Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: One Grand Dance/Hedwig Dances

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Eileen Ryan Photography

Photo: Eileen Ryan

RECOMMENDED

To create a concert celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Hedwig Dances, founder and artistic director Jan Bartoszek turned to her earliest works. “I think I’ve grown as a choreographer over the years,” Bartoszek says, “but the reasons I wanted to make dance are in these works—ideas about dependence and independence—things I was grappling with in my life. I feel fortunate that I’ve been doing this long enough to look back.” The title piece of the show weaves together reworked excerpts from Bartoszek’s early pieces based in social dance—waltz, polka and tango—in a dialogue about human relationships. The waltz section is a reflection on courtship, and has text taken from a 1950s manual on social dance etiquette. The tango represents fierce independence, dancers who pivot around each other’s axes, but share little weight. And the polka…” One of my earliest memories of dance was of the polka. I grew up in a small rural community; that’s what people did at church and social gatherings.” For Bartoszek, a unifying thread runs from her earliest memories of dance through thirty years of work with her Chicago-based modern company. “Works are connected by the ideas of an author,” she said. “All things I’ve done are essentially one grand dance.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: A Streetcar Named Desire/Scottish Ballet

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Scottish Ballet

RECOMMENDED

If one had to select the work of a single twentieth-century playwright for translation from spoken language to dance, Tennessee Williams would likely top the list. Brooding, swaggering brutes, swooning waifs, sweltering, grimy back alleys: Williams’ plays seethe with a physicality that draws its characters’ inner life into a world of flesh and sweat. Scottish Ballet, the national ballet company of Scotland, commissioned theater and film director Nancy Meckler and the brilliant choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa as equal collaborators on an evening-length dance interpretation of “Streetcar” that comes to the Harris this May. Dancers learned characterization first and choreography second, building movement from deeply studied motivation. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times #14: Curious Reinventions/Dance COLEctive and Peter Carpenter Performance Project

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curiousRECOMMENDED

Independent choreographer Peter Carpenter teams with Margi Cole and her company The Dance COLEctive to write the fourteenth chapter in his ongoing dance serial that puts a critical and compassionate magnifying glass to the social constructs and political systems that move our lives. “Curious Reinventions” looks at mimicry: how we use it to construct our identities, the power of parody, how imitation can disrupt the status quo. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Stomping Grounds/Chicago Human Rhythm Project

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RECOMMENDED

We usually have to wait till June and bus, bike or train down to the Loop to see great free performances but, thanks to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project—that mighty advocate of the original musical instrument—festival season starts early this year. And it’s coming to you. CHRP tours the neighborhoods this month with a series of free performances by hometown companies that celebrate five different heritages: Trinity Irish Dance Company, Mexican Dance Ensemble, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre, Muntu Dance Theatre and CHRP’s resident tap company BAM!. Two companies host each show, with cameo appearances by the other three. The series kicks off with a panel discussion with the artistic directors of the five companies at the Cultural Center, moderated by Audience Architects—the dance promotion organization that recently dubbed April Chicago Dance Month. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Urban Bush Women/Dance Center of Columbia College

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Photo: Rick McCullough

Photo: Rick McCullough

RECOMMENDED

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, inspired by her upbringing in an African-American neighborhood of Kansas City, founded her all-female company to give voice to the disenfranchised, particularly women of the African Diaspora. Urban Bush Women now marks thirty years of impassioned dance making for social change and comes to the Dance Center of Columbia College as part of the celebration. Two pieces are on the program: Zollar’s “Hep Hep Sweet Sweet,” a personal memoir and homage to music and culture of her youth. We’re taken to Kansas City via song, and welcomed into a nightclub scene swinging with jazz and blues—right after the narrative voice tells us that her reflections are “part truth, part memory, part rumor, part nostalgia and part myth.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hubbard Street Dance/Harris Theater

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The name Gustavo Ramirez Sansano can bring pangs to those who were busy developing an addiction to his work at the helm of Luna Negra Dance Theater, both as artistic director—introducing us to brilliant young voices from Europe—and as choreographer (notably his epic and dreamlike dance interpretation of Bizet’s “Carmen”) when the company regrettably folded in 2013. Happily, Ramirez Sansano has been invited to create a new piece for Hubbard Street’s spring program, a tribute to George Balanchine set to the same Tchaikovsky suite as Balanchine’s famous “Theme and Variations.” Another premiere on the program comes from Crystal Pite, founder and director of Vancouver-based Kidd Pivot. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chicago Inspired/Thodos Dance Chicago

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Photo: Cheryl Mann

Photo: Cheryl Mann

RECOMMENDED

Thodos Dance’s winter concert at the Harris gathers short rep pieces from a half dozen Chicago-based choreographers, including a new work by founder Melissa Thodos. The program includes Brian Enos’ “Lullaby,” “A Salute to Old Friends” by the iconic and groundbreaking Chicago legend Sybil Shearer, plus new works by company members John Cartwright and Tenley Dorrill. There’s also a new full company piece commissioned from Garfield Lemonius. Top billing goes to a trilogy of rarely performed short, sassy pieces by Bob Fosse, originally created for television variety shows in the 1960s. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: It’s About Love Again This Year/RE|Dance Group

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REDance Group Its About Love image

RECOMMENDED

Michael Estanich’s newest creation for RE|Dance glides on gentle waves of sweet nostalgia and romance, ruffled at points by eddies of humor and the chop of desire. Dancers clad in ankle length dresses or button-down shirts and trousers with suspenders travel through scenes of youthful love, or perhaps more accurately, sepia-toned reflections on youthful love to Bach, birdsong and The Magnetic Fields. In the background, a great monument of peeling wallpaper stands as a symbol of memory and quiet reminder of time as the backdrop to fleeting human emotion. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Alonzo King LINES Ballet/Harris Theater

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LINES-Meyer

RECOMMENDED

The power, reedy elegance and remarkable precision of LINES Ballet returns to the Harris in two weeknight programs. On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based company participates in the Harris’ wallet-friendly happy-hour series Eat + Drink to the Beat, performing King’s nod to ballet history and the emergence of neoclassicism, “Concerto for Two Violins,” along with his newest work “Shostakovich.” Thursday evening is a full program that includes the gorgeous, technically intricate and emotionally transcendent “Writing Ground,” set to music from various religious traditions and inspired by the poetry of Colum McCann. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Stardust/David Roussève/REALITY

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Photo: Yi Chun

Photo: Yi Chun

RECOMMENDED

In David Roussève’s tender new work, the fragmented, abbreviated language of texting becomes the building material of a story that is at once funny, sad and deeply humane. The hopes and frustrations of a young, unseen protagonist are splashed large on the back wall—emphasized with plentiful punctuation and emoticons—like a digital diary kept in Twitter. In the foreground, the ten members of REALITY give physical expression to his emotional life, dancing out the frustrations, drives, joys and fears of a black gay teenager navigating an inner-city world that is at once hostile and beautiful. Read the rest of this entry »

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