Giordano Dance Chicago dancer and River North Dance Chicago Artistic Director Frank Chaves, it’s a 1993 re-staging set to the soundtrack for the film “The Firm”. Fluidity of the dance is complemented by the flowing fabrics of the uniform - like costumes of the dancers (costume design by Branimira Ivanova). The costumes are kept very simple throughout the show, and so nothing detracts from the dancers often moving in unison, always with intention and precision, and there’s always a story being unwrapped. After Grusin Suite comes dark Divided Against - A place painted is decidedly hostile with male dancers wearing robes and acting subservient to the female dancers, who are erect and unemotional. Choreographed by Peter Chu, music by Djeff Houle. Next comes blissfully tribal A Ritual Dynamic. Deeply satisfying both visually and auditorily, it’s Avatar-like in its feel. Choreographed by Jon Lwhrer, music by White Derbakeh and DJ Disse. 

After intermission we’re treated to Sneaky Pete, choreographed by Brock Clawson, music by Kerry Muzzey, Abel Korzeniowski, and Adam Crystal. A lot going on here: mating game between two dancers with the girl pursing the boy, while the rest of the troupe is “living their normal life”, a.k.a., dancing beautifully, of course. It ends with the boy upsetting the girl and suffering the consequences by getting ostracized by the rest of the troupe (the “society”?). Or, at least, that was my interpretation. I invite the reader to make their own impression. Next piece is a gorgeous The Man That Got Away, a 1990 classic. The girl wants a man, but he’s is indifferent. She tries many things: affection, seduction, reason, arguing, but nothing will melt his heart.  Set to Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin music performed by Judy Garland, it’s choreographed by Sherry Zunker. Featuring dancer Ashley Downs. Fun Fact: Sherry Zunker has gifted The Man That Got Away to Giordano Dance Chicago in honor of legendary Gus Giordano. It’s sexy and compelling; an absolute delight!

Last, but not least, is a world premiere of a dance called Lost in this World. Choreographed by Liz Imperio, who is hailed as choreographer to the stars. Her credits include the staging and choreography for Jennifer Lopez’s world tour “Dance Again” and directing/choreographing of three of Gloria Estefan’s world concert tours and two world tours for Madonna. Set to music by Ed Sheeran/Steve Mac/Johnny McDaid, and Raury Tullis, Lost in this World is very youthful.  Beautifully danced by the lead woman Maeghan McHale and lead men Devin Buchanan and Adam Houston.

The Giordano Dance Chicago Spring Series is performed at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. For more information on Giordano Dance Chicago visit http://giordanodance.org/.  

 

Published in Dance in Review

The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet in collaboration with Chicago Public Library present four world premieres in the seventh annual Winning Works program, the culmination of Joffrey’s national call for ALAANA (African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab and Native American) artists to submit applications for the Joffrey Academy’s Seventh Annual Winning Works Choreographic Competition. This year’s Competition winners – Shannon Alvis, Sean Aaron Carmon, Karen Gabay and Jimmy Orrante each have choreographed an original work created on the Joffrey Academy Trainees and Studio Company. The Joffrey Academy of Dance’s Winning Works program is presented at the Cindy Pritzker Theater, Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Center, 400 South State Street, over three performances only: Saturday, March 11, at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM and Sunday, March 12 at 2:00 PM.

 

“The artistry and diversity of the Winning Works choreographers provide an inspiring look at the world in which we live allowing us to deepen our understanding of the art form”, said Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet. “The Winning Works program is an invaluable experience for our Joffrey Trainees and Studio Company providing them the opportunity to grow artistically and perform works created by important voices of dance today.”

 

“Winning Works empowered me as a female choreographer”, said Mariana Oliveira, 2016 Winning Works Choreographer. “Being a part of this program has opened many other doors for my career. It was a pleasure to work with fearless young talent. I will always hold this experience close to my heart.”

 

Shannon Alvis is originally from Greenwood, Indiana and received her training at Butler University and the University of Utah. She began her career with the second company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC), then went on to dance and perform professionally with HSDC for nine years. In 2009, Ms. Alvis went on to further her growth as a dancer at Nederlands Dans Theater under the direction of Jim Vincent and Paul Lightfoot.

 

Her world premiere for the Joffrey Academy of Dance - Moonlight - is a contemporary piece with 5 men and 5 women featuring solo and partner work set to music by Debussy's Clair de Lune. Moonlight is inspired by the poem Clair de Lune by Paul Verlaine, and the beautiful potential that lies within each of the dancers.

