Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

A Peek at the Process: In the Studio with Thodos’ Budding Choreographers

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Photo: Cheryl Mann

Photo: Cheryl Mann

By Sharon Hoyer

For dancers, summer is a season of creative experimentation and growth, with ample opportunities to participate in residencies and intensive classes both in the city and without. Summer is also the time when a few dance companies become incubators for new choreographic talent within their ranks. Thodos Dance Chicago was among the first in the city to offer budding choreographers in the company the opportunity to practice the craft backed by extensive resources, and to have the resulting works performed on a main stage. Melissa Thodos provides her company members audition and rehearsal space, a budget, a lighting designer and a panel of experts to provide feedback both early in the process and close to the performance. They get a taste of artistic production in the big leagues: auditioning, creating work, running rehearsals, gathering collegial feedback. I sat in on the second panel showing at the Drucker Center and got a glimpse of how seasoned dance professionals nurture and challenge the next generation of artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Summer Intensive Performance/Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

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Photo courtesy Sandro

Photo: Sandro

RECOMMENDED

This summer marks the second year of a three-year collaboration between Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and the South Africa-based Flatfoot Dance Company, entitled the JOMBA! Initiative. Both companies have a strong focus on diversity and how art impacts social change and, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation, Deeply Rooted’s artistic director Kevin Iega Jeff traveled to Durban in the spring to serve as artist in residence. Over the summer Flatfoot Dance visited Chicago, engaging in creative work and discussion with Deeply Rooted about cultural exchange between the U.S. and South Africa, and what’s to be learned from the racial history of each country. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chicago’s Watershed: A 156 Mile Choreography/Clinard Dance

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watershedRECOMMENDED

Amidst concrete and apartment complexes, skyscrapers and trains, our interconnectedness with nature may not be immediately apparent. Wendy Clinard’s “Watershed” is fuel for the fire of remembering that we are all still part of a living, breathing whole. The piece traces the history of the Chicago River: everything from the train tracks that grew alongside, to the shapes and movement of the water itself, to its microscopic bacterial contents. Read the rest of this entry »

A Little Ripple: Ron De Jesus Returns to his Flamenco Roots with Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater

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Ron De Jesus in rehearsal with Ensemble Español

Ron De Jesus in rehearsal with Ensemble Español

By Sharon Hoyer

Choreographer Ron De Jesus returns to his roots in a collaboration with Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, the company that introduced him to a career he never planned on. Ensemble Español, lead by Dame Libby Komaiko, is the resident company at Northeastern Illinois University, and Chicago’s steward of flamenco dance. De Jesus’ piece, entitled “Mil Clavos” (1,000 Nails), is a fiery, dynamic blend of the modern/contemporary shapes and staging that are now his forte, and the rapid-fire footwork and passionate character of flamenco. De Jesus spoke with me about the creation of the piece and his own personal history.

What were the challenges of interweaving contemporary and flamenco vocabularies?
Well, I hadn’t put on flamenco shoes in, oh…let’s be nice, thirty-five years. I was surprised how much was still there. But the next day my toes were black and blue. Two of my toenails fell off. You’ll see photos of me in rehearsal in socks from then on. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Flying Bach/Civic Opera House

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RECOMMENDED

When it comes to courting crossover audiences, one most often sees dance companies trying to convince mass audiences that the art form isn’t just for the champagne-sipping opera-house set. In this case, the Berlin-based Flying Steps crew is showing opera-house season-ticket holders that breaking is an art form as worthy of attention from the butts in the red velour seats as the circle standing on the corner. In a world tour funded (handsomely, I’d judge from the preponderance of advertising on billboards, bus stops and internet ads) by Red Bull, the world champion b-boys (along with one cheeky ballet dancer from Sweden) pop and lock to Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier,” performed live by Christoph Hagel—a former student of Leonard Bernstein—in major concert venues around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Summer Series/Hubbard Street Dance

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Jonathan Fredrickson and Ana Lopez rehearsing for "The Impossible"

Jonathan Fredrickson and Ana Lopez in rehearsal for “The Impossible”

