When Cuban Ballet-trained dancers Victor Alexander and Maray Gutierrez defected their native Cuba fifteen years ago, their biggest concern was to assimilate happily and productively as Americans.
Now, performing at the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe on Sept. 25 as members of the Chicago contemporary dance company, Concert Dance, Inc. they are especially inspired to present a series of dance compositions based on their experiences in Cuba and from the group's recent travels in China, the Czech Republic and Scotland.
They and the seven other dancers that comprise Concert Dance perform "El Salón: Dance, Laughter and Heartbreak," artistic director Venetia Stifler's newest work. Highlighting the program are two new works that had their world premieres this past June at the prestigious Ravinia summer festival outside of Chicago.
Commissioned by Ravinia in observance of the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein, as well as the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence, "El Salón Mexico," is based on Copland's wildly infectious music.
"Irregular Pearls," is a multi-media work explores the company's experiences in China and how they were affected by a 3000-year-old culture.
The piece was the performance culmination of the International Dance Learning Project tour through China in May of 2009, a cultural exchange program to China sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
A work inspired by Abraham Lincoln, "The Better Angels of Our Nature" features the music of Lawrence Dillon and is based on Lincoln's personal letters.
The Dillon score was one of three winners selected from Ravinia's first composition competition, devised to spur the creation of fresh musical works that would be imbedded with the words of Lincoln.
The program concludes with "When All Is Said and Done – German Songs," a series of duets that follows the emotional arc of a couple moving through the many stages of love, and features the music of Franz Schubert and Richard Strauss.
"America is our home," Mr. Alexander says, referring to himself, wife Maray, and their new son.
"I love Chicago, but it is always fantastic to perform in a place like the Opera House. We have such a great time in Jim Thorpe." This will be Concert Dance's fourth visit to town since 2004.
Concert Dance will also offer a fun and free Salsa workshop at 3 p.m. before the show, in the spirit of the cultural nature of the show. Then, like dancers Victor Alexander and Maray Gutierrez, the evening's dance performance at the Opera House will cover a lot of creative territory.
For more information, visit the Web site at: www.MauchChunkOperaHouse.com or call the Opera House box office at (570) 325-0249 for more information.