Review: Alvin Ailey Dance – Revelations (Auditorium Theatre)

  
  

Annual visit visually majestic, exquisitely visionary

  
  

Alvin Ailey REVELATIONS, Move, Members, Move

  
Auditorium Theatre and Blackwell Global Consulting present
   
   
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
   
at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
thru May 22  |  tickets: $30-$87  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

This show is a celebration!  Having first performed in Chicago in 1969, the Alvin Ailey dance company is commemorating its 140th performance on the Auditorium Theatre stage.  In addition, the annual visit by the New York based troupe marks the final season of Artistic Director Judith Jamison’s leadership. The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Blackwell Global Consulting present Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  The limited engagement will produce six Chicago premieres during the six performance and two student matinee run.  Although each show will have a different program schedule, Revelations will be the consistent finale.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater uses a spectacular combination of elegant and primitive body movement to narrate vivid folk tales.

Y. Lebrun, D. Hopins, K Boyd and R. Deshauteurs in "Annointed". (Photo: Paul Kolnik)

Anointed (2010, video), choreographed by Christopher L. Huggins, illustrates the leadership change at Alvin Ailey.  It’s a beautiful memoriam to founder Alvin Ailey, a stunning tribute to Judith Jamison and an exciting preface to Robert Battle.  Set to music by Moby and Sean Clements, the dancing starts as an intimate coupling.  Linda Celeste Sims and Jamar Roberts intertwine in fluid connectivity.  Dressed in simplistic black, they are mesmerizing in a poetic union.  Sims exits and Roberts has a masterful and athletic solo before his departure.  It’s an inspirational heartbreaker. Sims arrives back in fuchsia and the dance continues.  The music shifts to salsa-funk and the ensemble showcases innovative feats of energetic expression.  Roberts returns in white as divine intervention within the chorus.  The piece powerfully ends with Sims and Roberts in a reconnecting duet.  As the ensemble exits the stage, the last dancer turns around.  He joins Sims and Roberts to make the ultimate trifecta.  It’s a poignant demonstration to the timeless vision.  WOW!

After an intermission, The Evolution of a Secured Feminine (2007, video), choreographed by Camille A. Brown, features Rachael McLaren. The sassy McLaren exercises her inner masculine side. She confidently struts and gyrates in player style. It’s an intriguing manly exhibition that is partially performed without any sound. The illusion is enhanced with a stylish peak-a-boo suit and fedora by costume designer Carolyn Meckha Cherry. Next, The Hunt (2001, video), choreographed by the Incoming Artistic Director Robert Battle, is male bonding to music. Six male dancers are clad in long skirts. Their exposed torsos are eye-gawking sculpted art. The number is tribal and primitive with pounding drums and ritualistic gestures. The primal movements generate definite heated sensuality. Ooh-la-la!

Alvin Ailey Dancers perform "The Hunt", choreographed by Robert Battle (photo: Paul Kolnik)

The finale is introduced with a short film. “Revelations at 50,” produced and directed by Judy Kinberg, is a wonderful introspective of the Alvin Ailey’s 50+ year history. The founder dances and speaks with passionate conviction. It’s a perfect preface for the three phased finale: Revelations (1960, video) choreographed by Alvin Ailey. The sequence initiates with dancers dressed in natural tones for the Pilgrimage of Sorrow. The movement has an earthy groundedness that contrasts beautifully to the next section’s fluid whimsy. Take Me to the Water uses white costumes and blue silks to emphasize the spiritual cleansing. The dancing becomes joyful and uninhibited. The concluding segment, Move, Members, Move, brings the company together for a sensational culmination. The visual is a majestic pageantry of African American history rooted in its own unique, community spirit. A timeless classic devised by the founder, Revelations is an Alvin Ailey force

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is always an annual riveting spectacle. This year’s show feels particular momentous as the resigning Artistic Director Judith Jamison says farewell to Chicago. It’s a goodbye party that shouldn’t be missed.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

Alvin Ailey’s Revelations continues through May 22nd, with performances May 19-20 at 7:30pm, May 21st at 2pm and 8pm, and May 22nd at 3pm.  Running times vary – see below the fold for exact timeframes.  Tickets are $30-$87, and can be purchased by phone (800-982-2787) or online here. For more information, go to the Alvin Ailey tour webpage.  Complete repertoires for each performance are also listed below the fold and on Alvin Ailey website.  See all Alvin Ailey dance videos here.

