Ballet 5:8 is not your average ballet company. For ten years, they have stretched us beyond reality into a place of possibility. I realized this upon first glance of their virtual concert this spring “Four Seasons of the Soul”. We often get so wrapped up in the storytelling and the choreography of our treasured ballets but this company draws us a little closer, placing an emphasis on additional areas, taking notice of nuance, environment, spirit and their purpose, which is to connect to a variety of communities, with women and diverse artists at the forefront of their creativity.
“Imagine Better,” a one day only program, at the Anthenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, will take your breath away. The program will be presented on October 15th in observance of the closing of “National Hispanic Heritage Month” and the mighty “Year of Chicago Dance.”
During an intimate community preview, which took place at Ballet Chicago in the heart of Downtown Chicago on October 4th, students, family members, administrators and friends were invited to catch a glimpse of the upcoming performance. “Solace,” “Look to the East” and “Dia De Los Vivos” were a few of the featured works included in the preview for the eight-piece bill. If the works were a hint of what is to come, you can expect an evening of artistic excellence and plenty of elements of surprise.
“Look to the East” is an uplifting performance choreographed by Ballet 5:8’s Founder and Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager. Subtle changes in the dancers hair combined with satisfying interactions, gorgeous champagne-plush costumes, and exquisite athleticism. It is a hopeful piece that encourages us to turn to nature and remember that joy comes in the morning.
“Solace,” choreographed by Alvin Ailey Associate Artistic Director Mathew Rushing, celebrates fall with autumnal hues of auburn, beige and brown in the attire. It is a reminder of Ballet 5:8’s biblical foundation, grounding us in movements and meditation on the power of comfort in god, confession and chaos.
Another stunning piece, choreographed by Rubio Slager is “Dia de Los Vivos,” inspired by her Mexican heritage. It draws from the Mexican tradition of Dia de Los Muertos, which pays respect to our ancestors through elaborate altar rituals and celebration. In Ballet 5:8’s optimistic fashion, the piece places an emphasis on the life that blossoms following transition rather than death. In simple black flowing dresses, imagined by costume designer Lorianne Robertson, the dancers take us on an emotional mental health journey, slowly revealing the layers of healing through their complicated interaction with one another and their garb.
I’m not sure if it is the avant garde attire, intentional expression of mood, exceptional technique or alluring spirit of the dancers but one thing is clear, Ballet 5:8 has a je ne sais quoi that will leave you curious long after each ballet. It is their simultaneous mastery of conversation with their environment, one another, costumes, nature, the bible and god that sets them keenly apart.
Beyond “Imagine Better,” the company has another one day only performance Ver la Musica, Oir la Danza will take place on November 12th at the Museum of Mexican Art with two performances at 1p and 3p. This fall, Ballet 5:8 will also begin the “The Living Room” Series, a project inspired by Rubio Slagers’ upbringing as a second generation immigrant growing up with her grandparents.
After two years of embracing virtual alternatives, Ballet 5:8 is not only imagining better, they are doing better and they are eager to share this expansive vision and well-being in person with their treasured Chicago Community this Saturday.