“We’re all emotional beings, ” Frank Chaves, artistic director and primary choreographer for River North Chicago Dance says over the phone, “but dancers…when you go to work, you’re dealing with your body and your emotions.” The emotions Chaves has been grappling with over the past four years emerged in the aftermath of a surgery to remove a cyst on his spine, a procedure that altered his physical capabilities. “I was great at recuperating from the surgery itself; I’m very determined with things like that,” Chaves says, his words rapid and upbeat, fresh from the inspiration of the classroom. “ But once I was back from that and discovered what I was left with and how my life was going to change, that’s when I started dragging my feet. We all have a great ideal about the direction our life is going to take,” he continues. “All of a sudden you come to a stumbling block and you can hang on to fighting for what you thought your path was going to be, or you can change direction.”
Chaves’ new work “Forbidden Boundaries” grapples—quite literally—with the self-imposed boundaries that keep us from success. Divided in four sections, the piece explores the ways we engage, ignore and occasionally live at peace with our inhibitions. The piece is a departure for Chaves, who has never before directly addressed personal struggles in his work. “I’ve never been one to want to make that statement, to consciously recognize things I’ve been going through as seeping into the work,” he says. “But this, in a very selfish way, I wanted to be a cathartic experience.”
Listening to Chaves describe the four sections of “Forbidden Boundaries,” it didn’t sound like he had slipped into the mirrored pit of self-indulgence; the work includes imaginative use of props, rigorous athleticism, high-energy ensemble sections and a big, eye-pleasing ending—the kind of watchable, audience-focused choreography that makes the pulse race and gives River North widespread appeal. It will be interesting to see what happens when darker, intensely personal forces moves Chaves’ brush.
“Forbidden Boundaries” is presented as part of River North’s Fall Engagement, which is sure to give your ticket’s worth, with an additional world premiere by co-artistic director Emerita Sherry Zunker and a whopping five additional pieces from the company’s repertory. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. Saturday, November 7 at 8pm. $30-65.