Deeply Rooted Dance Theater – Preview

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
Abbott rehearsing Parallel Lives with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Photo by Henry Trinh


December 15 at 7:30 p.m.
December 16 at 2 p.m.


Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th Street, Chicago.

Editor’s Note: Deeply Rooted Dance Theater celebrates its successes and looks forward to what lies ahead with “An Inspired Past. A Jubilant Future,” a program that includes a world premiere by Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director Gary Abbott, along with other works by Abbott and Co-Founder and Artistic Director Kevin Iega Jeff. Read some of Abbott's thoughts about his new work and Deeply Rooted below.

(PTP) Parallel Lives, your work premiering on Deeply Rooted’s December program, is inspired by poor, working women who have shared life-changing events, both beautiful and tragic. What else can you tell us about it?

(GA) The spirit of the "common woman and man" has always fascinated me. I'm one of them. It's incredible how those with the least can be so generous with the little bit they have. At the worst of times, the spirit of the poor and disenfranchised seems to grow larger. For me, it's almost as if being in that state creates a deeper sense of the importance of life, survival and love. It's an example of nobility that is seldom if at all noticed about them.

What inspired this subject matter?

It was a confluence of many things that seemed random at the time. I was reading articles and books on Mother Teresa, Daisy Bates, Viola Liuzzo and others. I also ran across pictures of women in South Africa fighting against apartheid. I saw photos of the poor women who were trying to hold their families together during the Great Depression and photos of old women still working hard on farms in China. I was listening to stories from my mother and aunt about their closest female cousin who had recently passed and what it was like growing up black and female during the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s in the south. All of those images came into play during the creative process.

What does the title refer to?

According to the dictionary, the word parallel used as a noun is a person or thing that's similar or analogous to another. In this dance, these women are similar in terms of experiencing situations, and because of that they are able to reach out and support one another through whatever those experiences may be.

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
Gary Abbott Photo by Mike Strong
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
Gary Abbott rehearsing Parallel Lives with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Photo by Henry Trinh

The work has original music by Evangelos Spanos based on Vivaldi’s “La Folia.” How did you choose this composer and score?

Evangelos Spanos is a brilliant composer and musician that happens to be the pianist for our ballet classes at University of Missouri - Kansas City. His playing is beautiful, dramatic and emotional, so much so that I was bound to connect with him. We spoke about his work as a composer and he offered to let me hear this piece. I was instantly overtaken by its beauty, it seemed to occupy different time periods so authentically.  The faculty here at UMKC present a concert every semester, and I was looking for something beautiful. This was a perfect piece for me.

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
Gary Abbott rehearsing Parallel Lives with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Photo by Jeffrey Hitchens

How do you start creating a new work? Do you have a process you typically use?

Creating a new work happens for me in many ways. It really depends on the situation. Sometimes it starts with me being inspired by a thought, sometimes by music, sometimes by dancers or an image in my imagination that I have been seeing in my mind’s eye that gets clearer and clearer and demands to become a dance. It really is just that different. The process of developing a new work varies as well. I tend to enjoy researching so I will read a lot about what I am working on or I will speak to people and ask their opinions on whatever subject matter I am considering.

Deeply Rooted is about to launch its 22nd season. As a co-founder, how does that make you feel? What are your thoughts about the company’s future?

After 22 years, as co-founder of Deeply Rooted, I feel validated. The dreams that Iega [Jeff, co-founder and artistic director] and I dreamed are still becoming realities. I am most thankful for the people who are inspired by the work and those that choose to become a part of the work. We are still struggling, but it' a regenerative struggle that births ideas that that are important to me and brings those that we need and those that need us to us, to this beautiful struggle. It's worth it! The company will evolve and it will change, thank goodness, and I welcome the evolution.


$35–55 for each performance

$150 includes post-performance VIP reception December 16

Tickets are available on the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater website

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