Frank Chaves, artistic director of River North Dance Chicago, steps down this December after twenty-three years leading the contemporary jazz company. In 2005 Chaves was diagnosed with syringomyelia, a degenerative spinal cord condition. Over the last two years he has choreographed from a wheelchair, despite the restriction, creating some of his most compelling and emotional work. River North’s farewell performance to Chaves—the only Chicago performance this year—takes place at the Auditorium Theatre on October 3; the program includes company favorites by Sherry Zunker, Ginger Farley, Kevin Iega Jeff, Randy Duncan, Robert Battle and signature pieces by Chaves, including “Temporal Trance,” a reflection on death and mourning created at the time his mother passed away, and “Habaneras,” a bright showpiece dedicated to the music of Chaves’ native Cuba. In a phone conversation, Chaves spoke about the program and what’s next for himself and River North. Read the rest of this entry »
“I’ve had company for over thirty years now. It was very much about recreating work of my own,” Stephen Petronio says of his new five-year project “Bloodlines.” “When I hit the thirtieth anniversary I wondered if this was it. Merce [Cunningham] passed away and Trisha [Brown] became quite sick. I wondered what would happen to their work. And I wanted to open the door to works that have influenced me.”
To trace and honor that influence, the Stephen Petronio Company is in the process of acquiring and staging landmark dances by the most influential American postmodern choreographers. This installation of “Bloodlines,” opening at the Dance Center of Columbia College next weekend, includes Merce Cunningham’s “RainForest,” with sets by Andy Warhol, and Trisha Brown’s “Glacial Decoy,” with sets by Robert Rauschenberg; it’s the first time either of these pieces has been performed by a company other than those of the choreographers. “These were the first pieces I felt I had to have. My life is about collaboration between dance, visual art and music. Merce’s ‘RainForest’ masterwork. I asked for it and got it. I couldn’t believe it.” Read the rest of this entry »
Certain arts organizations serve as cultural ambassadors—charged not just with providing an entertaining, aesthetic and perhaps thought-provoking experience, but also with purveying the cultural history of a nation (or, more accurately, what the government of a nation chooses to present as its cultural history). Founded by Amalia Hernandez in Mexico City in 1952, now directed by her grandson, Ballet Folklorico de Mexico is one such institution, a brightly colored moving museum of Mexican heritage, staging large ensemble folk dances from across the country and ritual dances dating back to pre-Hispanic influence. The show is a bright, energetic spectacle: a thousand yards of brilliant fabric swirl in the Jarabe, the national dance recognizable to Americans for its charro costuming and mariachi accompaniment. Less familiar is La Danza del Venado, a high-leaping dramatization of a deer hunt performed by Yaqui men of northern Mexico. Contemporary nods to Mexican history include a dance honoring the women who fought in the Mexican Revolution—a rank of Soldaderas brandishing wooden rifles spin, march and pose defiantly with their weapons. Yet for the spinning skirts, spirited stomps, twirling handkerchiefs and spectacular headwear, the thing most striking about the show is how many historical contributions to Mexican culture share the bill: indigenous dances, dances of European colonizers, dances of revolutionaries. All are present and celebrated as part of Mexico’s cultural fabric. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress, (312)341-2300. Saturday, September 26 at 7:30pm and Sunday, September 27 at 3pm. $40-$73.
Dances by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa have been performed in Chicago before—repertory for Luna Negra back in 2009 and this past year when Scottish Ballet visited with “A Streetcar Named Desire”—but this is her first commission for the Joffrey Ballet. “I came to see the company—I’m not always invited to big companies,” she said, “and I had this piece of music that is so powerful I was waiting for the right moment and the right company. I proposed it to Ashley [Wheater, Artistic Director of the Joffrey]. He said, ‘I know it from the San Francisco Ballet; we tried to use it but in the end we canceled the thing because we didn’t know how to interpret it. Go ahead, good luck!'”
