“Ruth Page Civic Ballet and Friends” at Ravinia

“Ruth Page Civic Ballet and Friends” at Ravinia
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By Catherine Head

Chicago’s vibrant dance scene would not be complete without one of its longest standing institutions; The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. The Ruth Page Center hosts small to midsize companies, and also has an excellent and renowned training program dedicated to training the next generation of dancers.  This past Thursday night at Ravinia’s Bennett Gordon Hall, Ruth Page showcased their training programs burgeoning professional dancers (dancers 17-25) giving them an opportunity to perform as professionals in a professional venue. The Ruth Page Civic Ballet Training Company serves as a bridge between studio training and a professional dance career. It was clear to see that many of the dancers on stage that evening will most definitely be able to embark on professional careers. They have both the technique and the talent The performance entitled “Ruth Page Civic Ballet and Friends” also featured Jumaane Taylor and Stone Soup Rhythms, a tap company that featured Jumaane Taylor and Keyana Latimer– their performance was definitely some of the best tap dancing I have ever seen. They were extraordinary- more on that later in the review.

There were 7 pieces in Program A that evening and each was executed with professionalism and artistry. The choreography was varied, which made for an enjoyable evening. There was one short intermission and the whole program was 90 minutes. 

The beginning of the program featured a classical ballet piece “The Little Humpbacked Horse” featuring four young adult ballerinas showcasing their talents. They were professional and energetic and made the piece looks easy- but anyone who knows anything about ballet knows that the double pirouettes & jete’s take years of practice to execute flawlessly, which they did. The four dancers danced with energy, vibrance and very good technique. Following the opening piece was a very interesting piece of choreography entitled Pasajera La Lluvia translated from the Spanish it means- Fleeting Rain. This piece was wonderfully performed by the only 2 male dancers from the Ruth Page Civic Ballet, Kaelen Gouveia and Oscar Uribe Zapata. One dancer entered the stage with one full umbrella, and then the other dancer entered with the metal skeleton of an umbrella.  This music and dancing were full of tempo and tone shifts. The dancers were in perfect sync with the music and with one another. The dancers also mbued the dance with emotion- their commitment to creating an emotionally meaningful performance made this piece was really engaging to watch. 

There were 2 pieces that were created for this specific set of dancers: the piece “Steady Going” was created collaboratively with the dancers and the choreographer Kia Smith, and the other “Abscission” was choreographed for the company by Adrian Marcol Saenz. These two pieces in particular had the most dynamic and interesting choreography of the evening’s program. These pieces also gave each dancer the opportunity to make the piece and their contributions personal to them. It was evident that each dancer had contributed to the choreography and because of that- it seemed the most meaningful and unique. These pieces had several classical ballet elements but also had a more modern sensibility to them. They seemed to speak for the dancers more than some of the more traditional pieces. Both Steady Going and Abscission were the most dynamic and thought-provoking pieces of the night both from a choreographic standpoint and from a performance standpoint. They were thoroughly enjoyable and compelling.

Last, but certainly not least, 5was the phenomenal tap performance by Jumaane Taylor and Keyana Lattimer entitled Cheap Suites 1-5. The piece was set to recorded music of Detroit master drummer and producer Kareem Riggins.  To say that these tappers were extraordinary does not seem to go far enough to convey how good they were and how good this piece was overall!! Short but sweet- the piece was probably not over 15 minutes. Every minute of it was excellent, thoroughly enjoyable and life affirming. These two tappers not only had the talent and technique, but they brought a joy to their performance that you could feel in the room.  They radiated their joy in their performance. And man, were they skilled!! Their specificity and speed were impressive. In the beginning of the piece, the interplay between them was really palpable and enjoyable to witness. Towards the end of the piece, each of them did a solo and in those solos was some of the most astounding tapping I have ever seen. They tapped with speed, precision and joy. If you ever have the opportunity to see anything by Chicago Human Rhythm Project, or their resident ensemble, Stone Soup Rhythms, run, don’t walk, to get tickets. You won’t regret it!! 

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