  

Alvin Ailey - The Company (Picture: Nan Melville)

  
  

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Review: Rising Stars (Joffrey Ballet)

     
     

Joffrey Ballet sets sights forward with dream-centered showcase

     
     

'Woven Dreams' from Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars"

  
Joffrey Ballet presents
   
Rising Stars
   
By Julia Adam, Yuri Possokhov, and Edwaard Liang
at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
through May 15  | 
tickets: $25-$145  |  more info 

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

By May, whatever sense of pride we Chicagoans feel for having endured another grueling, road-destroying, finger-blistering, mind-numbing winter begins to fade and Bells: Temur Suluashvili & Victoria Jaiani in Joffrey Ballet's 'Rising Stars'is replaced by a mild delirium. The high season for introspective, cerebral work comes to a close–we can’t take it anymore. After the thaw, it’s time to play, not to think.

Just as nights along the lakefront are starting to become more balmy, the Joffrey Ballet presents this appropriately-timed spring offering, showcasing visceral and percussive variations on dreamscapes, sexual awakening and unbridled joy.

Works by choreographers Edwaard Liang, Julia Adam and Yuri Possokhov are prefaced with a short video introduction featuring interviews with the artists and rehearsal footage (see videos below). The stories and themes explored in their dances are pleasantly accessible and do not require blatant explanation–didacticism doesn’t appear to be the goal, though. It looks rather that artistic director Ashley C. Wheater and the Joffrey are making an attempt to enrich its audience and welcome them in to the process of a notoriously mystified art form. The effect is disarming. I found myself openly considering and accepting the individual pieces where I might otherwise have been drawn to decipher them.

     
Night: Anastacia Holden, Derrick Agnoletti in Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars" Bells: Temur Suluashvili & Victoria Jaiani in Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars"
Night: Amber Neumann, Joanna Wozniak, Christine Rocas in Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars" Night: Amber Neumann, Anastacia Holden (center), Derrick Agnoletti in Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars"

Marc Chagall’s vibrant, fantastical paintings are the inspiration for Adam’s “Night,” a so-called dance of flight. Matthew Pierce’s perceivably simple, sustained music composition adds to the piece’s sense of exploration and wonder, luring and enticing a young woman to drift, float and soar through her subconscious. Like its theme, the dance is tangential and flows delightfully from one impression-like image to the next. Dreams, literal and not, are a thread through each of the works. That idea is furthered and deepened in Liang’s grand “Woven Dreams,” set to Ravel and Michael Galasso, a large-scale work that considers and plays with the notions of malleable realities and shared-dreaming. Where Liang and Adam provide fantasy, Possokhov basks in drama. In “Bells,“ Rachmaninov underscores a series of unabashed, intensely-sexual duets (with enough conviction, apparently a thigh-slap can suddenly seem R-rated and ballet can look S&M) where relationships are born and die in the same firestorm.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

'Woven Dreams' from Joffrey Ballet's "Rising Stars"

Additional videos HERE

  
  

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Review: The Merry Widow (Joffrey Ballet Chicago)

     
     

Parisian elan, Austrian elegance, Pontevedran panache

     
     

Victoria Jaiani and Miguel Angel Blanco in Joffrey Ballet's 'Merry Widow'.

  
Joffrey Ballet presents
  
The Merry Widow
  
Written by Franz Lehar, adapted by John Lanchberry
Choreographed by
Ronald Hynd
Conducted by
Scott Speck
at
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
through Feb 27  |  tickets: $24-$145  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

70 years after Franz Lehar’s beloved operetta debuted in 1905, Ronald Hynd transformed the popular gem into an energetic ballet. Now, 36 years later, the 80-year-old choreographer has brought this polyglot divertissement to Chicago in a sumptuous, two-hour fantasy that takes the Joffrey Ballet into wonderful new waters.

