A Dance Celebration in Chicago at the Auditorium Theater

The Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University in Chicago is celebrating its 125 Anniversary. The yearlong celebration program is one of the major performing arts series in the country. Premier dance companies from around the world and Chicago will be featured at this ravishingly beautiful theater that opened with great fanfare and applause in 1889. Designed by the Adler & Sullivan architectural firm, at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Congress Street, it was at the time, the largest structure in the United States and the tallest in Chicago. It still stands as a major cultural icon.

From the reopening of a refurbished Auditorium 1967, to the present, it has had a continuous history of presenting the likes of the Bolshoi Ballet to the 2014 anniversary kick-off appearance of the American Ballet Theater of New York a few weeks ago.

The anniversary schedule includes three dance series: Celebrated international companies including the Royal Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Eilman Dance, Groupo Corps and ABT and Made in Chicago featuring: Thodos Dance, River North Dance Company and Giovanni Dance Company.

As a child of the city and a resident for the last fifteen years, I have strong lingering memories of attending major dance and musical theater here including such musical gems as Show Boat and Phantom of the Opera. When I learned that the revived and vigorous company of the Dance Theater of Harlem was among the celebrated performances on the International anniversary program, I knew I had to be in the audience.

I had hoped to see Arthur Mitchell, the founder of Dance Theater of Harlem, but he was not traveling with the company this tour. His extraordinary vision and passion for dance and painstaking development of the company he founded in 1967, with the late Karel Shook, is recognized and applauded by audiences around the globe.

Their recent program was inspiring. It included the reverential Gloria -- a tribute to the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance. The whole company participated in this explosion of kinetic energy and soul.

Ulysses Dove's newer choreography: Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven-Odes to Love and Loss was a lyrical statement of the memory of love projected through the brilliant physicality of the young dancers and their well executed poetic reflection on the heartbreak of loss. The final dance was Return, a piece that the choreographer calls 'post modern urban neoclassicism'. The elements of traditional ballet and hip-hop were fused with great panache -- a real crowd pleaser. The performance brought the audience to its feet at the curtain call.

The return of the company to Chicago after almost 17 years was a gift to lovers of dance.

I nominate Chicago's Auditorium Theater as a major cultural destination through 2015 and invite the world to come and experience many world-class performances in my city by the lake. I hope to be there too.

Pat Johnson
Grannies on Safari
At home in Chicago

Auditorium Theater of Chicago