River North Dance Chicago Valentine's Weekend Engagement: Live review
Similar to the stylistic reaching-out Gaga-influenced Suppose forced the tightly wound contemporary-jazz dancers to drop weight into their ankles and embrace reverberation; Al Sur, by Argentinian couple Sabrina and Rubén Veliz, demands authentic milonga chops not so much blended with other styles but nakedly, neatly plated. RNDC takes risks., the company premiered suite of tangos Al Sur Del Sur February 11 as the closer to its (through Sunday 13 at the Harris Theater). Stallings’s
Sure, the usually lockstep ensemble found trouble finding unison, less confident in a corte than it is kicking sky-high. The rhythms in six gorgeous selections by Anselmo Aieta, Roberto Alvarez, Victor Lavallén and Astor Piazzolla landed differently on each dancer’s ears, compounding the “popcorn” timing. But nothing in this work is beyond their skill—little is. Al Sur is a very sexy, gratifyingly adult dance with potential to thrill if brought to the polish for which RivNo is known.
Wearing handsome black, red and nude gowns and inky tailored suits by Jordan Ross, groups slinked onstage and off during transitions scored by poetry voiced over in Spanish echoed by its English translation. Couples and trios were left behind to be pulled into tighter focus; boiling passions and profound bonds were economically sketched but mysterious in nature. Double duet “A La Sombra del Fueye” showed Hanna Brictson, Kelly Michael Brunk, Michael Gross and Cassandra Porter adapting quickest to the new vocabulary, their eight heels flicking strobelike up between each other’s legs during gliding rotations and succinct stillnesses. “Eduardo y Juliana,” a duet for Lauren Kias and Lizzie MacKenzie dancing barefoot in satin slips, is the suite’s surprise gem, a pale pink foil to all that stormy crimson marching. Shafts of ochre light designed by Todd Clark striate the rear drop and show all the delicious details.
The rest of the bill was familiar stuff; with the exception of director Frank Chaves’s Fixé (1994, to music written for Cirque du Soleil) and the revival of his Love Will Follow (2001, to Kenny Loggins yes Kenny Loggins), I’d seen all of it within the last year. Follow and Sherry Zunker’s Evolution of a Dream were shown in their brief entireties but most of the program was repertory inventively repackaged. Christian Denice’sjaw-dropping performance of Beat—a solo from which he’ll be inseparable soon if he’s not already—followed Follow to cleanse our palates and introduce the scale of Duets, three pairings highlighting Chaves’s range as a choreographer. Fixé, the oldest, was impressively executed by Brunk and Melanie Manale-Hortin but still print unitard–clad safari gymnastics to artsy Quebecois circus music. In “At Last” from Mission (1999), Denice and MacKenzie ran with the light comedy, neither over- nor under-selling its throwaway charm. Gross and Jessica Wolfrum delivered The Mourning (2003) like they always do.
Between the intermission and tangos, we saw two more excerpts, female star turns the dancers would otherwise have to perform while pretty well pooped, not that they ever show it. Access to additional energy let MacKenzie take her trio from Chaves’s Forbidden Boundaries to new extremes on top of the old ones, and drove Brictson to drill deeper into her solo from Robert Battle’s Train. The latter was supernatural, dead serious and shouted once in exhaustion toward the end.