Friday, October 3, 2014

American Ballet Theatre's April Giangeruso - My Time With ABT

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Hello, Chicago! My name is April Giangeruso and I am a Corps de Ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre. This upcoming tour will be my third time performing with ABT at the gorgeous Auditorium Theatre. My first time dancing here was in 2010 in Swan Lake, and subsequently in 2012 in Giselle. During the 2010 tour I was a very new 3-month member of ABT, and I remember being so excited to perform my favorite ballet for the first time. It was a surreal experience realizing that I was once a baby ballerina aspiring to one day be in ABT’s Swan Lake, and now it was really happening. I will always have a soft spot for that particular tour. 

One of the best parts of being a dancer with ABT is our touring schedule. Not only do we live and rehearse in one of the most exciting cities in the world, but we also get to see the rest of it doing what we love. Every corner of the world has a special character and unique culture, which always bestow priceless memories on each of us dancers. In August, ABT had its first ever tour to Australia! It was a privilege and an honor to be a part of a historic tour for the company during our 75th Anniversary Season, not to mention getting to hold a koala and pet kangaroos. Above all, the ABT family is truly special. Getting to visit all of these beautiful places, with the best people is something I could never replace. There may be societal notions that dance is sometimes competitive and hostile, but I can truly say that ABT is both a supportive and loving environment.

My career thus far at ABT has been nothing short of a dream come true. Born in Maryland, I attended ABT’s 
Swan Lake when I was 5 years old and told my mom I wanted to be a ballerina. Even at a very young age, teachers practically had to drag me out of the studio when class was finished. I just didn’t want to leave! I moved to NYC, shortly thereafter joined the JKO School at ABT, then ABT II, the former junior company, and after two years joined ABT in 2010. I have worked extremely hard in my 4 years with the company, always wanting to perform more roles that I feel will challenge me, make me improve, and show my capabilities as a dancer.

In the Saturday matinee at 2PM and Sunday matinee at 3PM, I will have the privilege of performing one of the Principal couples in Twyla Tharp’s Bach Partita. This is my first Principal role with the company, which is so exciting to me and my family who will be attending the performances. Tharp’s choreography is a full mind and body experience, the process has been so rewarding and getting to work so closely with Susan Jones, ballet mistress at ABT, is invaluable to my growth as a ballerina. 

I hope that my career with ABT will be a long and great one; I have never even imagined dancing anywhere else. 890 Broadway is where I feel my home really is, we may need a few fresh coats of paint on the walls, but even so, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else Tuesday-Saturday 10am-7pm. Simply put, ballet is what I wake up for, what I think about, and what makes me the person I am. At 23 years old, I can only hope that the next 23 years will be just as thrilling, hopefully still with ABT, and inspiring the next generation of dancers as this generation has inspired me. 

April performs with American Ballet Theatre during their run at the Auditorium, October 3 – 5.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Help Us Reach WWII Veterans

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We are only a week out from the opening of our 125th Anniversary Season and the festivities are starting to roll. Auditorium received the 5th Star Award from the city in a free ceremony in Millennium Park on September 17th, street banners heralding our anniversary have gone up on Michigan Ave (later our banners will take over State Street), and preparations are underway for a spectacular December 9 Gala, a journey through the life of our theater called Living The History.

Did you know that during WWII Auditorium Theatre was used by the United States Military as a Servicemen’s Center, providing free services to our troops in training? You may know the iconic photo of the bowling alley that occupied our stage at the time. Although it wasn’t about the amazing art that normally takes our stage, we are very proud of this part of our history, and we will be paying special tribute to our veterans during our December 9 Gala.

As part of our efforts to use this year’s celebration to preserve our past, we are reaching out to any veterans, volunteers, or staff that were part of this time in our history. In fact, a few weeks ago we had the privilege of sitting down with Don Farley, a veteran that was inducted into the Army in the Summer of 1942 and sent to Chicago to train at a radio operating school. A musician himself, Mr. Farley fondly recalls taking advantage of the Servicemen’s Center’s offerings of tickets to Chicago Symphony Orchestra and dancing with volunteers at events hosted in our building. It was remarkable to talk with someone who had experienced this part of our story and we are eager to find more people to talk to.

We plan to capture interviews with as many of these veterans and volunteers as we can throughout our anniversary season, but we need assistance getting the word out. Can you help? We are putting out the call below to the world. We are asking everyone to post it, or email it, or just shout it from the rooftops so that we can reach as many people as possible. You never know who you know who knows someone who knows someone. We need to make sure this part of the history of our country and building is preserved. If you can help us out, we would greatly appreciate it.

A Call for Veterans Who Trained in Chicago During WWII
and the Volunteers and Staff who made their training possible

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is looking to make contact with any WWII veterans, volunteers, or staff that worked in Chicago and were at Auditorium during WWII, when our theater was used as the Servicemen’s Center from 1941-1945. We hope to conduct in-person interviews with anyone who was involved in this part of our history. We would also be interested in locating a small number of those who are now based outside of Chicago.

Any veterans, volunteers, or staff that respond will be asked to do a short interview on camera. If that is not possible, phone interviews may be an option. These volunteers will also be invited to our gala performance on December 9, featuring a special tribute to this part of our history.

Interested parties may respond to:
Will Rogers
Project Manager, 125 Anniversary
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University


Phone: 312.341.2331

Mailing Address:
50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Internship Conclusion - Luke Bandoske

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To say this summer flew by would be a vast understatement. Though my time at the Auditorium Theatre was short-lived, I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed myself more while getting the hands-on experience of arts administration in the marketing realm. Not only has this internship made what I’ve learned in classes relevant while extending my knowledge past the books, but it also made me grow on a professional and personal level.

