Chicago Dancing Festival: The Bridge Between East and West

With the principle that art belongs to everyone, the third night of the 2012 Chicago Dancing Festival brought together dance companies from across the country.  The combination of Ballet Arizona, Martha Graham Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Giordano Dance Company and Brian Brooks Moving Company made for an eclectic evening of ballet classics to newly commissioned works.

The evening began with Ballet Arizona performing Rubies, choreographed by the legendary George Balanchine and set to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.  As the dance began, I found it a bit interesting that the choreographer chose to bring to life an object that never moves.  As I watched, what came to mind was how the movements were inspired by the light dancing through rubies. The syncopated orchestration made for an arousing dance that explored the spirit of the gem.

The next work, Descent, was a theatrical piece that used a combination of props and puzzle-like choreography that carefully wrapped movements through dancers set to the music of Adam Crystal.  The effective use of lighting helped set the mood for each dance with the new age feel of Crystal’s piano music. Instead of having lighting go towards the stage, the lighting often shined across the stage and at different heights to create different shadows.

At the onset of the dance, the movements were deliberate, slow and decisive. As the movements progressed, the movements became woven as dancers helped move the other.  At moments, the choreography felt like a fight in a move scene, without the violence.  And in the middle, the dancers used a large piece of cardboard to bring different colored sheer material dance to the light over their heads. It had an improvisatory feel to it because every performance with the sheer would be different based on a variety of factors – dancers height, size of the boards, material size, and speed of the “wind”.  I managed to find some of the music on Soundcloud:

The evening progressed with the unexpected return of the Giordano Dance Company with Two Become Three, which was commissioned for the Chicago Dancing Festival.  It was premiered on the first night of the festival, and the second time around was equally entertaining.  The dance captured the spirit of relationships between a man and woman. By the end, the dance shows how men freak out at the appearance of a child whereas women gladly to embrace motherhood.

The San Francisco Ballet brought to life the Pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.  After a brief intermission, Afternoon of a Faun performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet.  On this night, members danced the choreography by Jerome Robbins. The music was set to the Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, which was originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky in 1912 (the version I thought I was would see this evening).   The Robbins version has a different plotline: 

The scene takes place in an empty ballet studio, the long mirror in which all dancers watch themselves being the fourth wall of stage convention – the audience. The Nymph and Faun are dancers who meet there by chance, and were it not that they are more absorbed in their own images in the mirror than in the reality of their intimate physical contact as they dance together, a romance might have ensued. Robbins is saying something fundamental about the essential narcissism of dancers. (Source:

The concluding dance of the night, and perhaps the most dramatic dance of the festival, was Chronicle performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company.  Set to the music by Wallingford Riegger, Graham choreographed this work in response to the rise of fascism in Europe during the mid-1930s.  The story is told from the perspective of women. No male dancers are included in this ensemble.

Split into three movements, the choreography is dark and seemed to forecast the bloodshed that was to occur in the coming years.  The militarism in the movements and the evocative character of the dance touched on the madness behind conformity.  All movements were impressive and impactful in their own way, but the first section stuck in my mind.  The costume was more than a drape or layer of clothing from waste down.  No, the wrapped skirt around the soloist was woven into the drama to illustrate the splattering of crimson blood.  The dance in its entirety was a brew of sheer rebellion, directed at the sad, conquering nature of man.

All in all, the evening showcased talent from both sides of the country and brought together companies from east and west with Chicago serving as the bridge between all facets of classic ballet and contemporary dance.

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