Review: Chicago Repertory Ballet – Everyone has a story to tell…

Relationships filled the stage at the Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach (north of Miami). Relationships between groups, between couples and the relationship between man and the changing of the seasons. 

Chicago Repertory Ballet, under founder and Artistic Director Wade Schaaf, is a young company (3 years) making its mark on the U.S. dance scene. The program presented was filled with thought provoking choreography performed by highly trained and talented dancers.

The first piece on the program, Still Life (2015), choreographed by Tenley Dorrill, was a septex with one lone dancer echoing the movements of the others. Groups were formed and reformed while maintaining a sense of structure. Were we watching the beginning of relationships? Or endings? In the midst of these fluid relationships was a powerful duet danced to dialogue from the film “Amour”. Like the film, we saw a couple in an intimate relationship dealing with love and violence; old age and dying. It was engrossing; ending all too soon.

The Four Seasons – Winter. Photo: Cheryl Mann
The Four Seasons – Winter. Photo: Cheryl Mann

Dancer, Net (3) (2011), with music by Camille Saint-Saens and choreography by Wade Schaaf, began with a dancer wrapped in a shimmering net. She is lying on the floor, her back to the audience, and appears to be in the grip of a nightmare. The net binds her. She  pushes and twist against it. At times she seems to be completely engulfed by the net, until she is finally able to rid herself of it. But the freedom is short- lived. Are we watching a woman dealing with an internal struggle? An inner battle within herself? The net seems to take on the role of a conflict which she is forced to deal with. It was a mesmerizing performance.

It’s Not Enough To Close Your Eyes (2011), choreography by Jacqueline Stewart with music by Hildur Gudnadottir and Jean-Philipe Goude was next on the program. The piece dealt with the intricacies of a relationship. It began with a couple standing around a lit lamp. The light illuminates both the dancers and their relationship. It is at times stark and at others illuminating. At one point, the woman is drawn to the lamp, moving like a moth to a flame, while the man stands back in darkness.The light illuminates so much, but much remains hidden in the shadows.

The Four Seasons – Summer. Photo: Cheryl Mann
The Four Seasons – Summer. Photo: Cheryl Mann

Chicago Repertory Ballet rendition of  Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (with music recomposed by Max Richter) was the final piece on the program. Choreography was by Wade Schaaf. Here we see the relationship of man to the changing seasons. Like Richter’s music, the dancing was filled with depth, breath and spaciousness. Each season brought forth a different feeling and atmosphere. At times joyous, wistful, languid and potent.  “Winter” was performed with the women in nude coloured leotards and the men in flesh coloured tights. The starkness of the costumes and the choreography highlighted “the winter of our discontent”.

The Four Seasons – Winter. Photo: Cheryl Mann
The Four Seasons – Winter. Photo: Cheryl Mann

This program was presented by Ballet Vero Beach, with Adam Schnell as Artistic Director. Chicago Repertory Ballet completed a two week residency with Ballet Vero Beach. Two companies working together to form a relationship. Together they presented a charming piece titled A Beautiful Thing Is Never Perfect, with choreography by Jacqueline Stewart. It was delightful to see the youthful and talented dancers from Ballet Vero Beach take the stage. They gave a wonderful performance.

At a Q&A session following the program, Wade Schaff spoke of the training of the dancers (ballet and contemporary). He also noted that he preferred to work with older dancers as they “speak from experience in life”. After watching this amazing company, one can understand his point of view.

For more information visit: chicagorepertoryballet.com

by Diana Dunbar

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