Grand-scale presenting entities like the Auditorium Theatre must book many of their presentations a solid season – and often several seasons – in advance. So while Tania Castroverde Moskalenko arrived as the new CEO at the landmark theater in October, 2016, it is only with today’s announcement of programming for the 2017-2018 season that her plans for the theater are beginning to be revealed.

Not surprisingly, dance has a solid place in the lineup, with the International Dance Series including the return, after 15 years, of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in a production of “Don Quixote.” (Moskalenko was born in Cuba.)  In addition, performing in Chicago for the first time will be the Shen Wei Dance Arts ensemble, the company led by the acclaimed theatrical and visual artist whose name it bears, and who is perhaps best known as lead choreographer for the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also paying a visit to the city will be Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. And of course the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will make its annual visit here.

On a more Chicago-centric note, the theater’s resident company, the Joffrey Ballet, will stage its engagements at the Auditorium. And Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has been added to the roster of the “Made in Chicago” Dance Series, along with the return of Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater and Giordano Dance Chicago.

On the music front, opera star Kathleen Battle will perform at the Auditorium for the first time as part of the American Music Series, with her program, “Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey.” The American Music Series also will include a celebration of Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald in honor of their birth centennials in the fall of 2017, and the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Weekend presentation of “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah.”

There will be high-profile speakers on the stage of Auditorium as well, in a series called “The People’s Choice.” On the docket is a conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a presentation with WTTW/Chicago PBS from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns about his new documentary, “The Vietnam War,” and an evening with writer David Sedaris.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo: Courtesy of the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

Finally, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Auditorium Theatre’s re-opening in 1967 (following a 26-year closure), the theater will host “A Golden Celebration of Dance” a mixed repertory program to feature “some of the best and brightest dancers on the scene today.” Edward Villella, who danced with the New York City Ballet at the theater’s re-opening in 1967, and who will be in attendance for the celebration, will serve as Honorary Chair of the Auditorium Theatre’s Annual Gala.

Along with this season announcement came news of a new tagline for the Auditorium, too. It has been dubbed “The Theatre for the People,” which Moskalenko said was “inspired by the vision of the theater’s founders, Dankmar Adler, Ferdinand Peck, and Louis Sullivan, who aimed to make it a place where all Chicagoans could experience the performing arts.”

“This diverse blend of international, nation and local programming shows that we truly are ‘The Theatre for the People,’ and will solidify the Auditorium Theatre’s place in the hearts and minds of all Chicagoans,” added Moskalenko. “Our 2017-18 season offers something for performing arts enthusiasts, theater newcomers, and everyone in between.”

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Here is a closer look at the season:

International Dance Series:

The Shen Wei Dance Arts company will be part of the Auditorium Theatre’s International Dance Series. (Credit: Stephanie Berger)

+ Shen Wei Dance Arts (Sept. 23 and 24): The two works on this program will be Shen Wei’s “Folding,” which conjures a dreamlike world at once ancient and timeless, and a new, highly charged, abstract take on “The Rite of Spring,” set to Stravinsky’s famed score.

+ Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo (March 3 and 4, 2018): The company, known for its elegant, classical style, will perform choreographer Jean-Christoph Maillot’s “La Belle,” described as “a dark and beautiful reinterpretation of Marius Petipa’s classic ballet, ‘The Sleeping Beauty,’ that returns the fairy tale to its original roots.”

+ Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (March 7 – 11, 2018): The engagement will feature a mix of programs, all concluding with a performance of the company’s signature work, “Revelations.”

+ Ballet Nacional de Cuba  in “Don Quixote” (May 18-20, 2018): The company puts its unique spin on this classic story ballet, which was created by legendary dancer-choreographer Alicia Alonso.

“Made in Chicago” Dance Series:

+ Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater (Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m., along with a one hour 11 a.m. matinee performance for students): This ensemble of extraordinarily beautiful, passionate, superbly skilled dancers will be following up on their fiery 40th anniversary finale at the Auditorium Theatre (and their triumphant performances in Spain in 2016) with a new program that blends flamenco, classical, contemporary, and traditional forms of dance.

+ Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (March 23 and 24, 2018): The engagement will feature two nights of works by Hubbard Street’s resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo.

+ Giordano Dance Chicago (June 9, 2018): The high-octane, jazz-dance rooted contemporary company will close out its 55th season with its fourth full-evening appearance at the Auditorium Theatre.

American Music Series:

+ Kathleen Battle in “Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey” (Sept. 30): The five time Grammy Award-winning operatic soprano will perform classic spirituals and traditional pieces, including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Operatic soprano Kathleen Battle will be part of American Music Series at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo: Courtesy of Kathleeen Battle)

+ “Ella & Lena – The Ladies and Their Music” (Nov. 17): Popular cabaret artist Joan Curto will celebrate the legacies and centennial birthdays of vocal icons Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne, along with E. Faye Butler, Tammy McCann, Paul Marinaro, Sophie Grimm, Beckie Menzie, and Tom Michael. Including such songs as “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “Oh, Lady Be Good,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “The Man I Love,” “Stormy Weather,” and many more, the big-band celebration will feature conductor Rich Daniels and his City Lights Orchestra.

+ Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah (Jan. 13 and 14, 2018 with a one hour student matinee at 11 a.m. on Jan. 12): Taking place for the 13th consecutive year, this program, inspired by Dr. King’s message of “Beloved Community,” features acclaimed soloists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke, and Karen Marie Richardson, joined by a vast choir, an ensemble orchestra, and a world-class jazz combo.

The People’s Choice:

+ “The Vietnam War” – A Conversation with Ken Burns (Sept. 7): The Auditorium Theatre and WTTW/Chicago PBS  will present Emmy Award-winning PBS filmmaker Ken Burns, and his directing and producing partner Lynn Novick, as they preview their new 10-part documentary series, “The Vietnam War,” premiering on WTTW in September. Burns and Novick will discuss the project and highlight excerpts from the 18-hour work that includes testimony from nearly 100 witnesses to the war; rare, digitally-restored archival footage and photographs; and a score from Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and musician/producer Atticus Ross (The Social Network). Burns’ previous long-form documentary works include “Baseball,” “The Roosevelts,” and “The Civil War.”

Ken Burns will speak about his new documentary, “The Vietnam War,” as part of the Auditorium Theatre’s People’s Choice Series. (Photo: Justin Altman)

+ A Conversation with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Sept. 11): In a conversation with Judge Ann Claire Williams of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Justice Ginsburg, who has served on the nation’s highest court since 1993 (and was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015), will discuss her life and career.

+ David Sedaris (Nov. 1): An evening with this writer whose sardonic wit and incisive social critiques have made him one of America’s preeminent contemporary humorists. His work appears regularly in The New Yorker and has twice been included in The Best American Essays. Since 2011, he can be heard annually on a series of live recordings on BBC 4 Radio entitled “Meet David Sedaris.”


+ A GOLDEN CELEBRATION OF DANCE (Nov. 12): The 50th Anniversary of the Auditorium Theatre’s re-opening as a restored landmark following  a 26-year closure. With the theater returned to its original glory, opening night patrons were treated to a memorable performance by the New York City Ballet, starring Suzanne Farrell and Edward Villella – a historic night that initiated an era of world-renowned dance that continues to this day. The Auditorium Theatre commemorates the golden anniversary with a performance by dancers still to be announced. The evening will coincide with the Auditorium’s annual gala, with Edward Villella as Honorary Chair. The gala includes a ticket to the performance, followed by the Gala reception and dinner at the Standard Club. For more information on Gala sponsorships, tables, and tickets contact Kelly Saroff at (312) 341-2364 or visit