 

Sean Aaron Carmon is originally from Texas and joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2011 and has performed major solos and featured roles in ballets by many notable choreographers. His choreography has been performed all across the U.S. and internationally and is lauded as "everything and then some...", "powerful," and "seriously flawless" by major national print and online publications such as The New York Times, Newsweek, JET Magazine, BroadwayBlack, Dance Spirit, and 

Dance Magazine. 

 

His world premiere for the Joffrey Academy of Dance - Suite Hearts explores young love in all its varieties — romantic, friendly, playful, emotional, heartbreak, resilience, and the interconnectivity between each. This piece will be performed by 6 men and 10 women.

 

Karen Gabay grew up in San Diego and has had a career as a ballerina that spans over 35 years.  Ms. Gabay made her professional debut at the age of 18 as a principal dancer with Ballet San Jose (BSJ). Her repertoire includes Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Giselle in the title role and her most favorite role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. As a choreographer, she created numerous ballets for the company including the 2012 production of BSJ’s annual production of The Nutcracker which led to her first children’s book, The Nutcracker: A Story in Verse. Gabay is the co-founding Artistic Director of her own ballet troupe, Pointe of Departure, which performs in the bay area and in Northeast Ohio.

 

Her world premiere for the Joffrey Academy features 10-15 dancers with the women dancing en pointe. The concept of the piece explores the lives of coming-of-age teenagers and will feature a combination of classical and neo classical ballet, acting, and theatrics.

 

Jimmy Orrante is a native of Los Angeles andhas danced with Nevada Ballet Theatre, Memphis Ballet, and 20 years with BalletMet where he had the opportunity to choreograph 15 premieres for the company. In addition to BalletMet, he has created ballets for Ballet Austin, Motion Dance Theatre, Rochester City Ballet, Ballet Arkansas, Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi, and UC Irvine’s National Choreographers Initiative. Mr. Orrante’s repertoire includes two full-length ballets, The Great Gatsby, which premiered with BalletMet in 2009 and was reprised in 2015, and the children’s ballet The Ugly Duckling for Rochester City Ballet.

 

His world premiere for the Joffrey Academy features 6 men and 6 women with the women dancing en pointe. The movement is inspired by the energy within the music, a combination of cascading momentum and a more formal, processional quality.

 

“The Joffrey is honored to collaborate with the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Library Center for the first time to present this meaningful and innovative program”, said Greg Cameron, Executive Director of The Joffrey Ballet. “We are grateful for the support of Brian Bannon, Chicago Public Library Commissioner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel as we embark on fulfilling our shared mission and commitment to empowering the community through dance and storytelling.”

 

 

"By co-hosting these ambitious programs with The Joffrey Ballet, we are remaining dedicated to supporting lifelong learning for patrons of all ages, in this case, through performing arts”, said Brian Bannon, Chicago Public Library Commissioner. “We hope to inspire people of all backgrounds and ages to engage with both the Joffrey and the library in new and exciting ways.”

 

Ticket Information

Tickets for “Winning Works” at the Chicago Public Library Harold Washington Library Center are FREE. Tickets can be reserved at WinningWorks2017.Eventbrite.com.

 

The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of its Winning Works Sponsor, The Edward and Lucy R. Minor Family Foundation, Video Production Sponsor Big Foot Media and to its Official Provider of Physical Therapy, Athletico.

 

About the Joffrey Studio Company

The Joffrey Studio Company is a scholarship program of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet. The Joffrey Studio Company consists of 10 outstanding students selected by Joffrey Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Head of Studio Company and Trainee Program Raymond Rodriguez. The Joffrey Studio Company and Trainees have performed on some of the most prestigious stages, including Lincoln Center in NY, the Auditorium Theatre, Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Cadillac Palace Theatre and MCA Stage in Chicago, Music Hall in LA, The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and more. The individualized training and performance opportunities provided by the Joffrey Studio Company offers students unique insight into the life of a professional dancer, assisting students in preparation for a professional career in dance and helping them expand their technique and artistry.

 

About the Joffrey Academy Trainees

The Joffrey Academy Trainee Program is a one to two-year program for students ages 17 and older who are preparing for a professional dance career. Students are selected to participate in the Trainee Program by invitation from Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and the Head of Studio Company and Trainee Program Raymond Rodriguez. This esteemed and rigorous program gives students a unique and well-rounded experience to prepare them for the next step in their careers. Trainees rehearse and perform classical and contemporary works from The Joffrey Ballet’s extensive repertoire and have the opportunity to work with guest choreographers throughout the year. Graduates of the Academy have gone on to dance professionally with companies throughout the world including The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, Dresden Semperoper, Complexions, Milwaukee Ballet, Memphis Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, BalletMet, Polish National Ballet, Slovak National Ballet, and many more.

