Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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 »

Preview: Trade Winds & Aires de Cambio/Hedwig Dances and DanzAbierta

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Photo: Susana Pous

Photo: Susana Pous

RECOMMENDED

A long-growing partnership between Jan Bartoszek, founder and director of Hedwig Dances, and Susana Pous, resident choreographer of the Havana-based DanzAbierta, comes to fruition next weekend in two intersecting pieces created in tandem. The difficulties of traveling between Cuba and the U.S. forced Bartoszek and Pous to work primarily separately, but “Trade Winds” and “Aires de Cambio” interlock on stage and are, in subject, context and structure, about exchange. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rosas danst Rosas/MCA Stage

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Photo courtesy Herman Soregeloos

Photo: Herman Soregeloos

RECOMMENDED

“Rosas danst Rosas” is a dance out of time. Even though Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker created it thirty years ago at the tender age of twenty-four, the quietly captivating piece for four women feels as though it could have been made yesterday. The piece instantly launched the success of De Keersmaeker’s new company “Rosas” and inspired two generations of contemporary choreographers to follow. The timeless appeal of “Rosas danst Rosas” is in its simplicity and honesty: movement phrases are constructed from natural, everyday gestures and body positions, each holding a subtle and familiar mood. The piece moves from floor to feet, starting with phrases that alternate between feverish restlessness and detailed stillness, the occasional slap of a hand on the floor, sharp inhalations and slow exhalations, the rustling of fabric against skin and floor the only score. The second movement—the most famous section of the piece—takes place seated in chairs to the ticking clock score created for the piece by Thierry De Mey and Peter Vermeersch. Six simple phrases, punctuated by relaxed postures, are repeated and rearranged in a complex visual counterpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: All-American Celebration/American Ballet Theatre

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RECOMMENDED

Our country’s highest-profile ballet company returns to the Auditorium Theatre with a performance of works by American choreographers from the American century. Two pieces by Twyla Tharp are on the program: her elegantly classical group work set to Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin, and a black-tie-and-tails duet to six Sinatra standards. We’ll also see Jerome Robbins’ iconic “Fancy Free”—Robbins’ first work—the story ballet about the adventures of three strutting, tumbling, white-suited, WWII-era sailors on shore leave, set to the music of Leonard Bernstein. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Stories in Motion/Joffrey Ballet

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image001 (1)RECOMMENDED

To whet audience appetites for the fall season, the Joffrey presents a special one-weekend amuse of short narrative ballets. Two pieces are from the Joffrey rep: Antony Tudor’s 1936 “Lilac Garden,” a moonlit tale of quiet longing set in the Edwardian era, and George Balanchine’s take on the parable of the Prodigal Son, set to the music of Prokofiev. The company will also premiere “RAkU,” by San Francisco Ballet’s resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov, and inspired by the true story of a Buddhist monk who burned down the Kyoto Temple of the Golden Pavilion. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ballet X/Dance Center of Columbia College

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photo courtesy Alexander Iziliaev

Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

RECOMMENDED

Chicago meets another world-class contemporary company this fall in a mixed-rep program from Philly’s delightful, knockout Ballet X. Like other great companies making fresh, resonant new work anchored in ballet technique and contemporary aesthetics, Ballet X has an alchemic combination of virtuosic dancers and artistic direction with a bell-clear, unique voice. The company was founded by co-directors Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, who bring four works—unseen in Chicago—to the Dance Center of Columbia College. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Fall Concert Series/Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

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Rach jump1 2RECOMMENDED

Cerqua Rivera brings together their full ensemble of collaborating musicians and dancers to the Ruth Page Center for their fall concert. Composer Joe Cerqua and choreographer Wilfredo Rivera founded the company fifteen years ago to fuse music, visual art and dance in an expression of the rich diversity and complexity of contemporary life; their semi-annual concerts—the only times the full complement of artists are together on stage—are the best way to see their vision in action. The fall program contains four new works, including a tribute from Rivera to his musical parents, set to the Honduran music of his childhood. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Khecari + Happydog/Links Hall

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Esther-4

RECOMMENDED

Happydog performance company was formed when three artists—Chicago-based designer Annie Novotny, Portland-based choreographer Muffie Connelly and New York dancer Leslie Cuyjet—embarked on a tri-coastal creative project. They founded Happydog Gallery in Wicker Park as incubator space and began a process of creative exchange from afar, crafting performance works that evolve over months of collaboration, unbounded by genre or medium. Their newest work, “LADY PARTS,” is part two in a trilogy about human reproduction from a feminine perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »