Fifty years ago, the Auditorium Theatre reopened after a 26-year hiatus as a performing arts space. In celebration of that first show reintroducing the building as a place for the arts—a performance by the New York City Ballet on October 31, 1967—the Auditorium Theatre presents A Golden Celebration of Dance, drawing together an impressive list of renowned dance companies and honoring two dancers who first broke in the new stage 50 years ago, Suzanne Farrell and Edward Villella.
“That evening they opened with George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I think is so fitting since the theater had been sleeping for 26 years,” said Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theater CEO.
According to Castroverde Moskalenko, the theater first opened in 1889 with the goal of bringing the arts to the entire population of Chicago—not just the elite—as a means of uniting the city. The building remained a theater until 1941, at which point the City of Chicago took over ownership. It spent a few years as a GI service center.
“They actually turned the stage into a bowling alley,” she said.
Castroverde Moskalenko said the Auditorium Theatre strives to be the destination for dance companies looking to perform in Chicago, so although multiple art forms have graced the theater stage, they decided to focus on dance for the 50-year celebration.
“We are recommitting to our dance legacy, and we are recommitting to the future,” she said.
Some of the companies partaking in the show have performed at the Auditorium before—such as New York City Ballet—and some are new to the stage. Performances include dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Parsons Dance, MOMIX, and more. Through the show, Castroverde Moskalenko said she aimed to follow the trajectory of the Auditorium Theatre through the years.
“We’re telling our story,” she said. “The piece that ends [the first half, Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo performed by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago], it’s very somber, and it’s very touching, but it also represents the stillness and the starkness, and so the first half of the show ends with the Auditorium Theatre closing its doors.”
The show also includes two Balanchine pieces in a nod to the choreographer whose work first graced the stage at the theater’s reopening, as well as contemporary pieces showing the breadth and scope of the theater’s past performances.
Castroverde Moskalenko said everyone in Chicago can associate some memory with the Auditorium Theatre. Over the years, both before and after the theater’s 26-year shuttering, it has presented Broadway shows like Miss Saigon, rock concerts from The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, and speakers like Booker T. Washington back in 1900.
“So many people have a memory of the theater,” she said. “I’ll walk into the theater sometimes and I’ll feel the ghosts, and it’s just wonderful.”
The show takes place Sunday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. following the theater’s 2017 Annual Fall Gala.