School of Dance

The School of Dance will perform choreographer Frank Chaves’ masterwork, Habaneras, The Music of Cuba, at “Spring Collection,” April 20-May 1.

A fiery and seamless blend of music and dance inspired by Cuban culture, the piece celebrates Chaves’s family heritage and love for Cuban music. 

“I grew up listening to most of the music included in the piece,” said Chaves, “My father was a huge music aficionado. — these played in our house almost daily, so I had a very intimate relationship with every single note.”

Chaves explained that the composers in Habaneras  were intentionally chosen. They are both well-known Cuban composers, such as Ernesto Lecuona, and some of his father’s favorites. 

>> Habaneras, The Music of Cuba at “Spring Collection”
April 20-24, April 28-May 1 | Stevie Eller Dance Theatre
Learn More.

How a masterwork teaches dancers, Frank Chaves
Frank Chaves.
“Habaneras, The Music of Cuba” … every meticulous step, every brush of the skirt, every abrupt turn of the head, every placement of the fingertip is an energetic and radiant ode to Cuban culture.

How a masterwork teaches dancers more than just steps

School of Dance Assistant Professor Hayley Meier and graduate student Jason Hortin have worked hand-in-hand with Chaves to teach this piece to the students. Both have performed the piece as members of River North Dance Chicago, Chaves’s former company. 

Habaneras is very special to my heart,” said Meier. “It was one of the first pieces of professional repertoire that I ever learned way back in 2006 at a summer program with River North Dance Chicago while in my BFA undergraduate program (at the University of Arizona).”

Having masterworks like Habaneras is invaluable to the program and to the students. “Obtaining masterworks exposes the students to professional choreographers who are working in the field today,” said Meier. 

There is also a cultural education aspect to this piece. 

“This masterwork, Habaneras, the Music of Cuba, educates the students and the audience members on Cuban culture through a celebration of dancing, music, and art.”

Omar Brito. Image by Ed Flores.

Omar Brito, a Cuban-identifying student in Habaneras, is excited to perform the piece at Spring Collection.

“Being able to dance to music of my culture and it having a true meaning or story has shown me how grateful I am to be a part of the Cuban heritage and culture.”

As a senior, Brito says this piece has pushed him and his dancing in ways he could never have imagined. 

“Having the opportunity to perform this masterwork has truly changed my point of view on dance. I have been able to push past those boundaries, challenge my brain to pick up material that my body is not used to, and expand my palette of dance.”

The School of Dance’s well-rounded, triple-track program – providing students with an equal emphasis in ballet, modern, and jazz dance techniques, allows them to take on challenging choreography. 

These students are  “ideal for the type of dancer I needed in the company, very technical, emotive movers with a great understanding of musicality,” said Chaves.

Meier echoed that thought saying “This piece encapsulates all those styles into one while also bringing awareness to Cuban culture. It is the perfect representation of what our program values here at the School of Dance.”