Putting the work-load aside for a moment, the history of the Auditorium Theatre is incredible. As the largest theatre in Chicago and one that will be celebrating its 125th Anniversary this December, the Auditorium Theatre is unlike any other around. I was lucky enough to learn the history very fast by not only attending one of the two weekly tours that Patron Services hosts, but also creating my first internship project: a historical timeline in PowerPoint for a Press Tour Conference.

Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, the dynamic and famous architectural partnership, both brought their unique brilliance together to create Chicago’s Landmark Stage™, which originally opened in 1889. On the press tour, I was educated at how acoustically sound the theatre is. Christina Bourné, the Director of Education as well as a beautiful soprano voice, sang “Home Sweet Home” from the stage, which was the same song that Adelina Patti sang on opening night. Without a microphone and with all of the press on the 6th floor gallery, every word that she sung was heard without confusion. It was INCREDIBLE!

Aside from being acoustically sound, the theatre has an endless amount of unique features like being the first theatre with air conditioning, using 3,500 electric incandescent light bulbs, the decorative golden arches, politically-positioned boxes, and a lot more! From being a hotel and office to a bowling alley to a World War II servicemen’s center to closing down and being reopened, the Auditorium Theatre’s history is a rich one. The stage has seen array of different artists ranging from Broadway tours to premier ballet companies to rock stars such as Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen and most recently Jack White. Being surrounded by something so beautiful with an extensive historical story is sort of an overwhelming feeling and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to market such a wonderful place.

If I were to explain everything I learned and took part in throughout this experience, you would be reading this blog for quite a few hours. Instead, I will share some of the highlights of my time here. The most prominent responsibility that comes to mind was social media. I monitored and engaged consumers on multiple different social networking platforms, input a social media plan into the calendar, helped create the “125th Anniversary Season T-Shirt Contest” campaign, live-tweeted events such as the Floyd “Money” Mayweather Press Conference and even created graphics and updated their website at times.

Other responsibilities of mine included attending and working special events like the Summer Solstice party and the Group Leader Party, helping with upcoming merchandise for the 125th, learning how to order brochures and other marketing materials, researching potential audiences and even brainstorming for upcoming production’s. I also was able to attend many meetings with different promotional organizations like See Chicago Dance and WXRT to discuss and understand ad buying.

Lastly, I was asked to participate in the creation of two different film projects. Both projects were tons of fun! The first video we filmed was for National Dance Day since the Auditorium Theatre hosts many, many dance companies. We filmed in the beautiful theatre, in the company’s offices and even filmed in our staff meeting. The second video was filmed the day after and will be used as a promotional American Ballet Theatre video. I’m not going to give many details away, but let’s just say that I was required to wear a sailor outfit and dance around Chicago!

The Auditorium Theatre administrative staff is committed to creating an educational and real-world internship program.  I’m a public relations major with a minor in theatrical studies and since they knew of my background they made it a priority for me to attend weekly meetings with Carol Fox & Associates, their out-of-house public relations firm. Additionally, I attended other departmental meetings and helped where I could to leave me with a more well-rounded understanding of arts administration. I can’t thank the administrative staff enough for all of the insight and tools they have given me, and I definitely cannot wait to return for some of their 125th Anniversary Season productions!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Auditorium Employee Retires After 47 Years

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After 47 years, our long-term employee Frank Romeo is retiring. His last day at the Auditorium is this coming Sunday. We found this fantastic article about Frank in the Summer 2007 issue of Roosevelt University Magazine. Thank you for your years of service Frank! Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

125th Anniversary T-Shirt Design Contest

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125th Anniversary T-Shirt design Contest

An Open Call to All Artists and Creatively-Inspired Individuals!

In celebration of the Auditorium’s 125th Anniversary Season, we are excited to launch the #MyAudTShirt Design Contest!  Whether you are inspired by the building’s rich history and architectural grandeur, the wonderful performers that have graced the stage, or the upcoming 125 Anniversary celebration all season long, we are looking for fresh, new ideas on what we should be wearing this upcoming season!

Need more inspiration? Check out the 125 things that inspire us in the video below!

The first round of the contest launched on June 30, and will remain open through August 15. Contestants must enter a photograph of their t-shirt design with a short explanation as to why they feel it celebrates the Auditorium’s rich 125 year history. A judging panel, taking into consideration popular vote, will determine the top five contestants to move on to the final round. The final round will start on August 19 and remain open through September 1, with one winner selected by popular vote.

Grand Prize

  • Two tickets to every Auditorium Theatre show in our 2014-2015 Season (limited to Auditorium Theatre presentations only)
  • Compensation of $125
  • Your design printed in limited run and sold at the merchandise counter throughout the 125 Anniversary Season (2014-2015 Season)
  • Your shirt printed and ready to wear in the size of your choice!
  • One entry per person
  • Please specify what color shirt you’d prefer your design printed on
  • Design can be hand drawn or digitally designed
  • Only one side of the shirt will be printed on
  • Submitted designs will become sole property of the Auditorium Theatre.
  • The artists will be compensated for any design printed for merchandise.
Contest opens: June 30
Round one closes: August 15 at 11:59pm
Top 5 contestants announced/voting for final round opens: August 19
Final round closes: September 1 at 11:59pm
Winner Officially Announced: September 2
Must hashtag: #MyAudTShirt AND #Aud125 (both!) when entering, sharing and promoting your design via social networks.