RECOMMENDED

Hubbard Street closes out their season on the big screen, with a Friday night simulcast to a forty-foot LED screen in Millennium Park. The free seats may be some of the best ones, allowing you to catch a reprise of Jiri Kylian’s “Falling Angels,” which the company premiered in the winter, and two pieces by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo: “PACOPEPEPLUTO,” a charming, witty work for three soloists set to Dean Martin tunes, and a new piece entitled “The Impossible.” Cerrudo’s new work is a return to narrative choreography; an elderly couple is mirrored by their younger selves and haunted by a ghostly band, lead by a mysterious, menacing, somewhat lecherous puppetmaster. The music is big and suspenseful, edited together (as always) by the choreographer. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Juke Cry Hand Clap/Honey Pot Performance

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BreakOut4RECOMMENDED

Nothing says summer quite like a good old-fashioned sweaty dance party. And when it comes to dance music, the roots of Chicago house run deep, building bridges across culture and time. Such is the inspiration for “Juke Cry Hand Clap,” a “love letter to the Chicago House scene” and work-in-progress by Honey Pot Performance. This preview will be showing May 23 and 24 as part of the Chicago Home Theater Festival. The full performance will take place in October at High Concept Laboratories.

The upcoming performance—a mixture of dance, poetic text and music provided by DJ Jo de Presser—seeks to recreate the vibe of an impromptu house dance party. It is a joyful, soulful celebration: a statement of the basic human need for expression through movement and sound. This is a scrapbook of memories collected through the ages in the various stages of evolution of house music. The group has been hosting monthly dance parties where participants can document their memories and experiences—the venues, the fashions, the DJs, the music. Material will be collected in a digital map and be available online. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Paul Taylor Dance Company/Auditorium Theatre

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Mercuric Tidings firstend_No CopyRECOMMENDED

Celebrating their sixtieth anniversary, the Paul Taylor Dance Company returns to Chicago with a dazzling mix of three repertory pieces. “Black Tuesday” is a theatrical, vaudevillian act that recounts the era of the Great Depression. Drawing from social dances of the time, such as the Charleston, performers draw the audience into a world of imagination. Set against changing backdrops of New York City, dancers show the ways humans lift themselves beyond the constraints of circumstance. “Sunset” is a reflection on the human drama of war, set during World War Two. Danced to the bittersweet melody of strings mixed with loon calls, this piece carries undercurrents of both romance and tragedy. Simple, human gestures bridge the theatrical and the day-to-day. “Mercuric Tidings” is pure dance. Leaps and bounds across the stage form a blur of blue bodies. Dancers execute a stream of intricate, spry movements that cover the entire stage in this breathtaking finale. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Man in a Case/Big Dance Theater

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5e831Man In a Case HSC 364RECOMMENDED

The aptly named Big Dance Theater constructs rich, layered performances with gusto, pulling together disparate elements into three-dimensional, moving collages. Man in a Case tells two stories by Anton Chekhov by building worlds within a world through video, movement, costuming and a strong performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Both stories are bittersweet reflections of lives unlived; in the title tale, Baryshnikov plays Byelikov, a rigid, priggish professor of classics whose entombed life is thrust into disarray by a free-spirited woman, played by Tymberly Canale, who captures his affections. Baryshnikov aptly embodies the fearful, imposing Byelikov and audiences will have the strange satisfaction of seeing the world’s most famous living dancer refuse to join a line dance at a party. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Queue/Lucky Plush Productions

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QuickPress-2RECOMMENDED

The second collaboration between choreographer Julia Rhoads and Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, co-founder of 500 Clown, earned the creative duo another National Dance Project award. The first, from 2011 and entitled “The Better Half,” blended dance and theater in a thoughtful and funny examination of domesticity—specifically how the characters we play in our daily lives grapple with identity and dance around and with the ones closest to us. “The Queue” takes us to an airport in an exploration of the intersection between private and public spaces. Rhoads and Buxbaum Danzig again use a script as source material—in “The Better Half” it was the 1944 film “Gaslight”—starting with a mid-eighteenth-century farce about a mad scramble for an inheritance as a departure point. The movement material is inspired by farce as well: vaudeville, slapstick and choreography from film’s golden age. Read the rest of this entry »