The music is “Weather One,” a piece by composer Michael Gordon that starts big and builds in force over the course of twenty minutes like a gathering storm. Lopez Ochoa needed a larger ensemble to execute her vision, which charges forward with the high-octane escalation of an action-movie trailer. Or perhaps a natural disaster movie trailer. The title, “Mammatus,” refers to a rare, beautiful and rather terrifying type of storm cloud, inspired by both the music and the mercurial weather that rolls in off Lake Michigan. “I looked at pictures of mammatus clouds and thought ‘wow!’ And that’s maybe what I want from the audience, to think ‘Wow! Nature is so powerful!'” Read the rest of this entry »
Experimental music venue Constellation and experimental dance venue Links Hall have shared the same roof for several years, but their most captivating entente may well be in the open air, as part of the city’s Made in Chicago jazz series at the Pritzker Pavilion. Constellation’s Mike Reed and Links’ Roell Schmidt pulled together a dream team for a delicious project: the reimagining of Charles Mingus’ yearning, sultry, tortuous masterwork, live under the stars. Composer Greg Ward used threads from “The Black Saint” as building blocks for a seven-part composition performed by Chicago’s jazz greats—including Keefe Jackson, Jason Roebke and Marcus Evans. Choreographer and scholar Onye Ozuzu assembled a cast of fifteen dancers to give visual movement to the epic soundscape through improvisation and choreography that traverses genres: modern, breaking, West African, ballet. Read the rest of this entry »
The Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s annual summer summit of tap and percussive dance classes, workshops and performances culminates this weekend when the masters strut their stuff in JUBA!, a boisterous, joyful, two-night showcase of dancers from here and abroad. Each year JUBA! wraps up CHRP’s month-long Rhythm World festival, and the audience is packed with amped-up young dancers cheering their teachers on. Read the rest of this entry »
By Sharon Hoyer
Ahmad Simmons and Kacie Smith are the recipients of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Grant. Their project, “THEM” is a dance theater exploration of fear, love and the barriers we create for ourselves inspired by a quote from Rilke: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” Ahmad and Kacie spoke about the evolution of “THEM” two weeks before the premiere.
A: These questions have been brewing in my mind for the last two years: themes of self-segregation and feeling like you don’t belong. I wondered if we could deal with these topics in movement and dance. We held a workshop in 2013 to see if I could put it in bodies on stage and not make it so abstract that it was impossible to tell what I was trying to say. Kacie wanted to add layers to make it more universal.
K: Ahmad’s perspective was personal and I had a bigger picture of how these issues affect the group and larger society. I’m interested not in presenting solutions, but finding the common ground of all of us grappling and feeling frustrated no matter what their perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been nearly forty years since England’s Royal Ballet visited Chicago, and its production of principal dancer (and budding author) Carlos Acosta’s “Don Quixote” is being met with a bit of fanfare as a final feather in the cap of the Auditorium Theatre’s 125th anniversary season. The Cuban-born Acosta—still performing classical ballet at forty—has a devoted following in the UK, and spices up Marius Petipa’s iconic story ballet with fresh choreography and vivacious staging that highlights the humor of the title character and his cohort. Read the rest of this entry »
While appropriate, the term “layered” is a bit of an understatement when applied to the dance theater creations of Erica Mott. Meanings, ideas and historical references intersect, merge, pile and weave through a fabric of sound, movement, sculpture and projection created by Mott and her collaborators. And Mott’s 2012 exploration of masculinity is given yet another layer of meaning this summer, when it will be restaged as part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks Festival. The first part of the trilogy, “Five Gaits, Four Walls, Fourteen Knots” loses the walls in an outdoor presentation at Indian Boundary Park—the site named in the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis. Read the rest of this entry »
Those who say punk rock is dead have been spending too much time at the Wicker Park Urban Outfitters and not enough time right down the street at the Flatiron Arts Building, where the spirit of ’77 is alive and well. Flatiron is the temporary home of The Inconvenience, an interdisciplinary company that takes all the pretension out of the term “interdisciplinary.”
The Inconvenience kicks off their promising 2015 season with a dynamic evening of dance billed simply as “The Salts.” As a collaboration between Erin Kilmurray (who also performs) and Molly Brennan, the performance’s reference points are intentionally iconic: Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Talking Heads. Yet the take is refreshingly modern, with frenetic choreography broken up by humorous interjections and politically charged vignettes. The routines themselves celebrate the spirit of punk: loose yet taut, zealous yet highly accessible. Read the rest of this entry »