Click here to enter the contest!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Reflecting on My Internship - Omane Adu-Brako

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I came in like a wrecking ball!  Just kidding.  I did begin my internship in the marketing department at a really great time.  Things were hectic, crazy, and actually quite fun!  It was during the theatre’s longest running performance – Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.  What a treat!  I had not seen that company since I was in high school.  I fell in love all over again.

First things first, during my first week I received a semi-private, hour-long tour of the theater.  It’s crazy
because I have walked past the theater’s “secret door” entrance plenty of times as a student without even realizing the magic within.  Of course, I can’t disclose the location to said door; that part of the mystery you will have to come and see for yourself.  I’m a history lover, so the tour guide had me at hello.  I was aghast that the Auditorium Theatre only became registered as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1975. Equally astonishing is that the Auditorium, during hard times, almost became a parking lot!  The building was completed in 1889 equipped with 4200 seats; the original seats are still in the upper balcony.  The architecture was designed by the famous architects Dankmark Adler and Louis Sullivan. Frank Lloyd Wright was an apprentice of theirs during the building of the Auditorium. Two more history facts and I’m done, I promise.  In a time of no air conditioning the Auditorium figured out a way to keep their patrons cool using air ducts and ice in the ceiling of the theater.  The last fact is a direct quote from one of its founders.  Sullivan said “If you want to see, you will sit in the middle, if you want to be seen you will sit in the box seats.” This retort was in response to the upper class patrons who expected to sit away from the other patrons.  This perfectly summarizes a place whose ideals of inclusion are not just limited to where patrons sit, but to the variety of artists that are brought to its stage.

So what have I done here? I’ve had the pleasure of telling people about our performances in a variety of ways.  My first project was to reach out to local businesses for our Alvin Ailey performances.  I sent out letters, solicited eblast trades with like organizations, and made plenty of phone calls. I helped out at our Young Professionals pre-show event, where our Junior Board made appeals for membership.  I was able to attend the opening of Alvin Ailey, I had never been to any show’s opening so this was thrilling! I was ecstatic that I could bring my mom and aunt to share in this experience with me.  The Alvin Ailey dancers were quite simply stunning. After the show there was post work to be done.  The marketing team stayed after to capture audience reactions from the show in order to upload the video to our YouTube page (I hope you are a subscriber to the channel!) Also, I created a tracking report which allowed me to analyze the tickets sold for the Ailey performances.  Through this I categorized specific inventory of all the discount codes and special pricing offers.  Seeing the revenue produced from the show was great, since sometimes as an intern you are removed from this sort of information.  Part of the duties of being an intern is doing ad clippings. This means cutting out and filing all of the advertisements the theatre places for its shows.  For the Ailey performance run, I had the additional responsibility to create a fine-tuned scan binder of all of the advertisements where our sponsors were featured.
Also during this internship I contributed ideas that were utilized for social media campaigns. I created advertising placements with a major magazine and radio station, which I was really excited about.  In addition, I also tweaked copy for these opportunities.  Without going into a laundry list of things I accomplished, I will say that I felt that my time here was impactful.

While here, my desk was located in the Department of Creative Engagement so I was able to hear action items important to that department as well, namely securing teachers and resources for our ArtsXchange and Hands Together, Heart to Art (HTHTA) program. Right now they are gearing up for HTHTA summer camp.  Additionally, I was able to speak to the other department heads (Development and Operations) in order to achieve a more rounded internship experience.  Today is my last day, sigh… but I had the opportunity to see so many wonderful performances while here. Did I mention this excellent perk? :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Look Back: Israeli Folk Dancing, Idan Raichel and My Year Spent in Israel

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Tonight at 7:30 pm, The Idan Raichel Project graces our landmark stage for a night of world-music and a wonderful blend of cultures.  After tonight’s two-hour concert, we also invite audience members to join the Chicago Israeli Dancing organization in our Katten/Landau Studio for an interactive Israeli folk dance class. Click here for more information about the performance tonight.

A Look Back: Israeli Folk Dancing, Idan Raichel and My Year Spent in Israel

By Auditorium Theatre Production Associate Matthew Tepperman

In anticipation of tonight’s performance of The Idan Raichel Project at Auditorium Theatre and the subsequent post-show, folk dancing event in the Katten/Landau Studio held by the Chicago Israeli
Dancing organization, I would like to share a story about myself.

I am not a professional dancer or ballerina at all. In fact, if you met me in person, you’d say I’m as graceful as an elephant. And you’d probably be right at that, too; however, there’s something about Israeli Folk Dancing that makes me feel like I have been a dancer all my life. 

When I was eleven years old, I learned about Israeli Folk Dancing at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin.  As campers, my friends and I each participated in a quick dance class as we were sampling through all of the arts activities. We learned a few easy dances for the week before moving onto the next activity.  At the end of the week before the lunch hour, the camp took a half hour of free time to perform these dances at a large area down by the lake.  At that point, those who knew or wanted to learn the dances would all participate in a really fun afternoon of Israeli Folk Dancing.  There were campers and staff of all ages that joined in and soon enough, the whole area was filled with folk dancers!  I remember as a camper, or even later as a staff member at Camp Ramah, if it was a Friday afternoon before lunch, I would be dancing down by Lake Buckatabon with more than half the camp while the rest watched on.  And even after all these years, I still remember those dances.

Let’s then flashback to eight years ago. I had recently graduated high school and made the decision to defer my freshman year of college to study and live in Israel for the year. One of my first memories of living in Israel is of participating in a great night of Israeli Folk Dancing. A handful of my friends and I were walking through Emek Rafaim in Jerusalem and went to one of the school halls nearby that hosts many nightly programs for adults. When we got there the room was already full of people dancing in a giant circle. It took a minute to understand the choreography mid-dance, but as soon I picked it up, I jumped right in and felt like I had been doing it for years. That’s the great thing about folk dancing: it’s very communal, very fun to participate in, and anyone can do it.