 

For more information on the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet and its programs please visit joffrey.org/academy.

 

About Chicago Public Library

Since 1873, Chicago Public Library (CPL) has encouraged lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through innovative services and programs, as well as cutting-edge technology. Through its 80 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults. CPL received the Social Innovator Award from Chicago Innovation Awards; won a National Medal for Library Services from the Institute for Museum and Library Services; was named the first ever winner of the National Summer Learning Association’s Founder’s Award in recognition of its Summer Learning Challenge; and was ranked number one in the U.S., and third in the world by an international study of major urban libraries conducted by the Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in Germany. For more information, please call (312) 747-4050 or visit chipublib.org.

 

Published in Dance in Review

Las Vegas - Dazzling light displays, glitzy hotels with themes ranging from some of the planet’s most desired locations such as Paris, Venice and Egypt, exciting casinos filled with the sounds of cheering and the cha-chings of slot machines, energetic clubs with sexy dancers and, maybe best of all, some of the most colorful and original shows one could hope to see. When going to Vegas, it’s easy to check the show sites only to be barraged with so many options the task can become a bit frustrating. Well, the good news is the Buzz News Chicago staff makes a point to visit Las Vegas on an annual basis to keep our readers informed on some of the best shows the Strip has to offer. If we don’t like it, we won’t write about. Rather than tell you what not to see, we’d prefer to make recommendations on shows that deserve your attention.  

This year, there were a few shows stood out as “must sees”, one of my personal favorites being Jabbawockeez, currently being performed at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino inside the Jabbawockeez Theater. The latest of the Jabbawockeez adventures “JREAMZ” is an amazing blend of hip-hop, break dance and dreamlike theatrics that is thrilling, interactive and best of all, completely original from any other production show. The show, voted three years running for “Best Family Show” and “Best All Ages Show” Jabbawockeez is not just a modern workshop of hypnotic dance moves and brilliant choreography, it is a throwback to mime to which a large amount of humor is injected into its dream sequenced series of events. Despite the lack of any dialogue, the Jabbawockeez dancers, faces hidden in white masks of varying degrees, have no problem communicating their point with their fellow performers and audience members. Considering the vast amount of people who travel to Vegas from around the world, this show gets extra points as a production everyone can follow.

Walking Dead fans will enjoy the show’s beginning that takes its audience through a full on zombie apocalypse, before gradually shifting to rotating successions of dreams that could either fall on the nightmare side, be a joyous, blissful experience or can be an adventure in itself. No matter the scenario of the moment, we always receive a heavy dose of stunning dance moves where you can only shake your head in disbelief or think, “What the…?”   

Adding to the comedy of the show, members of the audience are sometimes plucked by the dancers and guided to the stage for some good old fashioned embarrassment that create big laughs. Performed in a somewhat intimate venue for Vegas standards where every seat is a good seat, the audience gets slammed with an up close, in-the-face experience that is sure to be remembered. Jabbawockeez is a unique production that can be enjoyed over and over and suits just about any audience. 

The dance troupe is not just recognized in Las Vegas, they have made a splash nationally appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “Dancing with the Stars”. “So You Think You Can Dance” and “I Can Do That”. One of the most original dance productions recognized across the country, Jabbawockeez is a Vegas experience like no other - an experience that will inspire, make you laugh and leave you amazed.

Like most every show in Vegas you can purchase souvenirs of the performance, the main difference being that Jabbawockeez offers products from its own clothes line – and they’re cool!

Tickets for this fantastically entertaining production are very reasonable and in line with many of the other shows on The Strip. Performed at 7p.m. each night except Tuesday and Wednesday, prices range from $49.99-$82.99. For an additional $55 a VIP Package can be purchased which includes a photo op with the Jabbawockeez dancers, an after show meet and greet and a bag of goodies.    

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Some things were just meant to go together, even if they do sound a little odd at first. Like peanut butter and bananas, apple pie and cheddar cheese, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet; The Art of Falling is amazing collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Second City. The unexpected pairing of the extremely original and unique contemporary dance company, and a Chicago improve comedy standard, both staples of Chicago entertainment in their own right, was a match made in theater heaven!

