Established choreographer brings her talent to River North production

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Dance is considered one of the most expressive forms of art, engaging people with its nonverbal communication—each movement speaking another part of the language that is seen and not heard.

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Dance is considered one of the most expressive forms of art, engaging people with its nonverbal communication—each movement speaking another part of the language that is seen and not heard.

In celebration of this art form, River North Chicago Dance Company is having a one-night-only River North Contemporary fall engagement featuring the world premiere “Risoluta,” choreographed by Sidra Bell, artistic director of Sidra Bell Dance New York, to commemorate River North’s 21st anniversary.

“Risoluta” is described as “an enigmatic world filled with personas that engage in an atmosphere resembling a subterranean ball.” Bell, 31, a New York native, said that working with the River North dancers was one of the best experiences she has had in visiting another city.

“They were so generous and so open to what I had to say, and they really were very energetic throughout the whole process,” she said. “(Choreographing) includes a lot of brainwork because there’s a lot of detail within the (movement) vocabulary and…they were up for the challenges.”

Bell has been adding her “vocabulary” to this language for the most part of her life. Growing up in a “family of artists,” she felt predestined to do so. Both her parents are musicians. Her father is acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Dennis Bell –– who also composed the original score to “Risoluta.” Sidra Bell said that working with her father is an “amazing” experience.

Bell said that she started her first dance class in preschool after her mother enrolled her in Saturday morning classes at the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

“It was kind of unconscious in the beginning. I think my mom saw me doing little dances around the house, and I also liked to do exercise videos with her,” she laughed. “So she recognized my love of movement.”

After studying classical ballet from the age of 7 to 15, Bell decided that she wanted to expand into other forms of dance. She auditioned for The Ailey School ¡¡– the dance production company of Alvin Ailey – and received a scholarship to attend, spending the last two and a half years of high school there in the professional division.

It was then that Bell said she had to make a hard decision—venture out to an Ivy League university or study at a conservatory of dance.

“I always had this kind of push/pull with my academic life because I was really serious about school, so I decided for college I would go to Yale instead of doing conservatory of dance,” she said. “It was a hard decision, but ultimately, I wanted to keep expanding my academic space, and I also had this keen interest in literature and history, and I wanted to keep developing that.”

Bell earned her bachelor’s degree in history at Yale, but still continued to dance in extracurricular dance clubs. She even started an organization there that held dance workshops for other students who were passionate about dance. She later went on to obtain an MFA in choreography from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance.

“Expanding in knowledge and being well-learned is important, and then as an artist, it also adds to my craft,” she explained. “Not in a direct way, but it certainly adds to the vocabulary and how I communicate my ideas. I feel the two tracks coming together more and more in my art.”

At the conclusion of her college career, Bell decided to establish her own dance company, Sidra Bell Dance New York. She said that she is grateful that her career has allowed her to experience life in a new way. Her work has been presented in Germany, Austria, Greece, Canada, Denmark and throughout the United States.

“It’s been a huge gift to be able to visit different places all over the country, different groups of people and share my philosophy of dance. It just adds more layers to what I do,” she said. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself a little bit. Being able to work with all types of different people helps me expand artistically and challenge what I do.”

Bell’s credits include works for Ailey II, Alvin Ailey/Fordham BFA Program, Ballet Divertimento, National Choreographers Initiative, The Margie Gillis Foundation, Bessie Sch÷nberg Choreographers Residency at The Yard, Springboard Danse MontrΘal, Ballet Austin, Mystic Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Dance Theater Workshop and The Juilliard School. She is also a sought after teacher and has taught master classes and workshops in the United States and abroad, including guest teaching at Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, New Haven Ballet, Greenwich Academy, LaGuardia High School, Long Island University, Springboard Danse MontrΘal and The Ailey School.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender

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