As someone who has lived in Israel and experienced the culture and even seen The Idan Raichel Project live in Israel before, I can’t help but think back to those fond memories. This is mainly because everything The Idan Raichel Project does musically is so memorable. I can still recall the past two times I saw him live and what I was doing. The collaboration of additional cultures into melodies that the group produces, and the amount of energy the singers put into their performance is almost unparalleled. They always make the experience not just intimate and enjoyable, but very meaningful as well.  As a fan of The Idan Raichel Project and as someone who has experienced the culture, I cannot be more thrilled that they will be performing at Auditorium Theatre.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Illinois Native Michael J. Novak – Dancer for Paul Taylor Dance Company

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Being a dancer in the Paul Taylor Dance Company, I am so very blessed to travel the world doing what I love. I will soon be entering my fifth year with this organization and I have traveled to 64 cities and 6 countries.  But in all those travels no city can compare to the city where I grew up: Chicago. 

Now, in truth I was raised in the northwest suburbs, first living in Elk Grove Village and eventually in Rolling Meadows where I spent most of my childhood.  When I was growing up, “going downtown” meant an adventure, usually because it was saved for special occasions: holidays with the grandparents; seeing the Christmas windows at Marshall Field’s; or day-trips to the museums.

Funny enough, the Auditorium Theatre holds a very special place in my heart. When I was about nine, my parents took me to see my first Broadway musical - "The Phantom of the Opera" – at, of all places, the Auditorium Theatre.  We sat very close to the stage that night, and, being so young and impressionable, I was taken away by how such a fantastical world felt so real and accessible.  I don’t think I knew that I wanted to be a performer that night.  But I knew I never wanted that experience the end.

As I grew older I eventually started taking dance classes at the Bonnie Lindholm School of the Dance in Palatine, IL.  Chicago, however, stayed in the periphery as every year our dance troupe went downtown during Thanksgiving to perform for the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The temperatures were usually frigid, but dancing downtown, especially along Michigan Ave for the Tree-Lighting Parade, is a very special memory for me. There was something about the magic of Christmas in the city (not to mention the magic of dancing alongside Mickey Mouse and Goofey) that made me so happy.  It was literally the stuff dreams are made of.

When I started attending William Fremd High School, the Drama Department became my home away from home.  I loved doing theater, but dance – true dance – started to become a calling for me, and I started to shift my focus to my dancing. Once I was old enough I would ride the train downtown to take the professional classes at Lou Conte Dance Studio. Of course, I had no clue what I was doing in those advanced classes. Honestly, I would just stare at the Hubbard Street company members. I remember being so distracted by their brilliance I never actually learned the combinations in class. Afterwards, I would spend the rest of the day downtown: always stopping by The Palmer House Hilton then walking to the Art Institute, north along Michigan Ave to Water Tower Place and spend the late afternoon at the Ohio Street Beach.

A lot has happened since those long days strolling downtown as an aspiring dancer. There have been many adventures, injuries, unexpected surprises, and struggles...lots and lots of struggles. It took almost ten years for me to find a dance company where I felt home, but the search was not in vain.  At the age of 27, I was asked to join the one and only company I yearned to dance for: the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

What is it about Paul Taylor’s company? Well, the repertory is remarkably vast; it’s emotionally sophisticated, and it can be as dark and disturbing as it is glorious. Then there are the dancers.  No one can dance like Taylor dancers dance. They understand the beauty and thrill of a simple walk, run, fall, and jump, and they execute them with a reckless abandon that is truly spectacular.  To dance among those accomplished artists and find myself grow with them is truly a dream come true. And to work with a master like Paul Taylor in the studio? Well, it's life changing, honestly.

I have not performed in Chicago since 2001, and to be returning as a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company... to be dancing at the Auditorium Theatre... and to be staying at the Palmer House downtown? It's going to be a surreal experience!  I'm looking so forward to showing my friends and family what I've been doing for the past 13 years, that it's been worth it, and that Paul Taylor's company is where I am home. But I think deep down there's something else I'm looking forward to: walking around the city as a critically acclaimed dancer of one the world's best dance companies and saying, "Remember me Chicago? Well, I’m proud to say I finally made it."

Michael J. Novak performs with Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Auditorium on May 17 – 18. Visit the website for tickets and information.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dancing in Chicago - Thodos Dance Chicago's Tenley Dorrill

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The Auditorium Theatre is so thrilled to bring a collection of Chicago dance professionals together for the week of June 23 – 28 to teach our first annual “Made In Chicago” Dance Intensive, a week long summer camp for dancers age 10+ with at least two years of dance experience. We kick off our “Made In Chicago” Dance Intensive blog series with a peek at Thodos Dance Chicago’s teaching artist, Tenley Dorrill!

Dancing in Chicago:  As a senior in college I feared graduating without an answer to the question everyone was asking, "What are you doing after graduation?" I knew of many dance companies that I would love to be a part of, but I wasn't sure where to audition. I had attended Hubbard Street's dance intensive the summer before and had heard of Thodos Dance Chicago. After a few months of researching I came back to the company and discovered how well it matched what I wanted. Located in the city of Chicago, I knew that I would have the opportunity to take open class, teach dance, and be a part of a large dance community. Thodos stated that they valued dancers who were also choreographers, and they offered their own unique outlet for dancers to create, teach, and perform. The audition was intense with four cuts narrowing the group to four people (three of whom are now company members).  Melissa Thodos asked those auditioning to perform a self-choreographed solo then sit for an interview. The interview questions were very thoughtful and I could tell that they knew what they were looking for, which is something I respect. I was given an offer to be a "dancer apprentice" in the company. I was thrilled! I knew how lucky I was to have the opportunity to live and dance with such a great company in this wonderful city.