Ensemble from Joffrey Ballet's 'Merry Widow'Though the original vaudevillian and rhapsodic tunes get mixed up among the three acts and the subplot involving an incriminating fan has been mercifully dropped, the story mirrors the original in all that matters. Cultural contrast was always the fuel for the fun. Here it’s the fact that the Pontevedran embassy in Paris needs to hold onto the fortune of the title character, if only to preserve its quaint customs and Balkan folk dances in the midst of the world’s most cosmopolitan center.

Three styles keep both operetta and ballet fascinating throughout. The Embassy ball in the first act harks back to the classic waltzes of Vienna. The Second, set in the villa of the fabulously wealthy Hannah Glawari, delights in pseudo-Pontevedran Polonaises and ethnic novelty numbers. Finally, Lehar drenches the third act in French frivolity as the action moves to Maxim’s, with its can-can grizettes and dapper Parisian dandies straight out of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Since this is ballet, the story, compressed and created by Sir Robert Helpmann, is second to the steps. Unlike the operetta, there’s never any doubt that Hanna will return to her rakish former lover, Count Danilo. (We don’t need to burden our pretty little heads with silly doubts.) There’s little more suspense over the illicit courtship between Valencienne, the Ambassador’s flirtatious French wife, and the handsome French attaché Camille de Rousillon, a nightingale indeed.

The duets between these couples echo the musical styles. Victoria Jaiani’s Hana and Miguel Angel Blanco’s Danilo turn the first act waltzes into surprisingly vertical affairs, with lifts that defy the horizontal swirl of the sweeping melodies. Likewise, Yumelia Garcia’s capricious Valencienne, with her sensuous twirls and bodice-bending dips, finds a perfect partner in Graham Maverick’s quicksiliver, gravity-defying Rousillon. Both blend in beautifully with the galloping gaiety of Maxim’s in full fluorescence.

Ensemble from Joffrey Ballet's 'Merry Widow'

Hynd has given the ensemble glorious moments, whether as gallant members of the Pontevedran entourage or hellbent, high-kicking, skirt-tossing soubrettes making plays for the gentry. They’re impeccably costumed by Italian designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, while the stenciled facades and imitation marble pillars of the first act, wisteria-laden garden of the second, and monumental cabaret setting of the third act, are also the gorgeous work of the exquisitely talented Di Bagno.

It lasts no longer than it should, since a fantasy should never be pushed beyond its initial allure. As the English say, you should never let daylight shine on magic.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
      
   
Lucas Segovia, Yumelia, Garcia, Matthew_Adamczyk in Joffrey Ballet's 'Merry Widow' Victoria Jaiani as Hannah the wealthy widow in Joffrey Ballet's 'Merry Widow'
Yumelia Garcia and Graham Maverick in Joffrey Ballet's 'The Merry Widow' Christine Rocas, Miguel Angel Blanco, Jaime Hickey in Joffrey Ballet's 'The Merry Widow'

All photos by Herbert Migdoll.

     
     

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REVIEW: The Nutcracker (Joffrey Ballet)

     
     

Sugar plums in your tutu stocking

     
     

Nutcracker - Joffrey Ballet 2010

   
Joffrey Ballet presents
   
The Nutcracker
  
Written by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Directed by Robert Joffrey
at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway (map)
through Dec 26  |  tickets: $25-$145  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

Scrooge requires four ghosts to save his dark soul from excess personal savings. George Bailey gets help from an angel desperate to make good and to do it too. But Clara, the heroine of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Christmas ballet, earns her fantasy when she knocks out the Mouse King and frees her adored Nutcracker from his wooden curse. That’s the perfect excuse to dance up a storm—or a blizzard. Yes, it’s that time of year when six “Nutcrackers” hit the Chicago boards, none more splendid or popular than the Joffrey Ballet’s annual confection, a gift from the late Robert Joffrey that keeps on giving.

