Mixing up the mixed program

River North Dance Chicago will perform a tour de force.

River North Dance Chicago will perform a tour de force (photo credit: ERIKA DUFOUR)
River North Dance Chicago will perform a tour de force
(photo credit: ERIKA DUFOUR)
Looking back at the programs presented by foreign dance companies in Israel over the past several years, one obvious trend stands out: the three-part program. Whereas visiting troupes once opted to show a single, evening-length choreography, the fashion of late has been the mixed evening. This pattern has emerged to engage the attention of audiences, who often prefer shorter pieces by a number of artists to the vision of one choreographer.
Next week, River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) will break out of that mold with the company’s unique version of a mixed program.
“So many companies do three 40-minute pieces with two intermissions in an evening. We like to do between six and 10 pieces that are between three and 20 minutes in one evening, with one intermission in the middle. It’s a great way to present a diverse program with a lot of variety. People will see a very eclectic mix of repertoire on the stage in the one night at our performance,” explains Frank Chaves, artistic director of the dance company.
Founded by four dancers in 1989, RNDC’s mission is to present dance that is accessible and enjoyable to a diverse audience. With a repertoire that is comprised of shorter pieces, River North has the flexibility to tailor-make its program according to the interests of each stop on the company’s tour roster.
On their Israeli debut, which will take place at the Herzilya Performing Arts Center, the troupe will perform seven works.
“For this program, we wanted to bring out the big guns to introduce the company to this new audience,” says Chaves, who has been a guiding force for RNDC since its early days. The program will include five works by Chaves: Habaneras, The Good Goodbyes and a succession of short duets The Mourning, Forbidden Boundaries and At Last, as well as I Close My Eyes Until the End by Adam Barruch and Ashley Roland’s Beat.
Habaneras is a particularly personal work for Chaves. Born in Havana, Chaves grew up in a home that was filled with the rhythms of Cuban music.
“I made this piece in 2005 as a celebration of my Cuban heritage. It’s like a mini-ballet. I grew up on the music of Ernesto Lecuona, who is the most wellknown classical composer out of Cuba. It was always in the back of my mind to use his music. I incorporated pre-revolution and post-revolution music. This work has become a signature piece of mine,” he explains.
The Good Goodbyes is a more somber work, says Chaves.
“It’s a sentimental work that represents the wonderful and incredible relationships that we get to develop in the dance world. Dancers have to say goodbye a lot because the dance career is short,” he says.
Ashley Roland’s Beat is unlike the other pieces in the evening in that it is an improvisation. A solo for one male dancer, Beat is intense and dynamic.
“This piece usually brings the house down. It’s different every time it is performed. Not all dancers are talented improvisers, but the dancer who does this piece is tremendous,” Chaves comments.
Although the program may sound overwhelming, Chaves is certain that it will leave the audience wanting more.
“I would bet that we are going to be one of the styles that you don’t see a lot in Israel. River North manages a great combination of a highly artistic product with accessibility and entertainment. Our history, both here and abroad, pretty much surprises people, and we love to do that. There are so many times that people come to our shows and say that they’ve never seen anything like it. Contemporary dance has taken over to the point that you can’t tell one company from the other. Our goal is to make sure that River North maintains a unique identity,” he asserts.
Aside from their work on stage, RNDC will teach 10 master classes while in town. These workshops will be led by Chaves and company members and will take place in Rishon Lezion, Herzliya, Ra’anana, the Jezreel Valley, Kfar Yasif, Jisr Al Zarqa and Jerusalem.
RNDC’s inaugural tour to Israel has been made possible thanks to the support of the American Embassy in Israel.
“I don’t want people just to see River North, I want them to feel River North,” smiles Chaves.
River North Dance Chicago will perform at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on October 21, 22, 23, 24 and 25. For more information, visit www.hohherzliya.co.il.