I began to prepare for life in Chicago by finding two roommates from Craig's List and applying to teaching positions. I applied all over the city and only heard back from a handful. I accepted jobs at Thodos's youth program, North Suburban School of Dance, and Chicago Contemporary Dance Theater.  Thodos started in August and I don't think we ever stopped until our Harris show in March! Learning so many dances in such a short time proved to be a great challenge. In many of the dances I was the only person who had not performed the piece, and I needed to learn extremely fast. At SMU we had many performances but usually focused on only a few dances during a semester. At Thodos, the company was working on over ten concert works, two story ballets, and two educational shows over the course of a few months. The pressure was great but I had the most wonderful season working with the incredibly talented company members and leaders who constantly inspired and encouraged me every day. 

Thodos threw me into many parts that challenged me in new ways. The most significant was the role of Helen Keller in "A Light in the Dark." Only after my first performance did I believe I could embody this complex character. The story is very emotional with highs and lows shifting moment by moment. I got some great advice about portraying Helen from one of the members of Thodos, Natalee Cooney, who has a BFA in Theater from NYU. She told me to always think about what Helen wants. Does she want love and comfort when she thrashes in anger? Does she want to find truth when she feels her teachers’ hands? This completely changed the way I approached the emotional range of Helen. Instead of thinking, "Ok, this is when I'm supposed to be happy" I thought about why Helen would be happy. This feedback from Natalee has also influenced the way I want to perform in other non-character driven pieces. Every piece has a tone or persona to convey. I want to always pursue honesty on stage and asking why I, the dancer, want to move in a certain way. I hope to find more integrity and transparency in my performance by constantly asking myself, “What do I want for this piece?” Once this question is answered, I understand where my purpose is and how I can give myself to the roll in an authentic way.  

My greatest challenge in the transition to professional life is finding joy and satisfaction in everything I do as a student, teacher, and performer.  Dance is almost like a truth serum in that the observer can always tell your intention.  Dancers are always on display and the constant criticism can cause damaging effects to an artist's confidence.  Throughout this year, I have at times felt lost in knowing my purpose as a dancer and teacher.  The thing that gets me out of this funk is shifting my mindset from focusing on my own needs and instead working for the greater good of others.  One of my favorite quotes is by Lewis Carroll, “One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.” Great art and satisfaction comes from the act of giving and not taking. Dancers are, in some ways, naturally inclined to take and be selfish artists.  We take instruction and criticize its impact, we take choreography and judge its value, we take the stage from others through our desire to be seen.  This result is emptiness because dance is a fleeting fulfillment. If we constantly seek to give ourselves to this craft through a strong presence in class, a positive and engaged response to the choreographer, an active connector to fellow performers, we can feel more fulfilled and less selfish in our art. The career of a dancer is never stable or consistent.  The task must be to find consistency in an understanding of your reason to pursue dance.  

It is so important to keep reminding yourself why you dance and why you can meet the demands of performing professionally. We are constantly seeking approval from others and will rarely get the feedback we want to hear. Instead of seeking acceptance from others, seek to find satisfaction in the moment. Find what encourages you every day whether it is helping others or creating art.  Whenever I begin to doubt myself in a rehearsal I often imagine that my close college friends are in the room and supporting me. It takes me back to my safe place at the SMU dance facility where I felt comfortable to do anything. I am seeking to find comfort in this new home. A dancer always needs to be improving and learning from others, while also maintaining our integrity to what makes us unique. 

For more information or registration for our “Made In Chicago” Dance Intensive, click here or contact Katie Brown at or Kristen Smiley at

Monday, April 14, 2014

Auditorium Theatre Junior Board Kicks-off Membership Drive

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The dress circle of the Auditorium Theatre was packed with young Chicagoans this past Saturday night as the Junior Board hosted a private reception before watching River North Dance Chicago take to the theatre's historic stage. The Junior Board, a diverse group of young professionals committed to furthering the mission of the Auditorium Theatre, is devoted not only to helping fund the restoration and preservation of our National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre, but also to raise awareness and generate support for the Auditorium’s educational outreach efforts and world-renowned programming. Part of this goal will be expanded in 2014 as the board kicks off an initiative to develop a base of Members-at-Large throughout the city. Members-at-Large will have the opportunity to attend Junior Board events and fundraisers throughout the year, spread awareness about the theatre during the pivotal 125 Season which begins this September, and participate in volunteer activities.

The event this past Saturday showed the board is off to a promising start for the Members-at-Large campaign. Attendees at the River North reception came from all different types of professional backgrounds. One of the great parts about being an Auditorium Theatre supporter is the interaction it provides for young Chicagoans with a variety of interests. The Junior Board currently consists of architects, marketing executives, attorneys, bankers, artists, and graphic designers among others, and is expanding rapidly to include a host of young professionals who are helping to bring great things to the city. Among the upcoming projects for the board is a renovation project to provide an accessible entryway for the theater at 50 E. Congress Parkway, as well as a fundraiser on June 10 for the theatre's Hands Together, Heart to Art performing arts summer camp for children who have lost a parent. The Junior Board and Members-at-Large will also be working to promote an upcoming “Made in Chicago” Film Series for the 125th Anniversary Season. The film series will be free to the public and give the board a great chance to showcase the breathtaking theatre to a widespread audience. Stay tuned for the possibility to vote on one of the movies that will be screened.

