Chicago Dance Review: DANCE FOR LIFE 25TH ANNIVERSARY (Chicago Dancers United)

Post image for Chicago Dance Review: DANCE FOR LIFE 25TH ANNIVERSARY (Chicago Dancers United)

by Lawrence Bommer on August 21, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


For a quarter century—since 1991—one summer night of nights in Chicago has raised funds to fight HIV, assist the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and 30 other service organizations, as well as provide for the health emergencies of countless dancers. True to its mission, on Saturday night Dance For Life raised $400,000 in its annual charity event at the Auditorium Theatre. (The occasion has raised more than $6 million dollars so far, combining philanthropy and the performing arts.) This is, alas, a review of record but also a promissory note for the next 25 years.

GDC Sing Sing Sing Houston Downs Gorman Cook Photography

GDC_Alegrai_Maeghan McHale_Martin Ortiz Tapia in Alegria. Photo by Gorman Cook PhotographyCrucially for dance lovers, the seminal event showcased characteristic works from five major Chicago dance troupes. These included two world premieres, collaborative efforts from these and more ensembles. By evening’s end this venture from Chicago Dancers United became a tribute to the art itself: What portrays life more pictorially than dance, catching in the act the many movements that sum us up?

You felt it in Giordano Dance Company’s opening signature offering Sing, Sing, Sing. Set to Louis Prima’s hit romp, this perky, high-strutting romp featured the ten-member ensemble in white athletic wear. The original number required 3 performers: Here it became a group effort of inexhaustible energy and palpable fun. Later, Giordano Dance Chicago regaled us with the funky, effortless playfulness of choreographer Keisha Lalama’s well-named Alegria. Free-wheeling and sweetly sexy, it whirled into a fine and footloose frenzy.

Visceral_Photo by Cheryl Mann

A calling card for youth and energy, the well-named Visceral Dance Chicago threw themselves into Nick Pupillo’s highly percussive Vital. (Peter Ferry provided the rhythms.) A short work that celebrates and exploits action, warmth and even risk, it engaged its ten dancers in swirling permutations of encounters and separations, variations on the title adjective that always fit the beat.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Providing an excerpt from Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago all but exhausted the possibilities of limbs and leaps as the dancers freeze-froze in running postures or twisted into torturous couplings. You’d never imagine that so steady a soul as Brahms could deliver chamber music to display passions in full flux and whiplash fluidity.

Joffrey Ballet_01Heard That, created by Jessica Deahr for Chicago Dance Crush, employed haunting smoke effects as a backdrop for the choreographer’s “fusion” style, a very contemporary mix of freestyle hip hop and breakout solos. The result was a kind of intricate exuberance that never seemed enough.

The Joffrey Ballet’s Round of Angels, a contrast in style, mood and skill from everything else on the bill, offered 2400 delighted audience members an appropriately serene take on Gustav Mahler’s symphonic conversations. Creating rhapsodic urgency in tandem and individual explorations, it presented adept young talents from the huge company and adagio-style athleticism from principal dancers Jeraldine Mendoza and Fabrice Calmels. Uplifted arms and propulsive legs seemed extensions of the composer’s gentle ecstasies and musical meditations.

The world premieres were large and lovely tours de force. A tribute to the late Prince, Purple Medley is the creation of Harrison McEldowney and Jeremy Plummer and the collective achievement of 15 dancers from C5, Chicago Dance Crash, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, DanceWorks Chicago, LEVELdance and independent Dance Crash04_Photo by Ashley Derancontributors. They indulged in a Cirque du Soleil carnival worthy of the kickass score. The frolic came complete with tambourine-bouncing ladies and soaring players in harnesses swinging or scaling the back wall. Its attempt to enlarge dance into circus may have seemed calculated for effect but the jazzy cavorting entranced the crowd.

Completing the evening was Randy Duncan’s Depth of Light. Featuring Tibetan singing bowls and soulful vocals, this final labor of love combined 17 artists from Chicago Repertory Ballet, DanceWorks Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, Visceral Dance Chicago, Winifred Haun & Dancers and freelance performers in a drumfest written and performed by Andry Mitran. An Olympic floor exercise gone off mission, this group creation was as much spiritual as sensual, a perfect whole even greater than its partners.

They danced for life. You can’t stop the movement.


photos by Gormon Cook, Cheryl Mann, Ashley Deran and Todd Rosenberg

Dance for Life 25th Anniversary
Chicago Dancers United
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy
played Saturday August 20, 2016
for more info, visit CDU

Comments on this entry are closed.