A mature woman in the VIP section wept. Purdue University dance students near the back gazed mesmerized. Many seated in between swayed, mouthing lyrics as familiar as the national anthem. Everyone seemed connected by the voices filling the room, to the figures moving around the microphone on stage.
“We were hoping for that connection,” says Kevin Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s December performance at the Harris Theater at Millennium Park, themed “Chicago Women of Song” and featuring choreography to music by Chaka Khan, Anita O’Day, Jennifer Hudson, Mahalia Jackson, Minnie Riperton, Mavis Staples and Dinah Washington.
Adds Gary Abbott, DRDT’s artistic director along with Jeff, “We wanted people to get an understanding of these vocalist’s triumphs, of the strength, endurance and inspiration it takes to do what they did year after year. That’s something we can all relate to and share, regardless of age or background.”
Abbott might very well have been referring to DRDT itself, as the event represented the company’s 15th anniversary season finale. It presented world premiers in Bach’d and the title work, as well as showcased I Am Deeply Rooted and concluded with a standing ovation to Church of Nations.
Event Chair Judith Cothran could not have been happier with the turnout, especially given many high profile competing events and the tough economy. “Beyond the impressive numbers, we attracted a lot of new contributors and audience members. They left as true fans anticipating more of these fantastic performances.”
Echoed Jeff, “This was directional to a new possibility of what the company can achieve. It opened the door to that transition, by introducing us to people who will take the journey with us. It was definitely a catalyst to making that happen.”