Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Bread & Butter/Cristina Tadeo and Nicholas Davio

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Photo: Katie Graves

Photo: Katie Graves

RECOMMENDED

The collaboration between dancer Cristina Tadeo and sound designer Nicholas Davio openly discusses the invisible hand in the arts that dictates whose work is seen, where and by whom: money. Tadeo interviewed Chicagoans working in the arts across all sectors—musicians, dancers, designers, administrators—about creative production, collaboration and risk, their choice to live and work here instead of New York or L.A. (though if we’re talking about monetary support for the arts, a better question might be why the U.S. and not Germany), measures of artistic value, and how they perceive success. There’s no way around the relationship between these questions and the root of all evil (though it often goes by softer euphemisms in arts circles: funding, patronage, the vaguely soothing “support”) and Tadeo is interested in talking frankly about just what that means for working artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Americans on the Stage: Dance Theatre of Harlem Returns to Chicago

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DTH_03

By Sharon Hoyer

The Dance Theatre of Harlem was established in 1969, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Arthur Mitchell, the first black principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, founded the company and ballet school in his home neighborhood, believing that access to and education in the arts enriches and empowers communities. From then on, DTH has led the way for inclusiveness in classical dance, demonstrating the richness and expressive possibilities of an art form that had been (and many still perceive to be—see captivating 2011 documentary “First Position”) almost exclusively white and Eurocentric. It’s been sixteen years since the Dance Theatre of Harlem performed in Chicago—financial hardship forced DTH to suspend the touring company in the interest of preserving their school and public programming, a hiatus planned for six months that stretched into eight years. Happily, the touring company was revived in 2012 and comes to the Auditorium Theatre as part of its 125th-anniversary season. I spoke with artistic director Virginia Johnson about the upcoming program. Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty in Difference: Heidi Latsky Dance Returns to Chicago

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Photo: Darial Sneed

Photo: Darial Sneed

By Sharon Hoyer

Heidi Latsky is a New York-based modern choreographer who works with mixed-ability dancers to create pieces that investigate and celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of the individual. Her work was last presented in Chicago as part of the 2010 Chicago Humanities Festival. Heidi Latsky Dance comes to the Dance Center next week with two works: “Solo Countersolo” and “Somewhere.”

How did you become interested in working with differently abled dancers?
I became friends with a presenter at Dance Umbrella in Boston back when I was dancing with Bill T. Jones. He had a wheelchair festival and wanted me to come and see it with him and I had no interest. There was a part of me that said “I spend all my days training as a dancer, why would I want to see people in wheelchairs dancing around? I want to see very athletic, virtuosic dancing.” So I had a very ignorant perception. Then he introduced me to Lisa Bufano, who had received a grant. She was a visual artist and bilateral amputee. He mentioned me as a choreographer who might want to work with her. I had no idea this incredible woman would become my muse; because of her fierceness, her vulnerability and her availability my whole life changed. I thought because I love what I’m doing with Lisa, could I do it again? 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 »

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

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“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

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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 »