The ninth season of the Chicago Dancing Festival opened on on September 1 with a glittering ceremony. Dancing Under the Stars closed out the festival on Saturday evening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.
The finale started off with a fusion of percussive dances — tap, flamenco and Irish dance — called In the Meantime. The performance was specially created for the festival and brought together by Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and Trinity Irish Dance Company; after the performance, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre made their Chicago debut with the 30-minute, flawlessly coordinated rendition of the Sandpaper Ballet.
Torrent by Brian Brooks Moving Company was a brilliant piece that fluctuated between orderly patterns and unrestrained turbulence. It was followed by the 125-year old choreography of Marius Petipa’s Blue Bird Pas de Deux from The Sleeping Beauty, which was done full justice to by the extremely talented Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak of American Ballet Theatre.
Twyla Tharp’s choreography Sweet Fields, inspired by the religious sect of Shaking Quakers, had ten sequences performed by different combinations of dancers from Miami City Ballet. The serene and spiritual rendition was performed to a cappella hymns by the 18th-century composer William Billings.
The cynosure of the night was the closing act In Creases, performed by The Joffrey Ballet. Philip Glass’ Four Movements for Two Pianos, played by pianists Grace Kim and Paul James Lewis, had the artists manipulate their bodies into complex geometric structures and unique patterns, earning a standing ovation from the crowd.
The spectacular show managed to grip the audience — from young dancer-kids to grandmothers who may have been ballerinas in their time — until the very end of the performance, despite intermittent rain. Catherine Greenberg, 85, said, “Watching these brilliant kids makes me want to be able to dance like them. They’re unbelievably flexible!”
The experience was also deemed an enriching one by the artists themselves. “Performing to a sea of people is a reward for any dancer,” said Samantha Galler, 25, of Miami City Ballet, “and I experienced this in Chicago today.”
The Chicago Dancing Festival is a five-day dancing extravaganza, founded by Lar Lubovitch and Jay Franke. The festival showcases renowned dance companies from across the country at various venues, with the admission being completely free. This year, at the Gala held on August 28, the Museum of Contemporary Arts team managed to raise $40,000 from the attendees in order to make the tenth Chicago Dancing Festival a free affair like all its precedents.