Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Coming Full Circle At The Auditorium

By Catherine L. Tully

I have literally grown up with this building in my life, and my journey in dance would not have been the same without it.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to take me to see performances there. We’d sit way up in the gallery seats, bringing our pop-up opera glasses to see the dancers on stage a little bit better. I can recall watching many a ballet from there, and at that height you notice a lot about the patterns! This was the also the stage where I saw Nureyev perform—one of the most amazing things any dancer could ever hope to see.

After studying at Chicago City Ballet School for a number of years in my teens, I was invited to perform Balanchine’s Four Temperaments with the company on stage at the Auditorium. I was thrilled—and terrified. This was not like being a child in The Nutcracker where you are on stage with fancy clothes and big set pieces among a sea of others. This ballet left you nowhere to hide. Only a handful of dancers were on stage at one time, costumes basically consisted of a leotard and tights, and the choreography was challenging—so my first time on this tremendous stage came coupled with a lot of pressure.

Nureyev’s autograph on an Auditorium program! 
I can still recall the thrill of it—dancing something from my favorite choreographer—on my favorite stage. Frightened as I was to be out there, it was exhilarating as well. As I looked out into the darkness at the end of the performance, I thought briefly about how odd it was that I was now on the other side of things—no longer a spectator. It was truly something I never could have imagined when I attended all those years before with my mom.

Fast-forward to the present day in my current role as editor/owner of 4dancers.org, a blog for dancers on the web, and once again the Auditorium plays a central part in my life. Things have come full-circle—I have returned to the audience—but this time in yet a different role. Now I attend to review companies such as the Joffrey Ballet and to help sponsor and support wonderful events like Dance for Life Chicago. It’s funny how things have a way of working out in a way that you never could have anticipated, isn’t it?

I took my niece to see Joffrey’s Nutcracker for the very first time in December, and I watched as her eyes opened wide with wonder as we walked into the theater to find our seats, soaking in all of the gold and grandeur. It took me back to those days with my mom, and I remembered how it felt to see that theatre through the eyes of a child.

As I think about all of the good times that I’ve had at the Auditorium I can’t choose just one moment to highlight, but I can say this—experience has taught me that it’s likely there are many more to come.

And I look forward to them all.

Catherine L. Tully is the owner/editor of 4dancers.org, a blog for dancers, dance teachers and those who love dance. She serves as the Outside Europe Representative for the National Dance Teachers Association in the UK and has over 40 years of experience in dance as an instructor, educator, performer and writer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Too Hot to Handel on Windy City Live! [Video]

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Executive Director Brett Batterson and members of the Too Hot to Handel Choir visited Windy City LIVE today!  See them perform below!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hi, I’m Alfreda Burke, soprano soloist in Too Hot to Handel.

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By Alfreda Burke, Soprano Soloist

Where do I begin sharing my Too Hot to Handel experience?!  You have a beloved, often-performed original score inspired by God, masterfully composed  in 24 days by George Frideric Handel in 1741, Messiah; powerful scriptural text, diverse musical genres – a hybrid of classical, jazz, blues, gospel, rock, funk, fusion; multi-cultures and ages; talented and skilled musicians represented in the Too Hot orchestra, jazz combo, choir (prepared by Bill Fraher), soli Rodrick Dixon, Karen Marie Richardson, myself; Alvin Waddles on piano and Suzanne Mallare Acton on the podium.  Don’t forget the light and sound technicians, stage manager and crew behind-the-scenes; produced by visionary Executive Director Brett Batterson, supported by Board Chair, Mel Katten and Auditorium Theatre Board, brass and staff; generous donors, corporate sponsorship, Friends and Ambassadors of THTH; student and educational outreach; press and media; and the electric energy exchanged between our wonderful audiences and the stage!  We affectionately call it Handel’s Messiah “on steroids”, not your grandfather’s or grandmother’s Messiah!  There’s an exuberant spirit in the atmosphere when all of these components come together!

