Review: A GOLDEN CELEBRATION OF DANCE at the Auditorium Theatre

By Elizabeth Ellis

In 1889, the Auditorium Theatre opened its doors to Chicago. Designed by influential architects Adler and Sullivan, this enormous opera house was the tallest building in the city at the time, and sought to establish itself as a premier multi-use building. After decades of decline and disrepair, the Auditorium closed to the public, opening only during World War II as a service center for soldiers. On October 31, 1967, after a massive fundraising campaign and tens of millions of dollars in renovation, the theatre celebrated its reopening with a gala and a special evening featuring performances from some of the finest dancers in the world. November 12 commemorated the 50th anniversary of its rebirth with A GOLDEN CELEBRATION OF DANCE, once again showcasing magnificent dancers in one of the finest dance venues in the world.

Pictured: Koto Ishihara. Photo by Kristie Kahns

On that Halloween night in 1967, two members of the New York City Ballet, principal dancers Edward Villella and Suzanne Farrell, performed in the magical A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Reprising their pairing, Farrell and Villella served as honorary co-chairs of this year’s celebration. While Farrell could not attend the gala performance, she sent an audio recording of her happy memories. Villella, however, took the stage to thunderous applause. As he recalled moments of his long and illustrious career, he praised the Auditorium Theatre as superior to any venue where he has performed anywhere in the world. Companies participating in the celebration include the New York City Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, Vienna State Ballet, and Berlin State Ballet.

Pictured: Solomon Dumas. Photo by Kristi Kahns

While every piece was an absolute wonder to see, several standouts deserve mention. Hometown favorite Hubbard Street Dance Chicago represented our fair city well, with Jacqueline Burnett, Kellie Eppenheimer, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Alice Klock, Andrew Murdock, and Kevin J. Shannon dancing the fantastic tumbling dominoes in Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo.

Pictured: Daniil Skimm and Maria Kochetkova. Photo by Kristie Kahns

The Washington Ballet’s charismatic Brooklyn Mack, in a star-making performance, danced the gravity-defying pas de deux from Marius Petipa’s Diana and Acteon with the amazing Koto Ishihara of the San Francisco Ballet. Another rising star, Solomon Dumas of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, commanded the stage in a solo piece, Robert Battle’s modern Japanese Takademe. Liudmila Konovalova danced the sad yet beautiful The Swan in the style of Anna Pavlova. New York City Ballet’s principals Daniel Ulbricht and Megan Fairchild embodied light and spirit in George Balanchine’s Tarantella. American Ballet Theatre’s Daniil Simkin, reminiscent of Mikhail Baryshnikov in his prime, took the stage in the solo piece Les Bourgeois by Ben Ven Cauwenburgh, and the pas de deux from Petipa’s Don Quixote with the glorious Maria Kochetkova ended the magical evening with a standing ovation.

About author

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth is an actor, playwright, musician, and a graduate of De Paul University. She studied theatre and improvisation at the Second City Training Center, the Actors’ Center, and at the Royal National Theatre Studio in London. Elizabeth has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tympanic Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Second City's Children's Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Bailiwick Arts Center, and London's Canal Cafe Theatre. Six of her plays have been chosen as part of the Abbie Hoffman and the Around the Coyote festivals.