Studio Mangiameli’s fifth inspired by love

Cayb44_UEAAPt7pCHICAGO — Celebrating five years in the Logan Square neighborhood, Chiara Mangiameli’s flamenco studio presented its annual showcase last weekend at the Vittum Theater. I agreed to review the performance, not quite realizing that Love Song was a student showcase. Inspired by a T.S. Elliot poem, the central figure of Studio Mangiameli’s production was its namesake Chiara Mangiameli, a DePaul grad whose experience crosses between theater, flamenco, and singing. One could see her repeated appearances as an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it; either way, Mangiameli is an intoxicating figure on stage. But the point of this performance should have been to feature her students, and Mangiameli’s excessive time onstage seemed unnecessary at best, self-indulgent at worst.

Don’t get me wrong here. Love Song was a fun and enjoyable evening of good dancing that brought its audience to its feet for a rousing ovation. As it should! Mangiameli has a clear passion for flamenco in its many forms (we saw fans, shawls, kerchiefs and castenets complimented by absolutely gorgeous costuming). Her drive and desire to share this passion with her students and community in an accessible way is apparent. Her product and brand are polished, her persona elegant, and she makes clear her desire to go above and beyond to take flamenco and the conventional dance recital beyond its traditional boundaries.

Connecting recital dances with a loose narrative and choppy transitions doesn’t push any boundaries that I’m aware of, but the fact that this showcase featured many skilled adults and a singular dance form did make it feel less like a recital. Nonetheless, “pay to play” dance does not require a critical eye – that’s not what it’s there for. What I can say, however, is that I left the Vittum Theater feeling joyful, happy to know that Studio Mangiameli is thriving, and with a desire to experience this dance form for myself. The latter hasn’t happened in quite a while.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.