Chicago Dance United presents its 28th annual Dance for Life benefit concert and gala at the Auditorium Theatre featuring work from six Chicago dance companies.
From the first moment that Giordano Dance Chicago steps on stage, the audience knows that this evening will be electric. From upbeat and thrilling works by Giordano Dance Chicago and Chicago Dance Crash, to alluring duets from the Joffrey Ballet, and tear-jerking tribute works by Robyn Mineko Williams and Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, the 28th annual Dance for Life concert brought the audience to their feet.
Chicago Dancers United Honors a Legacy
Dance for Life honored a number of dance legacies that had passed away in the past year, including founding member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Claire Bataille. Robyn Mineko Williams’ trio Echo Mine was a tribute to Bataille that began simply as a way for Williams and Bataille to create something together. Bataille passed away before the two could complete the piece together but in her memory, Williams brought together three dancers from different generations of Hubbard Street, including herself, to dance the material she had created with Bataille.
The excerpt of Echo Mine featured a single chair on stage. The three dancers, Williams, Jacqueline Burnett, and Meredith Dincolo, perform soft gestures; a hand grazing across a cheek, or a turn of the head that become striking full bodied movements as the three begin to interact with each other and the chair on stage. The three women are powerful, and delicate all at the same time.
Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater performed Mar de Fuego/Sea of Fire in dedication to Founder Libby Komaiko, who also passed away in 2019. The ensemble of 12 dancers appeared in dark black and purple costumes. The group danced together in unison, moving as one across the stage doing traditional flamenco movements. The dancers also broke out into solos and duets with the group clapping along to their movement in a circle around them, like a community coming together to support one another, perfectly aligned with what Dance for Life stands for. The piece ends with a photo of Komaiko projected on the backdrop and the dancers looking up to her as their inspiration from above.
The Joffrey Ballet performed two duets Lorelei and Bells. While these weren’t as upbeat as some of the other pieces on the program, the duets brought a subtle beauty to the stage. Lorelei performed by Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez is dramatic and passionate while Bells performed by Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvii is intricate and uplifting. In each duet the dancers have an intense connection that brings them together, and combined with the stellar technique of the Joffrey dancers is nothing short of stunning.
Chicago Human Rhythm Project/Stone Soup Rhythms danced Movement 11, with music for the piano by Bugge Wesseltoft, Henrik Schwarz, and Dan Berglund, was another more subdued yet captivating piece within the program. The classical piano music mixed with the company's rhythmic tap dancing perfectly complemented one another, as if the dancers beats were part of the music.
Bringing the Energy
Giordano Dance Chicago set the tone for the evening with the opening number Soul. Already the company had the audience clapping along within minutes. The piece, choreographed by Ray Leeper, was seductive, sexy, sharp, and exuberant. The dancers transition from sultry hip rolls and passionate duets to the sounds of Gladys Knight and the Pips and Al Green to an all out dance party full of fun to Tina Turner’s Proud Mary. During the final minutes of the dance, the wings are lifted up to reveal the dancers from all the other companies cheering Giordano’s dancers on in the wings. Seeing the excitement on the stage and the community of dancers supporting each other was the definition of what this evening is all about.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Chicago Dance Crash both excelled at bringing the energy on stage. Hubbard Street performed an excerpt of Decadance/Chicago choreographed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. The curtain rises on the dancers in suits and hats sitting in a semicircle of black folding chairs and already there is an anticipation for this iconic piece. The dancers thrust forward, their hats flying off their heads, the last dancer in the circle falling on the floor. The dance accumulates, adding new movements throughout, while the dancers simultaneously remove articles of clothing until they are left standing in just shorts and tank tops breathing heavily and staring intensely at the audience.
Chicago Dance Crash’s piece Leap of Faith is one of the more playful performances of the evening. The dynamic company combines contemporary and hip hop dance styles and performs thrilling feats of acrobatics and break dancing that incite gasps and wows from the audience.
Similar to the upbeat beginning of the show, Dance for Life ends with a bang. Dancers from a number of the companies in Chicago and freelance dancers in the Chicago community perform Release choreographed by Randy Duncan. The piece combines jazz and African movements showcasing each dancer while bringing the group of 20 dancers in bright orange and neon costumes together in celebration.
Dance for Life proved to be a celebration of where the Chicago Dance Community has been, and where it is going. For more information about 2020’s Dance for Life or how to support Chicago Dancers United, visit Chicago Dancers United’s website.
Photos by Todd Rosenberg
About the Author:
Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Marketing Manager. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com