Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Giordano Dance Chicago/Auditorium Theatre

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Photo courtesy Gorman Cook

Photo courtesy Gorman Cook

RECOMMENDED

The Auditorium Theatre’s “Made in Chicago” series—part of the programing for the 125th anniversary season—has opened the historic, gold-rimmed stage to a couple hometown companies for the first time; to Thodos Dance last fall and, this month, to Giordano Dance Chicago, a company that has been performing high-octane jazz dance for almost half as long as the Adler and Sullivan treasure has been standing. The one-night program includes several pieces from Giordano’s fall program—resident choreographer Autumn Eckman’s sexy, finely honed duet “Alloy,” Roni Koresh’s hard driving, militant “Exit4,” and Ray Leeper’s big Broadway-esque show stopper “Feelin’ Good Sweet”—along with a premiere of a new work by Ray Mercer, former dancer with Deeply Rooted and winner of the Joffrey’s Choreographers of Color Award. Mercer’s full company work, entitled “Shirt Off My Back,” explores how we sometimes give too much in our relationships, be they intimate, platonic or filial. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Song of Eva Peron/Tango Buenos Aires

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Tango Image 4RECOMMENDED

As a dance form based on the most subtle, understated, imperceptibly small communication between lead and follow, Argentine tango doesn’t necessarily lend itself to performance on big stages. Traditionally, couples dance in a close embrace, communicating through small movements of the torso; most of the action is in the legs, in long strides or quick, precise flashes of feet that flirt, tap, circle and caress each other. The infinite complexity and nuance that make tango so rewarding to dance are difficult to translate and amplify for the stage, even when spiced up with slick turns, lifts and high kicks.

Tango Buenos Aires does justice to Argentina’s national dance, keeping true to the intimacy and lightning-quick, complex footwork that characterize tango, while amping up dances with flashier movements that play to the back row. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nexus Project with Ben and Michel/Dovetail Studios

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NexusRECOMMENDED

When asked how Nexus Project performances are structured, Ben Wardell pulls a stack of little, hand-torn slips of paper from his pocket. On the floor of the rehearsal studio, he begins laying them out in a flow chart. Which short segments flow into what hinge on the audience: if they’re a little peppier and willing to participate, there might be a short salsa lesson; if they’re more passive and sedate, Ben and Michel will go into their Butoh section. Dozens of possible combinations spread across the floor in a choose-your-own-adventure of dance and storytelling. Past Nexus audiences have become hooked and returned a second or third time to catch gems they might have missed in a prior show. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Restless Creature/Wendy Whelan

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Photo courtesy Christopher Duggan

Photo: Christopher Duggan

RECOMMENDED

Two years ago, in an extended interview with Alejandro Cerrudo about the premiere of his first evening-length work, the conversation momentarily turned to a side project he had been invited to choreograph for. The Chicago performance wasn’t yet announced so Cerrudo asked me to keep it quiet, but the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street couldn’t help but gush a little with excitement; he was clearly starstruck. “She’s so incredibly nice and down to earth,” he said. “And, I mean, she’s Wendy Whelan.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dances for the Underground/The Seldoms, Peter Carpenter, Kate Corby & Dancers

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RECOMMENDED

The Seldoms share the bill for two weekends at Links Hall, presenting the first chapter of a new work by the company’s intellectually driven artistic director Carrie Hanson. “RockCitizen” is inspired by the rock-music-driven counterculture movements of the mid-to-late-twentieth century. Hanson seeks to unpack counterculture from social, political and economic perspectives, asking questions about how the phenomenon emerges, the groups it unites, the way it simultaneously questions dominant culture and encourages consumerism, and how it diffuses or fails. Hanson is a great pairing with Peter Carpenter, who last weekend presented the twelfth  iteration of his multi-year, ongoing “Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times,” entitled “Dominant Collapse.” Carpenter is an independent dance-theater maker inspired by many of the same forces that move The Seldoms. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nutcracker/Joffrey Ballet