If you are interested in becoming a Member-at-Large, please contact Amanda Martinez Byrne at 312.341.2364 or

Upcoming Dates for Members-At-Large:
Tuesday, June 10, 2014: Trivia Night at Diversey Yacht Club – proceeds support the Auditorium’s Hands Together, Heart to Art summer performing arts camp for children who have lost a parent.
Friday, July 18 & Friday, August 1, 2014: Hands Together, Heart to Art Junior Board volunteer days.
Friday, September 26, 2014: The Devil’s Ball – Another perk included in the Membership-at-Large program is a ticket to the Junior Board’s annual Devil's Ball, so mark your calendars for September 26, 2014 so you can party with us Chicago-style, take backstage tours of the theatre, and bid on auction items while sipping champagne!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jonas Friddle and the Majority - Live at the Auditorium

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The Auditorium Theatre is excited to welcome Jonas Friddle and The Majority, the winning band in our Chick Corea and Bela Fleck contest! The band was one of over 30 to enter for a spot to perform in the historic Auditorium lobby proceeding Chick and Bela's concert on April 5.
Jonas Friddle and the Majority has a huge sound that combines string quartet, horns and rock and roll drums for a melody filled, dance inspiring result. Jonas' arrangements and songwriting are heavily rooted in traditional American music. His passion for old-time style banjo from his native North Carolina leads to rhythmic and rolling compositions. At the same time this founder of The Barehand Jugband pulls from the raucous sounds of 1920s blues and string bands for dance inspiring tunes. Friddle has received recognition as a songwriter, including Song of the Year in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and First Place in the Great American Song Contest. He is joined by the Majority, a group of talented multi-instrumentalists that found each other at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. The full band has been playing together since 2012 and includes drums, a string quartet and horns for a unique and huge sound. Following the example of new folk groups like Crooked Still, Abigail Washburn and Old Crow Medicine Show, Jonas Friddle and the Majority look to re-invent traditional songs.

Connect with Jonas Friddle and the Majority on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Aladdin: Christopher Gray Flies High as the Djinn of the Lamp

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By Stephanie Brown, Houston Ballet Public Relations Intern

Christopher Gray and Artists of Houston Ballet
Christopher Gray as the Djinn (Genie) with artists of Houston Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

David Bintley’s Aladdin, which runs March 22&23 at the Auditorium Theatre, has a way of enchanting the audience with beautiful, unique props and exquisite, colorful costumes. Below are some photos for your viewing pleasure!

Behind the scenes shots by Stephanie Brown

One of my favorite characters in Aladdin is the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie), and demi soloist Christopher Gray dances his heart out in this role. I was intrigued by his experience in creating his own version of the the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie), so we asked a few questions about the role.

Watch video of Christopher Gray as the Djinn in Aladdin.

Houston Ballet: Tell us about dancing as the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie). What are the most challenging aspects? What are the most exciting?

Christopher Gray_Photo Amitava_2012
Christopher Gray; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Christopher Gray: Hands down, one of the most challenging things is that some of the magical reveals were hidden in set pieces for long periods of time before some pretty difficult dancing. So it’s the opposite of what you would normally do, which is to stay moving, keep yourself loose and then go out and dance. Being crouched down in a small space before having to dance is pretty difficult.

For the most exciting thing, this is my third time flying in ballet, and I always love doing that. The audience always really appreciates it. On opening night during the first scene with the levitation, everybody applauded. It was great! So that’s always exciting for me. It’s a challenge as well because you’re at the mercy of the wire when you’re up there. There’s not too much you can do to keep yourself from spinning or swinging, so it’s learning how to do those small adjustments without putting yourself in a counter rotation.

Houston Ballet: Explain your wardrobe. How do you feel about being painted completely blue?

Christopher Gray: Fortunately, it’s not completely blue. I don’t have to paint my legs. This in terms of ballet costumes is not so difficult to dance in, which I always like. Sometimes we have pounds and pounds of clothing and wigs we have to deal with, so this is relatively simple. [I wear] just a small vest and baggy pants

Aladdin César MoralesPrincess Badr al-Budur Nao SakumaThe Mahgrib Iain MackayThe Djinn of the Lamp Tzu-Chao ChouAladdin’s Mother Marion TaitThe Sultan, the Princess’s father Jonathan PaynAladdin’s Friends James Barton, Mathias Dingman
Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Bill Cooper

Any time you don’t feel constricted by a costume, which I don’t because there are even shirtless scenes for me, it’s a lot easier to deal with. I prefer pants over tights any day of the week! In terms of wigs, Amanda, our wig and makeup person, has done a great job of making a wig that fits really flush to our heads. We just have a little bit of hair, like a top knot pony tail, which I don’t feel impedes my ability to turn and it doesn’t knock me off center, which is often a problem with costumes.

Being painted blue is hard. I’m there around 6:15 for a 7:30 start time. And that includes not even being on stage until a good 40 minutes into the first act. Overall, I face about an hour and a half worth of body makeup, face makeup, and wigs. It’s difficult and, once again, the opposite of how you would want to get ready for a show…you know, standing there half naked for an hour and a half. I do throw warm-up clothes back on top, but you don’t want to sweat the makeup off. It’s a fine line you have to deal with. I’m getting pretty used to being painted, though. I think this is my third or fourth color!

Houston Ballet: What do you do to get in character for the the Djinn of the lamp (the Genie)?

