Of Moons and Turtles

If I ever had a bunch of cash burning a hole in my pocket (and I mean a BUNCH of cash, like, I’ve paid off all my debts, have enough to live on for the rest of my life, take care of my people, and STILL had a large wad left over) I would love to fund something that would bring free art to the masses. And since it’s me and my (hypothetical) large wad of cash, I’d probably lean towards making it free dance to the masses! Because I love dance. In case you didn’t pick up on that already.

Luckily, even though that day has yet to dawn, there are others out there who have done that exact sort of thing and I was lucky enough to be a beneficiary of it! Area theater was hosting a free dance concert which, coincidentally, was a group that I had seen almost exactly one year ago, mere days before I made my return to ballet. Come to think of it, that show ended up being free, too! Though that was free because some kind soul couldn’t use all her tickets and left them at the booth with instructions to give them away. The ticket booth girl was simply kind enough to give one to me. This show was free for all!

I figured what better way to celebrate my ballet-versary than to, uh, skip ballet class and go see this!? Well, in an ideal world they would’ve been performing on a day that I didn’t have ballet, but what can you do? I can make up ballet classes, but if I miss a performance it’s gone forever.

So I snagged a friend and we met up for some pub grub prior to the show (hot spiced rummy cider, some sort of potatoey, cheesey, puffy goodness, and a great big burger… yum). Bolstered by our delicious noms, we headed down the street to the theater. Un peu tard. (Being a bit late sounds far more sophisticated in French.) Apparently we may have lingered over our beverages a bit long… and underestimated the distance between the pub and the theater. Luckily the ushers were quite kind about it and, though we didn’t get our assigned seats (they give them away after a certain amount of time) there was plenty of space for us to sit without causing a major ruckus.

On stage? Luna Negra Dance Theatre of Chicago. Not ballet, for you ballet-o-philes out there; they bill themselves as performers of contemporary Latino dance. But, like most contemporary dance groups, the performers clearly have a strong technical background. Absolutely amazing.

We walked in in the middle of Solo una Vez choreographed by Luis Eduardo Sayago. Bummed we missed the first half and hadn’t had a chance to read the program to see what the story was supposed to be about, but what we saw was great, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that the last piece was performed to Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” which, you may or may not have known, was actually part of the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, i.e. music I recently danced to in our summer ballet! Their dance was quite a different take on it, but thoroughly enjoyable. Found this clip of Luna Negra rehearsing this piece to give you a little taste:

Then intermission #1. As I looked around the room I felt like we represented a very odd demographic in that crowd. We were neither elderly nor parents with kids in tow. Oh well, we were enjoying it.

Lights down, curtain opens, and onstage is Turtle Island String Quartet! They entertained us with some string quartet versions of Hendrix. For some reason I just love string versions of rock music; it’s an entertaining dichotomy. They stayed on stage to accompany the next piece, Danzón, choreographed by the group’s founder, Eduardo Vilaro. I’ve seen people dance with a piano on stage before, but this was the first time I’ve seen dance with a string quartet. I was slightly afraid for the quartet’s safety, but they made it through just fine. The costuming was interesting for this piece. The women were in burgundy leotards and what I can only describe as gray culottes. Yes. Culottes. Yikes. Wasn’t a big fan. The men were in sheer burgundy shirts and black pants. Much more attractive. Can’t find a good video of it online, but amazing. The entire company performs this piece and it’s just incredible how fluid they are. Every move leads into the next move. And I love dancers who can go from a quadruple pirouette and then just stop on a dime.

Intermission #2.

Then the final piece, Flabbergast by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. I had seen them perform this last year and I loved it then. Loved it still, though for some reason, slightly less so than last year. Perhaps just because I was farther away from the stage than when I saw it the first time. Still, they manage to make the audience feel that they are part of the dance somehow. There is one section where the house lights come on and the dancers all look at the audience as if to say, “Who the heck are these people?” The whole piece had kind of a ’50s feel to me, maybe because of the costuming and props. The women wore adorable little shirt-dresses, the men in short-sleeved shirts and pants or shorts looking the role of traveler or tourist. They make liberal use of old hard-sided suitcases, but manage to work the props in as if they were dancing themselves. Then at one point a silvery fringe drops down. I saw one review referring to this as a “tropical hiding place.” I interpreted it as a subway car. Who knows. I can’t say that there’s a sure plot going on here, but there are definitely snippets of stories that interweave throughout which were altogether hilarious. I remembered how I felt when I first saw them last year… how amazing it was that they could dance so powerfully, graceful yet explosive, and in the midst of it all you find yourself smiling and laughing. It’s funny, yo! And makes me want to get up and dance. Found this (not great quality) snippet online:

String quartet, contemporary dance, free… alllll good 🙂

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