My journey includes a lot of Roosevelt University and Auditorium Theatre history; a double alumna of RU and an RU CCPA Advisory Board Member.  A body of work from Symphony Center, Carnegie Hall to operatic, concert and musical theater stages in North America and Europe; Show Boat directed by Harold Prince, in the beautiful gold leafed walls of Auditorium Theatre; as well as Prague PBS Special, Hallelujah Broadway live concert, duo concert, Songs of a Dream and Too Hot to Handel.  The journey also includes work in education from Evanston-Skokie Dist. 65 to Wheaton College Conservatory to masterclasses and artist residencies today.  I was raised a pastor’s daughter in the Baptist to Mennonite church, playing Hammond organ and piano; singing hymns, anthems, spirituals, belting out traditional and contemporary gospel.  (…with many diverse musical memories made at Lindblom Technical HS!)  My parents ignited the musical flame within me.  My Dad played trombone in the Drake University Band, Army-Air Force Band, Thad Jones Band and my Mom sang in the renowned Rust College a cappella choir.  So, my sister and I developed an appreciation for an eclectic mix of music growing up!  Roberta Martin, gospel composer/singer/arranger, was my godmother.  Singing Too Hot to Handel incorporates all of my musical experiences – another reason why I love singing it!

Too Hot to Handel was commissioned by Marin Alsop (Baltimore Symphony) in 1993; with co-arrangers, Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson.  I’ve sung this piece for eleven years in Detroit and 2013 makes the eighth year here in Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.  It has been a labor of love for me, the highlight beginning each year; pure worship and ministry.  Many moments are emotional because the message remains moving, meaningful and relevant.  Too Hotto Handel depicts the birth, life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah; Emmanuel, God with us.  My role proclaims the good news that the Angel of the Lord delivered; narration, prophetic renderings (from Isaiah, Zechariah, I Corinthians) of what was and is to come.  This very unique piece has something for everyone; offering its audiences a powerful, inspiring experience unlike any other piece!  It feels new each time we hear the overture; the rich, warm texture of instruments fill the air; the beautiful melodies and counter melodies saturate your being; and we stand and open our mouths.  It’s so much bigger than all of us and our efforts, contributions.  Yet, it never fails to bring us all together.  I have countless favorite moments in the piece.  How perfect and appropriate that it is scheduled annually to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; one who had a dream, was a Gospel Minister, preached a message of  peace, unity, inclusiveness, non-violence and was a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.  The audience is encouraged to clap, sing, shout, stand, dance – participate as the Spirit leads!  We hope that you will be there on January 19th and 20th to share in this wonderful event, to make it a tradition for you, family, friends and neighbors!  You don’t leave the same way that you come – you’re impacted, transported!  “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes!”   - Psalm 118:23

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah

Venue: Auditorium Theatre
Dates: Saturday, January 19 - Sunday, January 20, 2013
Times: Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday at 3:00 pm
Price: $74-$30
Honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through Handel’s classicalMessiah, the Auditorium welcomes backToo Hot for its 8th year. Too Hot packs the stage with more than 200 musicians, including some famous Chicago jazz favorites. They are joined by soloists Alfreda Burke, Rodrick Dixon and Karen Marie Richardson, as well as the city-wideToo Hot choir to create the jazziest Messiahyet.
Box Office: 50 E. Congress Pkwy. | Groups of 10+ 312.341.2357

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dance in the Land of Milk and Honey [Part 2 of 2. VIDEOS]

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By Jennifer Turner, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager

In early December, I joined over one hundred arts professionals representing thirty-five countries assembled in Tel Aviv for the 2012 International Exposure. Learn about my experience by reading Dance in the Land of Milk and Honey [Part 1 of 2]

Videos and info on some of the dance companies I loved are below. Enjoy!

Vertigo Dance Company – Birth of the Phoenix   - The performance takes place under a geodesic dome that explores the relationship between man and the environment. The Vertigo Dance Company established the Vertigo Eco-Art Village in 2007 outside of Jerusalem where the company both lives and works. The intimate connection between the audience and dancers pulls you into performance and holds tight until the dancers are ready to release you out into the night.

Orly Portal Dance Company - Rabia – Rabia was an achingly gorgeous, traditional and haunting piece. The music and costumes were beautiful but I was most taken by the sensuality and expression in even the smallest of movements.

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company – If At All – Kibbutz has toured the states and I had some familiarity with the company prior to the trip. I loved the energy and strength of the company; this is definitely a company to watch for in the future.

Renana RazYouMake, ReMake – stage your response – This piece was so creative and fresh. The audience views a YouTube video either before or after a performance or a “reaction” to the video. Renana constantly creates new works and collaborates internationally to develop local pieces. My favorite piece began with this video and ended with this. The dancers in between tied these videos together in an unexpected emotional and visceral performance.

 Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor – Two Room Apartment – A lot of the dance I saw at the Exposure focused on defining space or existing within borders. This piece began with the physical marking of the space and worked up to the relationship of the two people in inhabiting that space. The piece, created by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal originally premiered in 1987. It is a subtle piece that slowly pulls you in stays long after it ends. 

