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Music + Movement: Havana Blue Me Away!

Orbert Davis & Frank Chaves

Music + Movement Festival Continues at Auditorium Theatre

Leave it to the Auditorium Theatre to come up with the bright idea to commission eleven local dance companies paired with local musicians to create new collaborative works.  Fabulous idea!  So, since February, The Music + Movement Festival has presented performances that have included such artists as Kalapriya Dance Company w/ Lyon Leifer, Sara Ranagathan and Ravi Iyer, Kuumba Lynx with Urban Aspirations, Joel Hall Dancers with Charles Heath, Chicago Human Rhythm Project w/ Greg Spero and River North Dance Chicago w/ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic!

Cuba_02At the Miles Davis Festival in 2011, a fortuitous encounter between artistic directors Orbert Davis (Chicago Jazz Philharmonic) and Frank Chaves (River North Dance Chicago) at the was the catalyst for the fabulous collaboration Havana Blue, which premiered at the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday, April 13!  As they discovered their shared African and Cuban roots, they decided to travel to Cuba together, along with twenty-five others, on an eight-day tour focused on Cuban music and dance!  "Together, they created a new work that re-defines music/dance collaborations by 1) conceiving a work together (composer and choreographer) from its infancy, 2) reversing the process with some of the music being composed to the dance (usually dance is choreographed to the music), and 3) utilizing improvisation within both idioms."  And, Havana Blue was born!

hb-007The program opened with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic's Cuban Ensemble.  The Ensemble’s ensemble was apropos, representing traditional Cuban swag!  You could tell they were enjoying themselves – both the music and their own little informal dancing!

For “Orlando’s Walk”, the brass section joined the Cuban Ensemble and allowed the audience to join them on the five-mile walk they took, pausing along the way for photos.  To make sure we really shared the experience with them, the house lights were brought up and we were invited to dance in the aisles and to take and share photos during convenient seconds of musical pauses.  The Cuban Ensemble closed with Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca and left the audience wanting more!


We took a bit of an unexpected detour as River North Dance interjected with a new work entitled Eva.

Eva was named for Eva Cassidy, whose stirring vocals intensified the emotion of the choreography.  The performance ranged from ethereal and effortless (Fields of Gold) to hot, torrid and steamy (Stormy Monday) and they gave a nod to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater with Wade In the Water.  Eva was a lovely program, but, frankly, it could have been saved for another day, as it was a rather abrupt departure from the Cuban Ensemble’s groove.

Back Into the Groove . . .

Havana_Blue_06_Photo_by_Cheryl_MannHavana Blue me away!  With the opening number, Sabor, we journeyed through lush, dense Cuban rhythms  with sumptuous, lush music, costumes and dance, followed by the vibrant and eclectic Congri.  Lo Masculino was a standout dance performance and not just because of the sexy, shirtless men!  The performance was powerful and athletic, seemingly influenced by capoeira movement and punctuated by an all percussive musical accompaniment.  We continued across the nicely manicured and well-groomed landscape of ___, which, nonetheless betrayed its earthy roots.  As the program continued, I wondered:  How does Orbert Davis come up with this?!?!  One word of wisdom:  When the Havana Blue soundtrack is released - and, undoubtedly, it will be – buy it!  And get extra copies for gift-giving!

spot_445Havana Blue was the centerpiece of the Music + Movement Festival and completely exemplified the brilliance of Auditorium Theatre’s commission!  The Movement + Music Festival culminates on with a Showcase on Wednesday, May 15th that includes Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre with musicians James Sanders, Stu Greenspan and Joe Cerqua; Chicago Human Rhythm Project with Greg Spero; Kuumba Lynx with Urban Aspirations; Mexican Dance Ensemble with Los Condenados Huastecos; DanceWorks Chicago with Paul Wertico; and Thodos Dance Chicago with Amanda Batterson will revive their commissioned performances seen throughout the Auditorium’s Music + Movement Festival along with a special performance from Giordano Dance Chicago on the Auditorium Theatre Landmark stage.  Tickets are available for only $20!

The festival continues throughout June with various community performances on dates to be determined.

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