The Chicago Sinfonietta, beloved to Chicago and internationally acclaimed, opened its 28th season Monday night at Symphony Hall. Continuing its eclectic programing, the performance featured flamenco and tap dancing paired with classical pieces. In keeping with their mission, these interactive shows draw a unique and expansive crowd, and entice an audience that might not normally attend a more traditional classical concert.

The Chicago Sinfonietta was established in 1987 by Maestro Paul Freeman who brought his vision of a concert “experience” to life, playing little-known pieces or featuring unique instrumentation. The orchestra quickly rose to international acclaim and in its relatively short history has toured internationally half a dozen times, and produced 15 recordings.

Retiring in 2011, the baton was passed on to Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, after an extensive, international, two-year search.  Her opening season was embraced by the loyal audience and included the symphony’s first recording in a decade.

Maestro Chen has continued the Sinfonietta’s unique musical performance tradition, and this concert was no exception. The season opened with a tribute to Maestro Freeman (who passed away in July of this year), and the entire season has been dedicated in his honor.  Following was Roberto Sierra’s Fandangos featuring flamenco dancer, Wendy Clinard.   Clinard’s style of flamenco is traditional mixed with modern dance, offering a refreshing interpretation. Next came Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite combined with tap dancing legend Cartier Williams. If you’re scratching your head wondering how this might work, the “mash-up” of tap and a well-known classical masterpiece was brought to life in an entirely new way. Williams’s expression was hypnotic and breathtaking, with sensitivity to the music that left you wanting more, while dazzling you with hoofing that rivals the greats.  Finally, the symphony played Alexander Borodin’s Selections from Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances accompanied by Clinard, Williams and flamenco dancer Marisela Tapies. The wonderfully playful interaction between dancers, and dancers and orchestra was absolutely riveting.

The concert concluded with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade solidifying the orchestra’s ability to tackle the staples of classical repertoire. The audience was left wanting more and leapt to their feet to offer up a standing ovation demonstrating their love for this unique American institution that Chicago is lucky enough to call their very own.

For information on and tickets for the remaining 8 concerts of season, visit http://www.chicagosinfonietta.org/