Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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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RECOMMENDED

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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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 »

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 »

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