An Evening With the Divas of Dance

Bill Clinton’s not the only person famous for dancing around the issues who’ll be giving testimony on August 17: that night Steppenwolf’s interdisciplinary “Traffic” series brings together three brilliant figures from post-World War II American dance. Broadway legend Gwen Verdon–Bob Fosse’s muse and artistic inheritor–starred in such shows as Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, and Chicago. Maria Tallchief, prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet from 1946 to 1966, created principal roles in former husband George Balanchine’s Firebird, Orpheus, and other works before relocating to Chicago, where she ran the old Chicago City Ballet. And Carmen de Lavallade–whose style-spanning career ranges from Lester Horton and Alvin Ailey’s modern-dance troupes to American Ballet Theatre–also worked in regional Shakespearean theater and in Hollywood and Broadway musicals, including the Harold Arlen-Truman Capote show House of Flowers, where she met her husband, actor-director Geoffrey Holder. “Traffic” coordinator Kahil El’Zabar hedges when asked what the talented trio will actually do in their first onstage appearance together, saying only that we can expect “lively expression in the moment.” But whether the artists engage in anything along performance lines–a dramatic monologue, a song, maybe a little soft-shoe?–or the evening ends up a glorified talk show about sometimes tumultuous careers (the moderator is Julie Simpson, former director of the Dance Center of Columbia College), this is an unprecedented opportunity to see these great artists in the flesh, especially for a generation that came of age after these hallowed hoofers’ glory days. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650. Monday, August 17, 7:30 PM. $25. –Albert Williams

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Gwen Verdon uncredited photo; Maria Tallchief photo by Bridget Montgomery; Carmen de Lavallade uncredited photo.