adam barruch Anniversary

RIVER NORTH DANCE CHICAGO 25TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW: AN ADVENTURE AND A REVIEW

Thursday, April 02, 2015 molly

For twenty years of my life, I was a dancer. I guess you could say I started as a mover, as one of my first performances involved a full chicken body suit that was rigged to lay an egg when you pulled a string that hung near my belly button. My technique obviously (hopefully) became more advanced over the years performing with professional ballet companies, on my high school dance team, on stage as a musical theatre major in New York City. More than anything I wanted to be a dancer, but there comes a time in every young girl’s life when she looks down and can no longer see her feet due to her over developed chest. Wait, not everyone...maybe that was just me, okay kewwwwl. In one of the MOST PRESTIGIOUS dance films of our time “Center Stage”, principle ballerina-in-training Maureen famously says to her mother, “You didn’t have the feet. I don’t have the heart.” I am Maureen’s mother only my misfortune lies a bit higher on the body. Dancing professionally would never be in the cards for me, but I am aware of the discipline it takes to do so and admire those that have the fortune to carry out the dream. Last night’s viewing of the River North Dance Company at The Auditorium Theatre assured me that my dreams of days past were being carried out beautifully by a stunning group of passionate artists.

Previously, I had seen the River North Dance Company perform in 2013 at the Harris Theatre, and so I returned to the same location last night, excited for a brand new experience. However, just before the lights went down I noticed I was not in the right place. I thought the program I held with the information for a different dance company with a different set of dancers was a house mistake. I looked around and noticed everyone else had the wrong programs too! I thought, it’s such a shame no one is saying anything. The dancers deserve more respect for their hard work this season. A spark of realization: “DREW. I’M NOT IN THE RIGHT PLACE.” Drew Fountain is a close friend of mine who is in his second season as a company member with River North Dance Company. I managed to squeeze out the previously mentioned panic text just before the lights went down. The lights came up after the first piece:

Drew: Whattt??? Where are you???

Me: I went to the Harris Theatre! I thought it was the same place as last time! I just thought they were the wrong programs! DREW!


(Lights down. Second piece. Lights up.)


Drew: Wait, come here!!!! It’s not far!!!! You’ll make it in time for intermission!!!!


(Lights down. Third piece. Lights up. Intermission. Molly barrels
down Michigan Avenue to the Auditorium Theatre.)


Me: OMG I’m the Carrie Bradshaw of Chicago right now.


Drew: lol


Me: ...just hopping from show to show. SO GLAM.


(MOLLY ARRIVES AT THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE IN TIME
FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE RIVER NORTH DANCE
CHICAGO 25th ANNIVERSARY SEASON SHOW!)


Let me take a moment to formally apologize to Drew for missing the first half of his show, and specifically for missing him doing this:
 
(That's Drew, doing the splits center stage during "In the End" by Frank Chavez)

Luckily, Drew reminded me that the second half contained the show’s two world-premiere pieces, one of which was choreographed by one of my all time favorites, Adam Barruch! The anxiety subsided, and with excitement in its place I was ready to enjoy the rest of my evening. First up was company member Hannah Bricston’s choreographic debut/world premiere of the all female casted “Beast.” An immediately powerful stage picture revealed itself as the curtains came up: a straight line of women dressed in blue, stomachs bared slinking forward and backward to and from the aforementioned line. Something I will comment about which can be applied to the company as a whole is their stand out quality of body awareness. Not a person on stage was not in complete and stable control of his/her limbs. No matter the subject of the piece their connection to their bodies and obvious comfort in their skin led to an overall feeling of sensuality with every step taken. Especially clear in the all female piece was their exceptional athleticism. While their hand movements ticked in precision with the accompanying backing track, a memorable mix of sustained bass and female vocal percussion, their legs alternatively extended from their body with the resistance of taffy. I did happen to miss the all male piece in the first half, but I am positive the men’s performances were nothing short of their phenomenal counterparts. The audience erupted in heightened cheering (there was a lot of ‘wooing’) and rose from their seats at the piece’s end, and so I know most patrons agreed with Drew’s post show comment that “the girls are amazing.”
 
(Hayley Meier in Hannah Bricston's "Beast")

The full company then joined each other on stage to perform the world premiere of “The Frost That Binds” by innovative choreographer genius Adam Barruch, and it did not disappoint as self predicted. The piece is about how “we are becoming emotionally frozen as we become dependent on technology,” Drew shares, “all while the status of our planet seems to be doing the opposite and becoming more chaotic.” While these two topics might seem like they’re on two different sides of the spectrum, Barruch ties them together with symbolic movement. The comment I found most striking for myself and relevant to the piece was Barruch’s belief that “our individual experience as humans can indeed affect the stability of the planet and our survival as a species.” A hopeful sentiment for a grim thought, Barruch used a lot of constant contact between the dancers to offer a sense of comfort throughout the piece. One dancer would touch another with hand, foot, head, etc, which would begin a chain reaction of another dancer touching another until a group of individuals collected, moving together in an amoeba like figure. “So much of the piece is focused on our relationships with the other dancers on stage and how that kind of interpersonal connection needs to be strengthened,” says Fountain. I also received a little insight from Drew on how the piece came to fruition, whereas the choreography was guided by Barruch a lot relied on improvisational movement from the dancers themselves. He explains, “we all learned two long phrases of material to get [Barruch’s] movement into our bodies and then we dispersed into pairs to create hybrid phrases derived from the movement. So essentially everything onstage was made by the dancers.” The intimacy the dancer’s had with the movement was apparent onstage and only further complimented one of Barruch’s several powerful messages that one person reaching out to another has the ability to affect a larger change.

The last piece, “Habaneras” also brought the entire company onstage. Premiering in 2005 and choreographed by the company’s artistic director Frank Chavez, “Habaneras” was not only an ode the “1950s-era Big Band” movement in Cuba but it was also a tribute to his late father. “With this year marking the 25th Anniversary season of River North Dance Chicago, reviving “Habaneras” and placing it on a program of new contemporary works was a way to pay homage to the style of dance that River North is known for in the past as well as show the exciting new direction the company is headed in the future,” says Fountain. And he’s exactly right. This was the perfect fun and lively close to a phenomenal 25th anniversary show. The girls were adorned in brightly colored skirts, the boys in blue velvet pants and traditional flamenco tops. You could sense the connection the dancer’s had with the piece which was perhaps due to their director’s personal attachment with it himself. They fully immersed themselves in the fiesta environment provided to them by Chavez, at one point clapping to the music’s rhythm, the audience without prompt joined in. It was a powerful ending to an evening of artistry to feel as if I too had a part in this bittersweet celebration of life. There was actually never a part of the evening when I did not feel as if I wasn’t welcome to experience the story being told on stage. Perhaps Fountain rounds together my thoughts of excitement surrounding the rare and incredible artistry of the River North Dance Company in saying, “we are known for our versatility and athleticism and this program really showed that to the audience.” Without a shadow of a doubt, this company holds the best artists Chicago and beyond has to offer. Cheers to the company! And break a leg next season! I can’t wait to experience your magic soon again.

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