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Auditorium Theatre Commissions 11 world premieres for festival



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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:23AM

The Auditorium Theatre has announced a major new initiative, “The Music + Dance Festival,” a project designed to pair 11 of Chicago’s finest dance troupes with some of Chicago’s best live music makers. The festival, which will unspool over a five-month period (beginning this month and running through June), is being underwritten with $145,000 in grants from the Chicago Community Trust, The Boeing Company and The Joyce Foundation.

The festival will begin with 10 performances taking place in the Auditorium’s Katten/Landau Studio, 425 S. Wabash (4th floor), and will continue on the Auditorium Theatre stage, 50 E. Congress, with the highly anticipated April 13 collaboration between River North Dance Chicago and Orbert Davis’ Chicago Jazz Philharmonic in “Havana Blue,” and exploration of Afro-Cuban music and dance.

The Auditorium also will host a May 15 showcase featuring five selected performances from the festival as well as Giordano Dance Chicago and Luna Negra Dance Theater.

“This festival came out of a conversation [River North artistic director] Frank Chaves and I had when we were both part of the Miles Davis Festival at the Auditorium,” Orbert Davis, co-founder and conductor of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, said Tuesday. “We talked about what we could do, something bigger, that blended music and movement. Then he mentioned that his family was from Cuba.”

Davis and Chaves spent nine days in Cuba in September. Davis, a trumpeter, was transformed: “I became truly inspired. My goal was to become Cuban, which meant taking my horn to every restaurant. Guys in the street, I was playing with them. Guys in a band would see I had an instrument and say, ‘Come on over and play!’”

The result is the new “Havana Blue,” one segment of which features both musicians and dancers improvising.

The dance companies commissioned by the Auditorium Theatre are: Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center’s Bryant Ballet, DanceWorks Chicago, Full Effect Entertainment Theatrical Dance Company, Joel Hall Dancers, Kalapriya Dance Company, Kuumba Lynx, Mexican Dance Ensemble and Thodos Dance Chicago. They have been paired with musicians ranging from students honing their skills to esteemed international musicians.

Each pairing creates a unique, original performance to premiere in the Auditorium’s versatile Katten/Landau studio. All performances are reviewed by a panel of distinguished dance professionals who will select five stand-out pieces to culminate in the May 15 showcase.

“We thought, what can we do to create opportunities for smaller companies of great talent who wouldn’t normally get to work with the Audtorium Theatre?,” said Brett Batterson, the theater’s executive director. “At least six of these companies have never been here before.”

While some of the dance companies will be using original music, others will be using existing music, but many of the companies and musicians are still in creative discussions. The score for the River North piece will be original; Paul Wertico and DanceWorks Chicago, and Charles Heath and the Joel Hall Dancers also plan to use original music as of now.

Tickets are on sale now. Call (800) 982-2787 or visit The festival will continue with various community performances through June in select locations around Chicago.

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