A wonderful ‘Day of the Gypsy.’  (photo inset by Matt Glavin)

A review by Sue Langenberg


It ran for two days only, but deserved at least a week’s run.  RPM productions presented “Day of the Gypsy” at Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago Saturday and Sunday.

The site of the Harris Theater is a phenomenon in itself.  While grand old theaters are located on some street whereby a delightful fountain and a fleet of taxis adorn the entrance, this venue can hardly be viewed above ground.  Parking below is the first adventure but there’s nothing new in Chicago about underground accommodations with its dank and hollow sounds of clicking heels as you approach the street above.

You needn’t approach the street above for the Harris Theater, however, since the main entrance, box office and lobby are a seamless walk from the cars slotted in quiet spaces.  Upon greeting an usher in the house of some 1500 seats raked still downward, it might take a minute to behold the cavernous venue of a unique and architecturally brilliant addition to Chicago’s Millennium Park.  What it may lack in ornate and bejeweled details of old, it makes up for in presenting vital energy all underground from a world above.

“Day of the Gypsy” was choreographed and directed by Gordon Pierce Schmidt, a one-man force of creativity for over three decades.  His many accolades that include Prime Time Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Achievement-Cultural Programming and two Ruth Page Awards for Choreography are but the tip of a creative iceberg in his thriving career.  At the core of his relentless genius is the ability to create something that wasn’t there – not just steps in a dance but visions that result in acquiring a building to include a small theater and studios in Michigan.

Adding to the steps for dancers, location and energy were the commissions from the Detroit Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, The West Shore Symphony and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

So it should come as no surprise that Schmidt, along with RMP Production directors Laura Schwenk-Berman and Jeff Bauer, would combine jazz musicians John Jorgenson Quintet and an extraordinary cast of ballet dancers for “Day of the Gypsy,” featuring Yumelia Garcia as Gypsy Yumelia.

To Chicago audiences, Garcia is already a favorite.  The Venezuelan-born talent graced the stage in many principal roles with Joffrey Ballet including artistic director Ashley Wheater’s “Cinderella,” Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker,” and Valencienne in “The Merry Widow.”  Elsewhere she has made her mark in Milwaukee Ballet and Ballet Florida with many guest stops in between.

For the world of ballet, Garcia is perfectly designed.  So gifted with a basic build for the moves of ballet technique, her body seems an ethereal adjunct to her artistry.  The image may be compared to the late flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal who claimed that he played the best when he forgot the instrument was there.  Garcia similarly absorbs her character with the same ease where the artistic result is paramount and, by the way, the instrument is gorgeous.

Her character as gypsy was indeed saucy, moody, loving, and jealous with all the complications that relationships deliver.  While there was an element of magic with a red scarf, the story line offered enough magic without.  It was quite simple to follow a story of passionate conflict between the good guy and the bad boy, no matter what culture, no matter where.

As Good Guy Joe, Tom Mattingly danced superbly and convincingly as the ideal companion hopelessly smitten with Yumelia.  But there’s always a bad boy.  Randy Herrera brought his sizzling character in the first act that began with slick outstanding petite allegro as if the feet beneath him portrayed an understated prowess of attitude.  Subtle no more as the story progressed and his attitude developed into the rest of his body as he soared into daredevil grand allegro.  A special note to Chicago dancer Jacob Brooks EL whose grand allegro likewise captured excitement.  His large energy owned the stage for those moments.

Other Woman Delilah was danced by Jennifer Goodman, a most engaging and eye-catching dancer at each entrance and exit.  She was joined by cream-of-the-crop dancers Larissa Tanis, Hayley Meier, Jaime Hickey and Teanna Zarro.

As with all things in love and war, Spanish or not, the men competed gang-style with amazing choreography and technical excellence that included dancers Luke Joiner, Jacob Pringle, Malachi Squires, Marco Clemente, as well as Mattingly, Herrera and Brooks E.

With musicians John Jorgenson, Jason Anick, Simon Planting, Rick Reed and Jeffrey Radaich upstage to set a mood where upon our senses made it impossible to sit still, the entire experience was not to be forgotten.