While I am aware that this review will be after the fact, because this is a one night only EVENT, I am sharing this with you for “your” future reference. River North Dance will continue to perform in the Greater Chicago area as will the fabulous Orbert Davis and his Philharmonics. The show I witness tonight, at The Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, that wonderful venue on Congress, between Michigan Avenue and Wabash, was a work that was enjoyed by all. It was a huge crowd, showing the popularity of these troupes.
The two hour show began with Mr. Davis and his musicians performing music with a Latin beat based on his recent visit to Cuba. While in Havana, he traveled a five mile walk, learning more about the country and the people with a gentleman named Orlando. He then composed a special piece which he calls “Orlando’s Walk” wit short pauses along the way- which is what they did to take in the sights and snap a few photos. I must tell you, the audience was into this music, dancing at their seats, and in the aisles. Mr. Davis had the house lights turned on and allowed the audience to take pictures of their own on this particular number. The other numbers he did were also of a Latin flavor including the number “Manteca”, an old classic by Dizzy Gillespie.
After this set, they cleared the stage of the the instruments and the stands and chairs were lowered into the orchestra pit, the curtains opened and we were treated to The River North Dance Chicago company’s”Eva” choreographed by Artistic Director Frank Chaves ( Chicago Premier), followed by “Fields of Gold”. “Stormy Monday”,”Autumn Leaves ( Lauren Kias and Michael Gross were featured) and then the first act finale,” Wade In The Water”. A Note on “Eva”. This was inspired by the works of Eva Cassidy, a local singer who was known for her mixture of Jazz, standards, blues,folk and gospel music to tell her stories. What a marvelous voice and sorry to say, it is now gone ( she died of Cancer), so in reality this is a tribute to this talent. a beautiful piece of work, which I am sure will be presented again. When you see it announced, pick up the phone and order your tickets.
After a 15 minute intermissions, the troupe came back to bring us the anticipated “Havana Blues”. Both Chaves and Davis spent nine days in Cuba and were inspired by what they saw and heard- the music, the dance, visual arts, and of course, the people. I would have loved to see a photo presentation of Cuba during the special set by Davis in the first half. I think watching musicians with no visuals is okay for 5 or 10 minutes, but 30 needs some other visuals. “Havana Blue” is a treat for the eyes, but for some reason, the lighting for this masterpiece was very low so while we saw movement of the talented dancers, we could not see the faces of the 12 performers, andoften we had trouble seeing the movement itself. It is a shame to waste the visuals- maybe next time, that will be altered. I am sure the dancers want to be seen!
The music speaks to the hardships of the people and the daily turmoil of living in a country that is not free, but through it all, their spirits, hopes and dreams keep them going, persevering each day. The art and culture of Cuba is what this piece is all about. Pity, we could not see it all, and again, in between numbers, perhaps some photos so we can see what this is all bout. The second half of the 2nd Act was filled with more Latin inspired music and danced with great beauty by Levizadik Buckins, Taeler Cyrus,Hank Hunter,Lauren Kias,Ethan R. Kirschbaum,Melanie Manale-Hortin,Hayley Meier, Olivia Rehrman,Ahmad Simmons Michael McDonald and Jessica Wolfrum .
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