Christopher Gray: As the body makeup and especially face makeup and wig come along, I feel like that’s part of my transformation. We have these wicked eyebrows and drag queen style makeup. So it’s hard not to look at yourself with a little bit of humor when you see the character staring back at you.

If anything, the one thing that I have been doing is going over the mime section to try to create an aura of power, confidence, mystery, and a little bit of humor as well. Trying to work the fake eyebrows has been fun. As the shows progress, you find more time and space for that on stage and then the character grows from there.

Artists of Houston Ballet
Artists of Houston Ballet; Aladdin; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Houston Ballet: What do you like about the props and costumes for Aladdin?

Christopher Gray: One of my favorites is probably the most simple: the lamp that lights up. I think it’s very effective on stage. Those few times Aladdin lifts it up and then there’s a big crescendo in the music when it turns on and starts glowing…I think that’s fantastic! Also, the magic carpet is done really well.

I wish I could see the show from the front, but unfortunately that’s not in the cards for me. The lion dance in the second act is a big crowd favorite, and I also dance the head portion of the lion. It’s a lot of fun to do that. It does pose a problem because it’s difficult to hear the music, though. When you start shaking the head all you hear is rattling!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Night Creature, Pas de Duke, The River, Revelations - Alvin Ailey Chicago Program C

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater visits the Auditorium Theatre for 10 performances, February 28 -March 9, 2014. The company will bring three programs, each featuring different pieces from their repertoire. Learn about the pieces in Program C below!

For tickets and information, click HERE.

Night Creature/ Pas de Duke / The River / Revelations
Running time: approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes
Wednesday, Mar 5 at 7:30PM
Saturday, Mar 8 at 2PM

Night Creature - Choreography by Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature is a bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance, a perfect fusion of Ailey’s buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington’s sparkling music.  At once wistful and sassy, it beckons viewers into a nocturnal world populated by jazz babies and night owls.
Photo by Gert Krautbauer
Ellington said that “night creatures, unlike stars, do not come OUT at night­– they come ON, each thinking that, before the night is out, he or she will be the star.” This large ensemble work is full of such stars — strutting, leaping and slinking through a variety of dance idioms as they flaunt and flirt with each other and the audience. They hold their hands like paws, as if they’re cats on the prowl, then slide seamlessly into balletic allegro jumps, Martha Graham-like contractions and Lester Horton layouts. It’s the definitive dance homage to the exuberance of The Duke’s sophisticated symphonic work.
Pas De Duke - Choreography by Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey's PAS DE DUKE from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

Pas de Duke is Alvin Ailey’s spirited modern dance translation of a classical pas de deux, originally created in 1976 as a showcase for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was a reigning star of modern dance; he was one of the world’s most famous ballet dancers, having defected from the Soviet Union two years earlier. Ailey made brilliant use of the dancers’ physical and stylistic differences, crafting an elegant, flirtatious work that showed off their exuberance and virtuosity as they engaged in a playful game of one-upmanship.  
The work is comprised of five solos and duets that require extraordinary technical facility, flawless timing, and strong acting skills. Since its premiere nearly 40 years ago, it has been performed by generations of dancers who have each put their own unique twist on the choreography, and it has stood the test of time in part for how perfectly it captures the timeless sophistication of Duke Ellington's jazz music.  The New York Times has praised it as “one of those special dances that lives in new ways with each new set of performers.”

The River - Choreography by Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey's THE RIVER from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

By turns muscular and lyrical, The River is a sweeping full-company work that suggests tumbling rapids and meandering streams on a journey to the sea. Ailey’s allegory of birth, life and rebirth abounds with water references, from the spinning “Vortex” solo to the romantic “Lake” duet, and from the powerful “Falls” quartet to the joyful “Giggling Rapids.” The choreography demonstrates Ailey’s admiration for classical ballet, but retains the modern and jazz influences found in all his work. “The River shows Mr. Ailey at his inventive best,” declared The New York Times.
The grandeur of the dancing is matched by the music, which was Duke Ellington’s first symphonic score written for dance. Ailey and Ellington collaborated closely on the piece.
This new production has been restaged by Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya, the foremost living expert on Ailey’s repertory. He believes that the ballet feels fresh each time around because “each audience member can make a story of their own from The River. Alvin was very clever; he created something that can be applied to one’s entire life — birth, a relationship with a child, or even one’s impression of a flower. It is what the audience makes of it. It is what it means to the individual.”
Revelations – Choreography by Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey's REVELATIONS from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans.Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage —“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Journey to Bodhgaya - Cloud Gate Artistic Director & Founder Lin Hwai-min

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By Lin Hwai-min
Lin Hwai-min photo by Liu Chen-hsiang
I do not know when the name Bodhgaya first entered my mind. For a few years I wanted to go there badly, even if I didn't know what I would do once I got there. I only knew it was in Bodhgaya that Buddha attained his enlightenment under a bodhi tree. In the summer of 1994, when I finally had a few free days, I hurriedly booked an air ticket. Still I did not know why I had set my mind on going.

Bodhgaya was a village with only a muddy track for access. Little shops and open-air stalls gathered around the compound of Mahabodhi Temple to form a market. Constructed in the sixth century, the Mahabodhi stupa, a stone structure, was 50 meters tall. Standing in the temple courtyard, it ascended towards the blue sky. To the back of the stupa stood a bodhi tree, a fourth generation descendent in 2,500 years; its trunk spreading into infinity, and its leaves and branches shielding over mortal souls. The Diamond Seat of Buddha sat beneath the tree; a fence had been set up around it. Monks and pilgrims of different nationalities sat on the ground outside the fence. Under the guidance of the monks, the pilgrims chanted Buddhist scriptures. Between the rising and falling of the chanting, one could hear birds twittering from near and afar.

