Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Chicago Dancing Festival

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Ben Wardell and Michel Rodriguez

Ben Wardell and Michel Rodriguez

RECOMMENDED

The best time to be in the city is, unquestionably, the summer. These are the months that remind us why we endure such brutal winters (aside from sheer Midwest obstinacy): Chicagoans emerge to reacquaint themselves with the lakefront and parks, drinking in free arts and culture presented outdoors every night of the week. And the end of August means free dance performances—lots of them—thanks to the Chicago Dancing Festival. The festival was founded by native-Chicagoan-turned-New-York-choreographer Lar Lubovitch and dancer Jay Franke, to introduce more people to the pleasures of watching dance. The project has been a success; audiences have turned out in droves the last seven years to see companies from here and around the country. This year’s festival includes three nights of performances: Wednesday at the Harris Theater—which will be simulcast to the big LED screen in the Pritzker Pavilion—a program of duets Friday at the MCA, and the grand finale at the Pritzker Saturday night. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Season Four/PRODUCE

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Photo:  Julie Ballard

Photo: Julie Ballard

RECOMMENDED

The fourth and final season of critically acclaimed dance-and-music-improv mashup PRODUCE is a must-see. Hosts Lauren Warnecke, dancer, writer and educator behind Art Intercepts, and Anthony Ingram, member of Signal Ensemble Theatre, lead a cast of dancers, visual artists and musicians through an improvisational odyssey, informed by the creative energy of the moment and audience feedback. The idea behind the series is to not only push the boundaries of the participating artists by radically mixing ingredients and seeing what flavors result, but also to demystify the creative process for the audience, pulling off any veil of intimidation surrounding artists to reveal the playfulness and fun of creative production. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Long and Forgotten Winter/RE|Dance

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Photo: Shelby Kroeger

Photo: Shelby Kroeger

RECOMMENDED

The long-distance choreographic team of Lucy Vurusic-Riner and Wisconsin-based Michael Estanich have produced, over the last five years, a body of work that is notably calm and introspective. Perhaps the emotional depth and delicate reflection of pieces like The Attic Room, Inhabitants of Tall Grass and last year’s Homeland can be attributed to their process of generating movement material together, then writing and processing at length separately. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance/Chicago Human Rhythm Project

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Photo: Paolo Bernadotti

Photo: Paolo Bernadotti

RECOMMENDED

The only downside to Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s wrap-up performances of their annual Rhythm World festival is trying to decide which show to attend. The series of showcases at the MCA theater are as much party as performance; the audience is always packed with tap dance and percussion enthusiasts—students and teachers of all ages from around the world who come to Chicago to spend the summer teaching, learning and jamming. JUBA! is the closing party—three nights of virtuosic music and rhythmic dance by the best hoofers alive—and the atmosphere is always electric. 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: 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 »