River North on the Landmark Stage

Saturday, I go out to play croons Eva Cassidy’s smoky voice in the intimate Katten-Landau studio at Roosevelt University. Dancers Jessica Wolfrum and Ahmad Simmons tangle in an intense, physical, emotive duet – an excerpt from River North Dance Chicago artistic director Frank Chaves’ 2013 ode to the singer. At the end of the second run, Wolfrum literally leans on two lucky audience members, spent. Her character “has issues,” Chaves quips.
These two dancers have been performing the duet since the premiere last year. In fact, the entire program is made up of previous works, but the beauty is the audience gets to see the evolution of the dancers in the work. “When revisiting a work, you can see them grow in it,” said Patrick Simoniello. “They’re stronger now and can focus on making it their own instead of working to get to that place technically.”
Simoniello, a former dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet, joined the River North family this season as ballet master. The fit is good, evident in his bright smile when talking of the company and the respect he receives from the dancers. “I love it here,” he said before a preview event last week. His number-one goal is to make sure these 12 dancers know it’s all about respect. “It’s respect for themselves, respect for their co-workers, and respect for the art.”
Although you may have seen any or all of these pieces before, you have never seen them in this context on this stage. The company returns to the Auditorium Theatre’s Landmark Stage this Saturday to finish out the season. “This stage is appropriate,” Simoniello said. “The history is so rich. It’s a different feeling to dance here.” From the soft opening of Chaves’ The Good Goodbyes to the climactic ending with his “epic” revival of Underground Movements (with the Chicago Children’s Choir singing live on stage), the show takes you on a journey, a “rollercoaster” of emotion.
Alongside the three works from Chaves, Kevin Iega Jeff’s intense, full-company Dawn and Mauro Astolfi’s contemporary Contact Me round out the versatile repertory program. This is a one-night-only performance, so perhaps you should take a hint from Cassidy and “go out to play” this Saturday with River North Dance Chicago.
River North Dance Chicago performs at The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy., Saturday, April 12th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $27-$70; call 800.982.2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium.