Deeply Rooted's "Aspects of Love" Review - An Inspired Performance That Left Me Crying and Laughing at the Same Time

To come 1,800 miles away from a sunny California to a blisteringly cold Chicago, I knew I had to leverage some reasons to come here. Sure, the deep-dish pizza was a big factor in my decision, but a major goal of mine was to envelop myself in the arts. Last year, I attended a Jazz festival at Millennium Park and attended an art gallery in the same area. However, one of my favorite art forms, dance, had yet to be fulfilled in my time here. It appeared I had done everything but see an actual dance performance. 

Perhaps this was why I made the long trek from Chicago to Skokie and even had my girlfriend make an even longer trek to fly in from California to attend Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s 20th Anniversary Show with me. The show’s title was “Aspects of Love,” and what could be a better Valentine’s Day gift than a romantic dance show and an intimate dinner over a large deep-dish pizza (or two). We were both dancers for over ten years (in fact, we met dancing at the same dance studio at seven years old), and while this made for enjoyable dance rehearsals, it negatively affected every dance show we saw, whether it be “So You Think You Can Dance” or a professional dance company putting on their annual show. We both saw things through a critical eye, quickly spotting mistakes, bad technique, and repetitive choreography (trust me, this is way more common than you think in dance shows). When we walked into the grand North Shore Center for the Performing Arts theater to attend the show, our expectations were low: we expected to spot stereotypical modern choreography, mistakes, and sloppy technique as we normally did during dance shows. 

We walked out of the performance speechless - utterly blown away by the excellence of the one-night-only performance we had just been so lucky to witness. 

An example of the raw emotion that can be conveyed without the use of words

 

The first act performance, “The March,” was so incredibly powerful for me. A woman weeping over her child’s death as her daughter is slowly carried away in a stretcher. The music was just quiet enough where one could hear her silent weeps, the lights were positioned just well enough to see the tears well up in her eyes. It made me immediately realize a new definition of love: coming in to the show, I associated love as a positive emotion, but it hit me during this piece that love is less an emotion, but an emotional container. Love does not inherently mean a positive nor a negative emotion, as I could easily tell from the Mother’s (performed by the very talented Dominique Atwood) expression that she loved her daughter so much, but the mood was all but happy. 

Raw emotion present during the opening act, "The March"

 

After the final act of the piece, I looked at over at my girlfriend in utter shock. I’m sure she could have felt the chills on my arm, and the only words we could utter before the next piece was “wow” over and over. 

In fact, the entire show revolved around this concept of love, whether it was typical love between two partners, love of life, love of unity, love of beauty, love of courage, and so on. I truly believe that one of the most under-appreciated aspects of dance is its ability to tell a very coherent and complete story without the use of words in any manner. Especially during this show, I was so impressed by how much story and emotion the dancers conveyed simply through movement and facial expressions to a relatively moody song. It’s unbelievable how an art form that can only silently communicate can communicate so much. 

Yet another beautiful example of the raw emotion that can be conveyed without the use of words

 

The dancers were clearly very technically trained, hitting intricate positions in a combination of strict movement and extreme fluidity. The show’s style varied greatly throughout the show: (Lester)Horton technique during the all-male piece “When Men…,” contemporary African influences were evident in the all-female piece “Femme,” the final act of the night, “Heaven,” presented an incredibly enjoyable hip-hop and funk vibe, and a strict mix of modern and ballet was evident throughout pieces such as “Bach’d” and “Adagio For Strings.” Regardless of the style, the dancers executed it effortlessly and made for an inspirational show that refused to bore and left the audience wanting more. 

The finale piece "Heaven" in all of its glory

 

Additional highlights of the show included “Jagged Ledges,” a powerful piece to foster awareness about the plight of people living with HIV/AIDS that revolved around live spoken-word poetry as well as the amazingly intimate duet “Wild Is The Wind,” in which performer Joshua L Ishmon exhibited insane strength in lifting Jennifer Florentino with ease (there were some death-defying lifts). 

A beautiful duet between Jennifer Florentino and Joshua L Ishmon in "Wild Is The Wind"

 

I feel like I could personally go on and on about the quality of the performance. I think I would personally pay at least $121.28 (coincidentally the exact price of four deep-dish pizzas) to see this show again – it was that good. Even though there were hundreds of people in the audience, I felt an extreme intimacy with each performer, hearing each breath, yelp, and brush. The pieces seemed like a fresh update from their original performance dates (apart from two original pieces specially choreographed for that performance). I even took the program home and looked the dances up online to re-watch the original performances. 

 

If I you could take anything from this, know that as a trained dancer, this show was an enjoyable emotional rollercoaster (people cheered just as much as they did cry during the show) of perfect execution, wonderful choreography, and complex themes. If you are looking for a great to show to see with a loved-one, do not hesitate to watch for the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s upcoming productions, especially their 20th Anniversary Celebration performances occurring throughout the remainder of 2017. 

 

Take my word for it, you will be amazed, touched, and inspired after their performance. Who knows - they might even inspire you to enroll in one of their own dance classes to learn just a bit of the magic. 

More information about Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Photos: Ken Carl

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