There were two spectacular celebrations seamlessly woven together when the Auditorium Theatre presented “A Golden Celebration of Dance” at the Auditorium Theatre on November 12, 2017. A tribute to dance and to the “Theatre for the People”, this was an evening that made me, at least, proud to be a Chicagoan. The Auditorium was embraced by its city when it opened in 1889, an exquisite building architecturally and a marvel of cutting-edge technology that included 3,500 light bulbs, unrivaled acoustics, 26 hydralic lifts that could raise and lower sections of the stage. The US President Benjamin Harrison and Vice President Levi Morton were in attendance. That was the beginning, but the history of this grande dame of auditoriums lay ahead.
The history included dance. Early on there were performances by Anna Pavlova and Isadora Duncan). However, in 1941, the Auditorium Theatre closed its doors to the public in the wake of the Great Depression. Aside from when it was used as a servicemen’s center during World War II, the theatre remained unused and in disrepair, until a 7-year-long fundraising campaign – led by Beatrice Spachner and the Auditorium Theatre Council – covered the costs of theatre renovation. October 31, 1967 was a grand re-opening, an historic evening when the Auditorium Theatre hosted New York City Ballet for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring principal dancers Edward Villella and Suzanne Farrell.
“The Auditorium Theatre’s grand re-opening 50 years ago helped usher in one of the most exciting eras of dance in Chicago,” says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “I am thrilled to commemorate this momentous occasion with such a special evening that will bring so much talent from around the world to our historic stage. This is an amazing opportunity for our patrons to experience an incredible array of top-tier performances over the course of one unforgettable night.”
And the night was truly unforgettable. Entering the lobby, guests were donning clothing of an earlier era for photographs against the backdrop of the night 50 years ago. There was a very festive mood and the entire auditorium was filled. I think it is safe to say that no one left disappointed.
Edward Villella and Suzanne Farrell were honorary co-chairs for the evening’s events. Projections of the Auditorium Theatre through its history was the backdrop and the images were beautiful and captivating. Mr. Villella opened the evening, speaking in person, sharing that while he has performed all over the world, he loves the Auditorium Theatre and enjoys dancing on its stage. Suzanne Farrell’s message was recorded but when she mentioned how she loved to look at the lights from the stage, the lights flickered on.
The performances began with Daniel Ulbricht and Megan Fairchild performing George Balanchine’s Tarantella, to perfection. In total contrast, in mood, costume and time, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook from The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performed George Balanchine’s Meditation, tender and sensuous.
One of the special moments was a video clip of Anna Pavlova dancing “The Dying Swan”, immediately followed by the in person by Liudmila Konovalova of the Vienna State Ballet performing The Swan in the style of Anna Pavlova. My companions said their favorite was the Washington Ballet’s Brooklyn Mack performing a pas de deux from Marius Petipa’s Diana and Acteon with San Francisco Ballet’s Koto Ishihara. This work was compelling and breathtaking.
For charm and humor, the prize had to go to dancers Daniil Simkin performing the solo piece Les Bourgeois by Ben Van Cauwenbergh set to music by Jacques Brel. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performing Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, an intricate blending of bodies, ended the first half.
We returned from intermission to a work that was completely different. Strobe lighting “caught” dancer Ian Spring of Parsons Dance in the most amazing poses. David Parsons’ work Caught was set to music by Robert Fripp. A stark contrast was or own Joffrey Ballet’s Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili performing Yuri Possokhov’s Bells Pas de Deux to the music of Sergei Rachmaninov. They were a joy to watch, lyrical and beautiful.
For something really, really, completely different there was Nicole Loizides and Todd Burnsed of the dance-illusionist company MOMIX performing the piece Millennium Skiva . In futuristic costumes on skis. Again, the contrast to traditional ballet when Madison Penney, the Youth America Grand Prix winner, La Esmeralda Variation choreographed by Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, revised by Irena Wozniak to music by Cesare Pugni.
Lyrical, lovely and sensuous were Emily Adams and Adrian Fry of Ballet West performing Chaconne Pas de Deux and Variations choreographed by George Balanchine to the music of Christoph Willibald Gluck. And then there was the most spectacular dance of the evening, Solomon Dumas of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Takademe, choreographed by Robert Battle to the most amazing musical words/sounds by Sheila Chandra.
Tying it all together with spectacular turns, leaps, and all the wonderful movements that are classical ballet was the Don Quixote Pas de Deux performed by Maria Kochelkova from the San Francisco Ballet and Daniil Simkin of the American Ballet Theatre, Berlin State Ballet, choreographed by Marius Petipa to music by Ludwig Minkus.
It was the skill and dedication of the following – Curator: Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO, Creative Director: Natasha Gamolsy, Project Designer:Frédéric O. Boulay, and Project Animator: Anastasia Victorova that created this fantastic evening, the perfect tribute to the beautiful Auditorium Theatre, a national treasure. Chicagoans can be grateful and proud.
For upcoming events go to the auditoriumtheatre website