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Last year, I interviewed Tom Reynolds, George Mason University’s director of artistic programming, marketing, and audience services, for a story about what Washington’s dance watchers tend to favor. As part of our discussion, he mentioned a dance company he’d recently come across and completely fell in love with.

“I came back and said, ‘I don’t care what kind of marketing challenge this presents, we’ve got to have these people. They’re just so good,’” he remembered.

He was talking about River North Chicago Dance Company, a third-coast group that’s performing at GMU’s Center for the Arts tonight. At the time, Reynolds sounded worried that local audiences might not go for the choreography, but honestly, it’s pretty easy on the eyes. This isn’t some way-out modern dance company that tests audience members’ patience, stamina, and aesthetic habits.

The ensemble was formed in 1989 by a group of dancers determined to preserve Broadway-style dance, and the flavor of their choreography will look familiar to anyone who’s watched So You Think You Can Dance. It’s jazz dance, pure and simple: slightly flashy, more than a little sexy, at times unapologetically emotional, and always geared towards entertaining an audience.

The pieces’ musical accompaniment is refreshingly erratic, though, and includes work by Annie Lenox, Miles Davis, and a swath of Cuban musicians.

The show takes place at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts tonight at 8 pm. A pre-performance discussion, free to ticket-holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the performance on the Center’s Grand Tier III. $21-$42.

Photo by Cheryl Mann