Miguel Angel Blanco and Victoria Jaiani in The Nutcracker - Joffrey BalletThis year’s spectacle—the 15th since its 1996 Chicago debut–was gloriously unwrapped and heartily cheered at the Auditorium Theatre on Friday night, as it definitely and annually deserves. Oliver Smith’s storybook set design is the perfect backdrop for the Victorian parlor from the 1850s, a magical battleground (against the Mice menace) and Land of Snow for the first half (choreographed by the late Gerald Arpino) and the spring-like Kingdom of Sweet for the second. (There’s enough snow by the end of the first act to satisfy a dozen Chicago blizzards, with some to spare for Minneapolis. That’s why we need the second act to sweeten the scene.)

The communal opening ball is, of course, a showcase for dancers, young and older. These depict the delighted guests at Clara’s beautiful American manse who marvel at Dr. Drosselmeyer’s cavorting automatons. Those mechanical dolls, rigidly presenting their preset terpsichorean displays, are a prelude to the real magic of the enchanted Nutcracker who, under a now-huge Christmas tree, helps Clara to free him from wooden bondage. That of course allows Drosselmeyer and the now humanly handsome Nutcracker to celebrate the victory with the Snow monarchs and their Snowflake corps de ballet, after which the Sugar Plum Fairy and her divertissements continue the fete in the hypoglycemic realm of sugary confections galore.

Anastacia Holden is the delighted Clara who serves as a lucky surrogate for all the kids in the crowd, with slim and elegant Mauro Villanueva as her dashing Nutcracker Prince. (His pas de deux with Yumelia Garcia’s ravishing Sugar Plum Fairy was perfect, precise and even passionate.) The second act’s novelty candy dances from Spain, Arabia, China, Russia and France amounted to a vaudevillian extravaganza in its own right. If the kids were any cuter, they’d explode.

      
Amber Neumann as Chocolate from Spain - Joffrey Ballet Chicago - Photo by Herbert Migdoll Fabrice Calmels and Kara Zimmerman in The Nutcracker - Joffrey Ballet
Anastacia Holden in The Nutcracker - Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker - Joffrey Ballet 2010

The Chicago Sinfonietta bring Tchaikovsky’s evergreen and everwhite score to generous life, a musical outpouring that ranges from 19th century quadrilles and polkas to waltzes that deserve their own perpetual motion. Hearing it makes you regret his suicide all the more. What marvels would he have composed after 53! That’s a fantasy we can’t indulge.

Speaking of homage, this year’s performance is nobly dedicated to the late Richard Ellis, who danced the role of Drosselmeyer for 27 years in Ruth Page’s Tribune Charities’ production at the Arie Crown Theater.

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
   
  

Children cast in The Nutracker - Joffrey Ballet Chicago - photo by Herbert Migdoll

     
     

Last chance to see Fuerza Bruta at Auditorium Theatre

Fuerza Bruta 1

 

Last chance to see

 

Fuerza Bruta: Look Up

  

Only 15 Performance remaining!

 

Fuerza Bruta 2Audiences have just ten days left to see the international sensation that has introduced Chicago to a new kind of entertainment – performance art above and around you (see our review ★★★). The cast of Fuerza Bruta: Look Up will twirl, splash, dance and take the final bow for the last time on Sunday, July 11.  The non-stop collision of dynamic music, visceral emotion and kinetic aerial imagery premiered at the Auditorium Theatre in late May and has been running to large audiences for over 6 weeks.

The Lobby

The lobby has been transformed into an alternate universe, welcoming excited audience members into a club-like atmosphere from the moment they walk through the doors of the Auditorium Theatre complete with specialty cocktails and nightly empanadas.  The historic landmark theatre’s stage is filled with flying performers, pumping beats, engaging dream sequences and a multidimensional swimming pool above the heads of the audience who stands on stage with the performers and in the middle of the action.

Tickets:

Individual tickets to Fuerza Bruta: Look Up are $50 – $80 and are on sale now at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices and the Auditorium Theatre box office, Ticketmaster locations, by phone (800-775-2000) and also online at BroadwayInChicago.com.   Groups of 15 or more should call (312) 977-1710.

