Chicago's Ballet 5:8 to Perform in Urbana on Navigating Cultural Tension with Compassion

CHICAGO – Known for its commitment to bringing innovative storytelling and breathtaking dance throughout the Midwest, Chicago’s Ballet 5:8 will visit the Champaign/Urbana area for the first time in March with Compass, a collection of one-act ballets on navigating cultural tension with compassion. In Chicago, Ballet 5:8’s work has been called “exceptionally well done” and “these are serious, talented dancers.” The 12-member company’s Compass program stretches across time and space to explore some of the most pressing topics of our day. At times witty and satirical, and at times deeply emotional, Compass is full of athleticism, power, and poetry. A single performance will be held on Saturday, March 2 at 7:00 pm at the Urbana High School, 1002 S Race St, Urbana, IL 61801. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for college students and seniors, and $15 for children 12 and under and can be purchased at or by calling 312-725-4752. Performance information is available at

Ballet 5:8’s widely popular program Compass, originally premiered in 2017, uses a collection of original ballets to consider some of the most pressing issues of our day - not in a political or divisive sense, but through the lens of compassion. Works featured in the program include All God’s Children, inspired by the poems of African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist, Sojourner Truth, and The Mother, inspired by the work of Pulitzer Prize author and Chicagoan, Gwendolyn Brooks. In New York City, renowned mime coach Pilar Garcia noted that in The Mother, Slager “deftly weaves the emotional questions that live on after such hard choices are made no matter the reasons.”  


Another work in the program, Strangers & Angels, juxtaposes the 1917 Armenian refugee crisis with the Syrian refugee crisis of our present day. According to Tabitha McDuffee of World Relief Aurora/DuPage, Strangers & Angels “beckons you to put yourself in a refugee’s shoes and consider what it would be like if you were forced to flee your home.” After a 2018 Chicago performance benefiting nonprofit World Relief Chicago, Executive Director John Barcanic said, “In the arts we find a means to express the inexpressible... In Strangers and Angels, Ballet 5:8 carefully arrange refugees’ longings and fears, torments and victories and gently impress them on our souls in a way that leaves us distinctly richer for the experience.”

A new, yet to be titled work will be added to the program in 2019, premiering in Urbana. This new work will explore the transformation of the human heart in one of our nations darkest corners, the prison system. After all Ballet 5:8 performances, audience members are invited to stay for a Ballet 5:8 tradition, the TalkBack. During this panel discussion, Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Rubio Slager and artists of the company discuss questions, comments, and feedback with audience members.

Ballet 5:8, now in its seventh performing season, tours regionally and nationally and has a reputation for providing audiences with a unique opportunity to engage in conversation on relevant life and faith topics based on the company’s repertoire. The company has been called “spectacular and mature” by the Elgin Review’s Jeffrey Pierce, and Slager’s choreography “consistently imaginative” by Ken Norris of WKTV Journal in Grand Rapids. In Chicago, Kristi Licera of called Ballet 5:8’s Compass “an evening of inspired choreography and thought-provoking performance,” and Kristian Jamie of March Magazine, San Antonio, called Ballet 5:8’s Scarlet an “effortless” adaptation of classic literature.

Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Julianna Rubio Slager is a co-founder of the company and brings a wealth of experience to her work. Beginning in 2014, Ballet 5:8 began touring nationally, bringing Slager's critically acclaimed ballets such as Scarlet, The Stor(ies) of You and Me, and Compass to audiences across the nation. Slager is also a groundbreaking figure within the field, as one of the few Mexican-American Artistic Directors and Resident Choreographers of professional ballet companies in the world. She hopes that her leadership and creative work at Ballet 5:8 will pave the way for other women and minorities in professional ballet.

ABOUT BALLET 5:8 - Founded in 2012, Ballet 5:8 a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization based just outside of Chicago, IL. The mission of Ballet 5:8 is to engage communities in Chicago, the Midwest and across the nation in conversation of life and faith through innovative storytelling and breathtaking dance. Ballet 5:8 performs over 40 times throughout Chicago and across the nation each year, in settings ranging from school gyms and professional theaters, in addition to teaching workshops and master classes. Ballet 5:8’s dance education center serves over 250 students each year through a wide range of dance classes, nationally-recognized advanced classical ballet training programs, and a five-week summer intensive.