 

Hubbard Street Dance has done many interesting collaborations in the past, pushing the envelope of what a dance performance is and exposing new audiences to dance in creative ways. In 2014, Hubbard Street and Second City first got together and put together the energetic, unexpected and endlessly engaging performance entitled The Art of Falling. Now back at the Harris Theater by popular demand, the show is once again bringing laughter, joy and maybe even some tears to Chicago audiences. 

 

This distinctive show incorporates so much more than simply dance and comedy. They leverage video - both pre-recorded and live footage, audience interaction, endless props and fantastic music – again both live and recorded. The sheer creativity of this production is mind-blowing. There are 20 pieces that make up this show, each different from the one before but just like a great comedy show, it circles around a primary story line and a few smaller secondary ones, making the whole show flow together seamlessly and move along effortlessly. 

 

The primary story line is a love story of course, but it challenges the traditional silver screen romance as it is rooted in real life where relationships are bumpy and have awkward edges that need smoothing and love - or rather admitting you are in love - is scary. It challenges the audience to take that leap of faith and conquer the fear of falling. After all, what is the worst that can happen?

 

All of the performers, under the direction of Billy Bungeroth, were pure perfection and there certainly were a lot of them! This collaboration was made up of five choreographers, three writers, six actors and two dozen dancers. At times, it was difficult to tell the comedians from the dancers as each tried on the others role with dancers delivering well timed punch lines and comedians flexing their dancing muscles. The writing was witty and fun, and the choreography was exceptional, highlighting the extreme talents of the dance company as well as their humorous side. In a piece completely improved by both the comedians and the dancers, it draws some unexpected similarities between the art of improv comedy and improv dance. 

 

Part of the appeal of this performance is that it continually surprises the audience with more and more creative, imaginative and inventive pieces. After the first act when you think they cannot top themselves, they prove you wrong with a second act that just keeps on impressing. All of that said, I leave this review here so as to not ruin the magic for you. You have to see this show for yourself. As it wows the audience with its cleverness, it also touches the heart and inspires the audience to take just let go, and not be afraid of falling.

 

Be sure to get your tickets now and catch The Art of Falling at the Harris Theater through June 19th!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Melissa Thodos the creator of Sono’s Journey and her designers, which premiered at the Auditorium Theatre Saturday, did a wonderful job telling the story of Sono Asato, a dancer who broke age and race barriers from the time she was just fourteen years old. At that same young age, Sono Asato was the first dancer of Japanese descent AND the first American to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. 

 

I loved the way Thodos chose to use a narrator to tell the story of Asato’s life and used real pictures from Sono's life. I overheard one audience member saying during intermission, the narration really helped the audience understand and empathize with Asato’s life journey without making us guess or make assumptions based solely on the dance and music for each vignette – a very correct observation. 

 

I loved the costumes and lighting, which created a dreamy effect. The dancers were superb in bringing Sono Asato’s unique and trademark hand gestures and delicate yet earthy and natural style of dance to life. Asato’s hands were especially beautiful and expressive resembling the grace and power of mudras of ancient meditation statues. 

 

I found it very interesting that when Osato was refused work abroad with her ballet company, it was a female theater company owner and old friend who welcomed her back to Broadway “dance shows" in order to keep making money dancing to survive. 

 

I also loved the vignette which included how her parent's originally met and fell immediately in love when her father Shoji was sent to photograph her beautiful mother for a performance portrait.   

 

Osato, now ninety-six-years-old, and still a delicate beauty, was brought onstage in a wheelchair and it was announced that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had declared that day, January 8th to be SONO ASATO DAY in Chicago. Sono Asato looked radiantly beautiful as she received her flowers and a roaring standing ovation for her groundbreaking, door opening bravery and exceptional dance performances in the classic works, Sleeping Beauty, Pillar of Fire and The Beloved.

 

I felt very much honored to be there in Sono Asato's presence that night during the Mayor's announcement. I felt privileged to add my enthusiastic applause and shouts of "Bravo!" for her and the delightful show "Sono’s Journey".

 

Dance enthusiasts and appreciators will have two more opportunities to see Sono's Journey this winter: February 20th at the North Shore Center in Skokie, and March 5th at the Harris Theater in Chicago, as part of Thodos Dance Chicago's new "Chicago Revealed" Winter Concert series. This particular production is a beautiful piece of work that everyone should experience.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews
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