 Fuerza Bruta 6

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Theater Thursday: Fuerza Bruta – Look Up

Thursday, June 24

Fuerza Bruta: Look Up

Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)

fuerzabrutaYou’ve got to see it to believe it!  Come see Fuerza Bruta: Look Up (our review ★★★),  a theatrical experience that floods the senses.  Experience a 360-degree heart-pounding theatrical event, filled with flying dancers, pumping beats, engaging dream sequences and a multi-dimensional swimming pool above the heads of an audience who is standing on stage in the middle of the action.  Enjoy a free open bar for 60 minutes before the show and stay after for a special question-and-answer session with the amazing cast.  Please note, the performance is general admission and is 65-minutes long.

 

Event begins at 6:30pm.  Show begins at 7:30pm.

Tickets: $50

For reservations, visit www.BroadwayinChicago.com, and use code “THURSDAY” when ordering.  Tickets also available by calling 800-775-2000, or visit the Auditorium Theatre box-office or any Broadway in Chicago box-office.

    
    

REVIEW: Fuerza Bruta: Look Up (Broadway in Chicago)

    

Immerse yourself into the under-world of Fuerza Bruta

 Fuerza Bruta 6

 
Broadway in Chicago and Ozono Producciones presents
 
Fuerza Bruta: Look Up
 
Created by Diqui James
Music composed by
Gaby Kerpel
at
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress (map)
through July 25th  |  tickets: $47-$77  |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Dance music blaring, strobe lights flashing, neon straws glowing… and that’s preshow in the theatre lobby. Broadway in Chicago and Ozono Producciones presents Fuerza Bruta: Look Up, the Argentina-born performance art phenomenon. The experience starts in the lobby at the Auditorium Theatre. Converted to a nightclub lounge, the lobby, equipped with Fuerza Bruta 2a bar, couches and empanadas, opens an hour before show time to (literally) build up the buzz for the main event. Ten minutes before curtain, security staff usher guests into the theatre and on to the stage. According to promoters, the capacity for the show is 800 guests standing comfortably with personal space. That calculation seems ideally inflated by about 200. With the successful opening night crowd, it’s like rush hour on the Red Line but with everybody gawking out the windows at the view. The scenery is visual stimulations of the fast-paced mundane of the world and the whimsical enchantment of the sea kicked up with some Argentina sass. Fuerza Bruta: Look Up is a body rubbing, neck straining, pulsating emersion into a visual spectacle!

By air, water and tread mill, the movement dances through, around and above the crowd. Pictures can’t capture it. Words can’t describe it. Comprehension lies in the experience. Here’s a where-to-look guide to aid in the enjoyment:

  1. Center – hot guy running on treadmill
  2. West Side – women aerial dancing horizontally
  3. West Side – scaffold dancing with snow globe effect
  4. Throughout crowd – performers dancing with audience (watch out for Styrofoam attacks)
  5. Above – flying over-size Reynolds wrap (duck!)
  6. East-North Corner – D.J. mists the crowd
  7. Above – Reynolds wrap covers the crowd
  8. Below – squat down (I cheated on this one… bad knee!)
  9. East-North Corner – More mist!
  10. East –South Corner – scaffold dancing with audience members –more Styrofoam
  11. Above – It’s the whimsy! Looks like sea nymphs. Sounds like hail on the roof.
  12. Above – SPLAT!
  13. Above – More whimsy! Walking on water enchantment.
  14. Above – Slip-n-slide
  15. West Side – hot guy running on treadmill with two others
  16. Throughout crowd – more misting and dancing

Fuerza Bruta 3

I need to see it again because I’m sure I didn’t capture it all. A little more insight, it may be a club scene but the attire should be casual and comfortable! It’s close quarters and crowd shuffling occurs. If you have claustrophobia, stasiphobia or fear of Styrofoam (styrophobia?), this probably isn’t your show. If you enjoy sensory overload and hanging with 799 potential friends, Fuerza Bruta is definitely for you. The performers are smoking hot. The action is riveting. The experience is unique. This is the true actualization of theatre in the round… and above. And when you’re exiting, look out… at the grandeur of being onstage at the historic Auditorium Theatre.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
 

Running Time: Sixty-five minutes with no intermission

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