Also check out:
Odelya Kuperberg Dance – We haven’t seen blood. Yet
Eldad Ben Sasson – Strange Attractor

Thank you to the Suzanne Dellah Center, Consulate of Israel, Midwest, The Ministry of Culture and Sport, & Consulate of Israel, New York. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Too Hot to Handel CPS Poetry Contest


Each January, the Auditorium Theatre presents Too Hot To Handel as a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, we have invited Chicago Public School students grade 3-12 to write an original poem celebrating Dr. King's vision of the beloved community. 

Here are our 4 finalists for our poetry contest - vote for your favorite!  The top two poems will be read before each show!

A History in the Future
Maggie Scholle-8th Grade
Franklin Fine Arts Center

Then the barriers dissolved.
What was left was awkward at first,
Then began to fit.
The niches, pockets, and caves that colors hid in
Became exposed, their people freed to see the world
The color spread.
First, it was a stiff motion, an odd in-and-out
The change was forced
But the next day the sun rose
And the color moved like finger paints
With a smooth consistency, and without reluctance
Then the barriers dissolved.

Ella Marden-6th Grade
Decatur Classical  

When he looked at the world
He didn’t see
A universe of problems
That weren’t his

He didn’t see
The faces of humanity
In black and white
But looked straight through
To their hearts

He didn’t see
The seeds of hate
Planted in broken hearts
Unable to be uprooted

He saw love
And his seed of hate
Became the blossom of love
To spread its seeds
To the world
And inspire the beloved community. 

A Beloved Community
Lauren Marut-5th Grade
Decatur Classical

A beloved community is a place to call home,
Where people of all races are allowed to roam.
It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white,
Equality is plentiful, we stand for what’s right.
A beloved community is equal and fair,
A place where we love and a place where we care.
Just like a family, we all stand together,
And everyone knows that families are forever.

Casey Wangman-5th Grade
Decatur Classical

I can picture a place
Where diversity is embraced
A loving, caring place
Where hate is not the case

I can picture a beloved community
Where everyone could live in unity
A diverse community
With equal opportunities

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dance in the Land of Milk and Honey [Part 1 of 2]

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By Jennifer Turner, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager

In early December, I joined over one hundred arts professionals representing thirty-five countries assembled in Tel Aviv for the 2012 International Exposure. Over six days, we were able to see thirty-nine local dance pieces presented primarily at the Suzanne Dellah Center. Other venues included the funky Tmuna Theatre in Tel Aviv, the Yasmeen Godder Studio in Jaffa and Hangar Adama, once a deserted industrial hanger deep in the Negev Desert and now transformed into a harmonious dance center.

Tel Aviv overlooking Jaffa
Tel Aviv overlooking Jaffa

Suzanne Dellah CenterThe Suzanne Dellah Center, home to Batsheva Dance Companies, the Inbal Onto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company and the Oran Porat Theatre for Children & Youth is located in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Neve Tzedek reminded me a bit of the Gold Coast in Chicago. Cute boutiques, restaurants, residential, many baby strollers and the beautiful Suzanne Dellah campus. The center has three performance halls (Suzanne Dellah Hall, Yershalmy Hall & Inbal Hall), studios, outdoor performance space, fountains, orange trees, restaurants and ice shops. There is a main square and a small plaza with benches and trees that attracts people (and pets!) day and night. The Center’s Director, Yair Vardi is a former Batsheva dancer and remembers performing at the Auditorium Theatre with the company in 1972.

I was pleased by the quality and depth of Israeli dance. We saw some amazing performances and the Exposure was a wonderful opportunity to spend time with the dancers, choreographers and artistic directors. Most of the artists attended the attendee receptions and went to their colleague’s performances. They were excited to meet so many arts professionals from all over the world and happy to spend time discussing their work. The dance community is very small but they seem supportive of each other. Dance in Israel receives funding from the government as well as local funding from the city. Companies must be established for two years and perform a minimum number of public performances to be eligible for funding. Many of the companies work out of Tel Aviv but some base in Jerusalem or opt to open centers in more rural areas. Since the country is so small (about the size of New Jersey), touring opportunities within Israel is more limited and companies are focused on international exposure.    

Check back next week for information about the dance companies that I saw during my trip, including links to their websites and videos! See a few more photos from the trip below.

Tmuna Theatre
Hangar Adama
Hangar Adama
mitzpe ramon
Mitzpe Ramon

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