Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Giordano Dance Chicago/Harris Theater

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Photo: Gorman Cook Photography

Photo: Gorman Cook Photography

RECOMMENDED

The headlining piece in Giordano’s fall program is a commission from Broadway and television choreographer Ray Leeper. Leeper makes commercial dances for music videos and TV dance competitions—big show-stoppers full of flash and fun, dance that’s about pure entertainment. “I’m totally okay with entertainment,” artistic director Nan Giordano said. “It’s a big part of what our company does. There’s plenty of dark dance out there. I want the audience to walk out feeling great.” And feeling great is the theme of the number, set to three iconic songs on the subject. It opens to Michael Buble’s brassy, slinky rendition of “Feeling Good” and explodes across the stage in full-on Broadway style, complete with Fosse arms and black fedoras. Part two centers around sexy, bluesy partner work set to “Dr. Feelgood” and the big finish is to a rearrangement of Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy,” (made famous by Judy Garland in “Summer Stock”). The updated version of the tune provides space for a big buildup, not identifiably reaching the main theme till about halfway through the song. Leeper uses expansive traveling patterns and crossing lines of dancers to great effect; as he told me, “We break the fourth wall a lot.” The stage seems to triple in size with the exuberant energy of the Giordano dancers. This is the kind of smile-inducing number that lets you know where to clap, that inspired my three-year-old self to jump out of theater seats and dance in aisles. Read the rest of this entry »

A Bigger Sandbox: Hubbard Street Dance and The Second City Play Together

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Joey Bland and Robyn Mineko Williams

Joey Bland and Robyn Mineko Williams

Two tremendously gifted groups of craftspeople working in different mediums have joined their toolboxes and been set loose in one of the biggest workshop playgrounds in the city. A massive amount of talent is in the mix, both in quality and quantity: the entire Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street 2 companies—twenty-seven dancers combined—plus the four writers, six actors and musical director of The Second City. Simultaneous rehearsals spread across four rooms at Lou Conte Dance Studio, with musicians, actors, directors, choreographers and dancers bouncing from room to room, piecing together their individually developed scenes—about twenty-five scenes in all, according to Hubbard Street artistic director Glenn Edgerton—some driven by text, with dance woven in, some driven by dance in a theatrical context; and the final start-to-finish product is something of a mystery to all, save Second City director Billy Bungeroth, just one week before the production. 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 »

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 »