Ballet 5:8 is a Chicago-based female and minority-led premiere ballet company recognized for remarkable artistic excellence, innovation and beauty. Mexican American Artistic Director, Julianna Rubio Slager, creates original and dynamic ballet experiences drawing from life, faith, current events and diverse perspectives that tell relevant stories of the 21st century. Rubio Slager brings to life ballets that are relatable and accessible to all people, delighting both the seasoned balletomane and the first-time audiences. As a Latina, Rubio Slager breaks the glass ceiling and empowers minority women to command space in the professional ballet scene.
Since its founding in 2012, Ballet 5:8 has presented more than 45 critically acclaimed ballets forging a robust repertoire, engaging and captivating communities in the Midwest and across the nation. As leading companies cycled through the same classic works, founders Rubio Slager and Amy Kozol Sanderson saw this beautiful art form becoming stagnant and in danger of missing the next generation. They founded Ballet 5:8 to tell stories of the 21st century while retaining the classic beauty of ballet.
Headquartered in Orland Park, IL, Ballet 5:8 is the only professional touring company in Chicago’s South Suburbs and extends the company’s mission to more than 400 students a year at the School of Ballet 5:8 as a cultural staple in the community. The School provides high-quality dance education to students from across the nation with a nationally recognized ballet training program and a range of recreational dance classes for all ages and levels of abilities.
“It’s easy to feel the heart of this company and the passion that resonates from its mission. These are serious, talented dancers, and their director is not holding back.” – See Chicago Dance
“Ballet 5:8 is a company whose mission is truly based around love, compassion, and kindness. They use the values of their faith only in the most positive ways—to inspire their audiences, to motivate one another, and to provide a basis for their approach to dance and choreography. In a world wrought with violence and ignorance, it’s a pleasure to have artists like those at Ballet 5:8 spread their message of light.” – Dancermusic.com
Ballet 5:8 will present Baptized Imagination at the Ames Center on Friday, November 4 at 7pm. Baptized Imagination is a breathtaking mixed bill celebrating diversity with four original ballets by Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager and Matthew Rushing, Associate Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. The evening will feature two new works including Look to the East, which will be the 46th original piece created by Rubio Slager with Ballet 5:8. Look to the East is a poetic and athletic exploration of the neo-classical form and inspired by the resurrection narrative.
Ballet 5:8 is also proud to perform a forthcoming new commission by Matthew Rushing as part of the Baptized Imagination program. Rushing had an illustrious career with Alvin Ailey, including becoming the Associate Artistic Director in 2020. Rushing is the recipient of a Spotlight Award, a Dance Magazine Award and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. This will be Rushing’s first collaboration with the artists of Ballet 5:8 during a two-week residency and marks the first time Rushing creates a piece on a Chicago-based company. Ballet 5:8 is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring his world-class choreography and creative genius to Burnsville, MN.
In addition to the two new works, audiences joining us at the Ames Center will also enjoy the return of two Ballet 5:8 fan favorites–Día de Los Vivos and Gospel Impressions that same evening.
The title of the ballet is a clever play on the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos and addresses the topic of clinical depression. Set to music by Ezio Bosso, Día de Los Vivos premiered in 2021 and captured the hearts of audience members. The work beautifully and viscerally tells the story of a young woman visited by family members who have passed on. The family encourages the young woman to continue living despite the looming despair and emotional oppression experienced. Día de Los Vivos is a deeply personal piece based on Rubio Slager’s experience with clinical depression. Every 40 seconds someone in the world dies from suicide. Countless others bear the crushing weight of depression in silence. Día de Los Vivos is a tribute to the men and women that fight each day to stay on this planet. It is a love letter to those who choose to fight the good fight, who choose to believe in hope; to honor all who choose to stay.
This highly visual and breathtaking ballet premiered in 2021 in Ballet 5:8’s special 10th Anniversary Program and returns to stage as a well-loved fan favorite. Set to music by Rachmaninoff, Gospel Impressions is inspired by leading contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura’s exquisite large-scale paintings, The Four Holy Gospels. Fujimura’s work is layered, colorful and nuanced. Rubio Slager takes the visual masterpieces as a base and fleshes out Fujimura’s inspiration, philosophy and paintings with movement, geometry and familiar forms that further illuminate the gospel stories.
Especially arresting are the handmade and splendid costumes conceived and designed by Head of Wardrobe Lorianne Robertson. The costumes correspond with the four brilliant paintings created with mineral pigments, gold, platinum and more. Company apprentice Natalie Chinn (very left side of the above image) dances in a bright red and striped costume inspired by “Mark–Water Flames,” depicting the way fire both consumes and purifies. Solo Artist Valerie Linsner and Company Artist James Wainwright (to the right of Chinn and in the center) represent The Word in costumes that illuminate darkness with prismatic colors, portraying the concept of resurrection and life as shown in “John–In the Beginning.” Company Apprentice Ruth Sevlie (to the right of Wainwright) wears a layered costume intertwined in royal blue, light blue, white and gold, representing the juxtaposition of legalism and grace as shown in “Luke–Prodigal God.” Lastly, Company Apprentice Lydia Lund dresses in joyous and comforting arctic blue as shown in “Matthew–Consider the Lilies” with the message that even common lilies have generative realities.
Through the contrasting themes, woven choreography and familiar representations (such as the formation of a lilly and hops of a baby bird) performed by corps de ballet dances, pas de papillons and more, the unique ballet touches on relatable emotions, struggles, tragic events like 9/11 and invites audiences into a jarringly honest, yet hopeful narrative.
Ballet 5:8 has seriously talented dancers that grew up in Minnesota and moved to big cities to pursue their careers! The company wanted to honor that as it returns to a full-time touring schedule after the pandemic. Company Apprentice Ruth Sevlie is originally from Red Wing, MN and attended Minnesota State College Southeast. Company Artist Ellington Nichols began her ballet training at the age of 10 at the North Ballet Academy in Rogers, MN and graduated from the University of Northwestern–St. Paul.
“From a young age, I knew I wanted to be a ballerina and moving to New York City made that possible. I was in Minnesota my whole life and moved away at the age of 17 when I was given the opportunity to train at the Forrest Academy of Ballet in New York City. After living there for 2 years, I moved to Chicago as an apprentice with Ballet 5:8 in 2019 and was promoted a Company Artist in 2020. I’m so excited to share Ballet 5:8’s impactful ballets and meaningful stories on tour to my home city.” Nichols shared.
Come and enjoy a scintillating, thrilling, honest and relevant ballet experience truly unlike any other with Ballet 5:8 at the Ames Center on Friday, November 4 at 7pm. Tickets to Baptized Imagination are available at: https://www.ames-center.com/baptized-imagination
Contributing Article by Ballet 5:8.