In the afternoon I would sit on the banks of the Neranjra River outside of the Temple compound and stare blankly at it. The water was muddy and seemed motionless. From time to time, a big bubble would break out and pop, to remind one of the turbulent life coursing underneath the smooth surface of the river.

I suppose that the Neranjra river which Buddha saw would have been flowing in much the same way. It was in the grove of trees on the opposite shore that Prince Siddhartha engaged in six years of ascetic practice on a daily diet of sesame seeds and a grain of wheat, at last reducing himself to skin-and-bones before realizing that this consuming desire to be enlightened was the biggest obstacle to his enlightenment.

So Prince Siddhartha accepted the offerings of a village maiden. He crossed the river to take his place in the diamond seat that destiny had prepared for him.

I stood on the river bank and marveled at Buddha's determination to cross the river.

To turn away from the world and become self-reliant, to live the life of a hermit and practice asceticism, is completion of the self. To receive, to accept another person's bodily warmth was for Buddha, at the moment of receiving, a return to the world of birth, old age, illness and death. Having crossed the river himself, Buddha would now guide humanity to cross it.

The Agama Scripture tells us that, at the time of his nirvana, Buddha did not, as popular Buddhist mythology would have us believe, take leave of the world easily. He summoned his beloved disciple, Ananda, to give him detailed instructions on his cremation and the construction of the stupa. It was too much for Ananda to bear, and he ran into the woods to cry. Buddha heard him crying and called him back to his side and comforted him. There is infinite beauty within the beauty of nirvana – the reluctance to leave, and the reluctance to let go.

On the bank of the Neranjra River, I realized for the first time in my life that Buddha was an ordinary mortal who also endured human confusion and struggle. Out of his compassion, he practiced asceticism and meditation, and pointed out to us the path of salvation. I felt warmth and was filled with love and admiration for Buddha.

I sat quietly under the bodhi tree, shoulder to shoulder with the monks. I opened my eyes, and saw sunlight coming from the top of the stupa through the branches to land directly on my forehead. My heart became full of joy; I felt a quietude that I had never experienced.

Back in Taipei, I often remembered the cool bodhi tree, and the Neranjra River that ran quietly through time. Every day the dancers of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan meditated. I created Songs of the Wanderers with great ease, a work about practicing asceticism, the river's mildness, and the quest for quietude.

As I review this piece of work from 1994, it feels as though I am studying an entry in my diary. The memory of the journey to Budhgaya causes my heart to be overcome with joy, which I hope can be shared with the audience of Songs of the Wanderers.

For tickets and information on Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan - Songs of the Wanderers, visit the Auditorium Theatre website.

Friday, February 21, 2014

LIFT, D-Man in the Waters, Revelations - Alvin Ailey Chicago Program B

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater visits the Auditorium Theatre for 10 performances, February 28 -March 9, 2014. The company will bring three programs, each featuring different pieces from their repertoire. Learn about the pieces in Program B below!

For tickets and information, click HERE.

Win tickets to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by entering our Facebook Contest or our Pinterest Contest.

LIFT* / D-Man in the Waters** / Revelations
Running time: approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes
Saturday, Mar 1 at 2PM
Saturday, Mar 1 at 8PM
Friday, Mar 7 at 7:30PM
Sunday, Mar 9 at 3PM 

* Chicago Premiere
** Company Premiere

Lift - Choreography by Aszure Barton

The Making of Aszure Barton's LIFT from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

This propulsive world premiere by in-demand choreographer Aszure Barton accentuates the vitality and physical prowess of the Ailey company. Driven by the dancers’ passion, skill and collective power, the work was created over a 5-week developmental process with the entire Company. The percussive score, composed by Curtis Macdonald, is infused with the infectious energy and heart that she observed in her initial encounters with the Ailey dancers.
Barton’s exhilarating new work, her first commission for Ailey, celebrates and challenges the dancers with its markedly intricate rhythmic patterns and mercurial structure. A much sought-after dance maker whose choreography ranges from Baryshnikov to Broadway, Barton has a style that is “vulnerable and feisty, brightly adept yet peculiar, witty and impetuously wild” (Dancemagazine).
LIFT embodies an atmosphere and energy created by our time spent together in collaboration. I feel very welcomed by the Ailey family and am honored to be working with such a wonderful group of artists. "
- Aszure Barton
D-Man in the Waters - Choreography by Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones' D-MAN IN THE WATERS (PART I) from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

In this exhilarating work by Kennedy Center Honoree, MacArthur Grant awardee and Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones (Fela!, Spring Awakening), rigorous formalism and musicality embody resilience and triumph over loss. The piece captures the infectious energy, innocence and will to survive of a beleaguered generation, and though it deals with sorrow, it maintains a defiantly celebratory tone.
Felix Mendelssohn’s soaring Octet for Strings propels the non-stop momentum, sending the dancers hurling across the stage in a whirlwind of leaps, rolls, and slides. Jones has said that the fact that Mendelssohn was just 16 years old when he composed the work resonated strongly with him. “This piece was created when we were dealing with a lot of death,” he said. “So creating this work was for us a way of dealing with grief, by finding the joy in the music this 16-year-old boy created.”
Jones’ tour-de-force was awarded a New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award and is praised for being one of the finest examples of the post-modern dance aesthetic. The New York Times called it “a stylish, impassioned outpouring of movement.”
“In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy.”
– conceptual artist Jenny Holzer
Revelations – Choreography by Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey's REVELATIONS from Alvin Ailey on Vimeo.

Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans.Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage —“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.

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