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image002RECOMMENDED

The Joffrey presents five programs throughout their season, showing works by about a dozen leading choreographers of past and present, but there’s one show that keeps the lights on: twenty-four performances of “The Nutcracker” account for the bulk of Joffrey ticket sales, pulling non-regular dance attendees (and their visitors) into the Auditorium Theatre for a holiday tradition and, in many ways, helping to fund the rest of programming. Robert Joffrey’s vision of the Christmastime confection is a shimmering spectacle, heightened by the additions of the two-story Mother Ginger puppet by Kermit Love and an ensemble of more than one-hundred young dancers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Princess Grace Awards: New Works/Hubbard Street Dance

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

Princess Grace Awards are distributed each year to emerging artists of formidable talent in the fields of dance, film and theater (one measure of Chicago’s strong and growing dance scene is the considerable number of Princess Grace winners living and dancing in our city). Winners of Princess Grace choreography awards is the unifying theme of Hubbard Street’s two-weekend run at the MCA, but the choreographers in question have plenty more noteworthy lines on their CVs, too. The most recognizable name—certainly on a national level—is Kyle Abraham who, on top of the Princess Grace, has won a Bessie and a MacArthur fellowship, choreographing for the likes of Alvin Ailey and New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan (the performance, which includes a duet by HS’s resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, is this January at the Harris). The Chicago Dancing Festival commissioned a new work from Abraham for Hubbard Street last fall, which is now reprised on the smaller MCA stage. Abraham’s gorgeous, detailed “Counterpoint” will be a treat to see in a more intimate setting. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Made in Chicago/Thodos Dance Chicago

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Photo courtesy Cheryl Mann

Photo courtesy Cheryl Mann

RECOMMENDED

Adler and Sullivan’s dazzling landmark Auditorium Theatre turns 125 this year, and part of the celebratory programming is a welcome “Made in Chicago” music and dance series. Melissa Thodos’ company will perform on the Auditorium Theatre’s boards for the first time—an apropos choice seeing as Thodos is Chicago-made herself: Evanston-born, training, performing and founding her own company in the city by the lake. Thodos Dance reprises their acclaimed hour-long theatrical piece of Chicago history, “The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,” based on Erik Larson’s famous book.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: 25th Anniversary Season/Jump Rhythm Jazz Project

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260 Billy FullRECOMMENDED

Movement is personal. Our bodies and the way we inhabit them is integral to our identity, our sense of self. And for Billy Siegenfeld, founder of the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, personal movement is tied up in most meaningful aspects of how we live in the world. Talk with Siegenfeld for a half hour and you’ll probably start to see the relationships between skeletal alignment and psycho-spiritual wellbeing, between muscular tension and emotional repression, between rigidity and imperialism, between the physical body and the natural world. Siegenfeld created Jump Rhythm—a blend of tap, jazz and eruptive vocalizations, using the entire body as a rhythmic instrument—as a vehicle to explore his philosophy of movement twenty-five years ago and, for the anniversary performance, has created a semi-autobiographical piece about the birth of the technique. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: River North Dance Chicago/Harris Theater

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Photo: Cheryl Mann

Photo: Cheryl Mann

RECOMMENDED

“I was surprised,” choreographer Ivan Perez said when I asked how it was to work with the dancers of River North Dance Chicago. “They’re very jazz-based and I was surprised how invested they were in learning this work and how they took to it. It’s great to work with companies well established in this vocabulary, but it can be more interesting to work with dancers looking to challenge themselves and do something new.”

Perez is an independent choreographer, born in Spain and residing in the Netherlands, where he has lived since his stint as a company member of Nederlands Dans Theater. He is in Chicago by invitation of Frank Chaves, artistic director of River North, which celebrates twenty-five years this fall. The invitation was essentially a cold call; Chaves found a clip from Perez’s “Flesh” on YouTube, and the thee minutes worth of duet he saw was enough to inspire Chaves to call up the young choreographer in The Hague and talk about a visit to set the piece on River North. “It was my first experience shopping online for a choreographer,” Chaves said, “and I scored.” Read the rest of this entry »