The combination of Thodos Dance Chicago and Luna Negra Dance Theater presenting a world premiere work was an opportunity too good to miss. It was a very cold night as we headed for the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie for the performance but the program soon warmed the audience with high energy performances.
The company Melissa Thodos founded in 1992 is celebrating it’s 20th year as a place to perform, a place to create, and a place to educate. Thodos has been choreographing dance for over 25 years, and has presented her works across America, as well as in Paris on numerous occasions, Edinburgh, and in Australia and Turkey. Thodos' work has received nominations for the Ruth Page Award and the Chicago Dance Achievement Award. She was honored by the State of Illinois as a Greek American for nurturing and training dancers and choreographers in Chicago. Thodos is a member of the dance faculty of the Broadway Theatre Project, founded by Ann Reinking and Deborah McWaters, hailed by Playbill as "the world's most prestigious musical theater arts education program for high school and college students."
The program was remarkable in many ways. There were outstanding works that each company has made famous. Being able to see the works of both companies working together was a rare opportunity - exciting, energizing, and a memorable experience.
On a stage that was essentially bare, it was left to the use of the curtain; managing space, lighting, costuming, music and incredible dancing that carried the evening.
The program was varied from very serious to charming, light and humorous. Costumes ranged from very lyrical to stark. Each piece was just the right length and the total program was stimulating and satisfying.
This dual bill demonstrated both troupes' affinity for collaboration as was seen in the combined premiere of works by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano (Artistic Director of Luna Negra) and Melissa Thodos (Founder and Artistic Director of Thodos Dance). Each choreographed for the other company's dancers.
The program included the following. Bate, created in 2005 for the Goteborg Ballet (Sweden) by Fernendo Melo of Luna Negra Dance Theater was inspired by the spirit of Brazilian soap operas and was a perfect program opener. I particularly enjoyed the men in their tuxes moving through space and frequently looking like pretzels. In stark contrast Piece of Peace (Part I) choreographed by Melissa Thodos, premiered in 1996 and now performed in celebration of Thodos Chicago’s 20th Anniversary, was lyrical and the costumes looking like apricot sherbet were beautiful. This was a joy to watch.
Choreographed by Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock Kaufman and premiered on July 29, 2011as part of Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances performance series, Exurgence seemed stark to me at first both in it’s movement and costuming but I was soon drawn in and loved the work.
"4+4" was premiered this evening. It included choreography by Melissa Thodos for the dancers of Luna Negra Dance Theater that bridged into choreography by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano for the dancers of Thodos Dance Chicago. It was charming.
During intermission the Thodos Dance Chicago Youth Ensemble performed in the lobby and were delightful to watch.
Flabbergast was created for Luna Negra Dance Theater by choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano in 2001. This exposes sterotypes and preconceived ides about foreign places. It was so light and charming and the dancers seemed to be having such a good time that I wanted to travel with them.
Premiered February 19, 2011, Getting There choreographed by Melissa Thodos was delightful, charming and fun to watch.
In celebration of Thodos Dance Chicago’s 20th Anniversary, Chant, choreographed by Melissa Thodos, premiered in 1992 was presented. This was a deep and spiritual piece and a perfect ending to a wonderful program.
Since its inception in 1999, Luna Negra Dance Theater has established itself as a significant and vital component of Chicago’s arts and cultural community. Founded by Cuban-born dancer and choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, Luna Negra celebrates the richness and diversity of Latino culture through the creation of works by contemporary Latino choreographers and through intensive, hands-on education programs that encourage discovery and exploration of personal and community identity. Steering away from stereotypes and folkloric representations, the company performs works of contemporary Latino dance with energy, power, and passion. Luna Negra makes its home in Chicago at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, and tours nationally and internationally.
Gustavo Ramírez Sansano (Artistic Director – San Fulgencio, Spain) was appointed Artistic Director of Luna Negra Dance Theater in 2009, after directing TITOYAYA Dance Project in Valencia, Spain for four years.
Don’t miss the Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert. Thodos Dance Chicago will officially celebrate its 20th anniversary with two phenomenal, inspirational and reflective evenings of breathtaking, innovative dance, Friday and Saturday, Mar. 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph Drive, Chicago. Tickets to Thodos Dance Chicago's 20th Anniversary Winter Concert are $25-$60. Purchase tickets via phone at (312) 334-7777, or online at harristheaterchicago.org.