Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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 »

Voices Through Time: Erica Mott Gives a Multimedia History Lesson on Female Worker Rights

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Photo: StudioFilmLove

Photo: StudioFilmLove

Erica Mott’s love for performance blossomed from her work in international development and foreign diplomacy. “I was working on microeconomics and microlending in Latin America,” she says. “I found women at the forefront of both cultural and economic production. But cultural production was the driver to bringing people together. It’s what led me back to the arts.”

This background speaks to the intellectual rigor Mott applies to crafting performances; questions around politics, gender and the female body drive Mott’s work, including her most recent and ambitious vision, “3 Singers”—the title refers to both the cast members and three vintage sewing machines with which they share the stage. Mott collaborated with an impressive team to pull together sound design, video work, voice coaching and dramaturgy into a “technopera” that explores the struggle for rights of female textile workers in the pre-Civil War era, the Industrial Revolution and the present day. When asked about the subject, Mott says, “As dancers we constantly ask questions about the body. But every day I wake up and don’t ask questions about this thing I put on my body that passed through the hands of someone else. I got curious about this world that is invisible. And women are often invisible.” 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 »

Preview: Restless Creature/Wendy Whelan

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Photo courtesy Christopher Duggan

Photo: Christopher Duggan

RECOMMENDED

Two years ago, in an extended interview with Alejandro Cerrudo about the premiere of his first evening-length work, the conversation momentarily turned to a side project he had been invited to choreograph for. The Chicago performance wasn’t yet announced so Cerrudo asked me to keep it quiet, but the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street couldn’t help but gush a little with excitement; he was clearly starstruck. “She’s so incredibly nice and down to earth,” he said. “And, I mean, she’s Wendy Whelan.” Read the rest of this entry »

Muscle Memory: Mad Shak Investigates How We Forget

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Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak’s ongoing “Stamina of Curiosity” project dives deep into the underwater caves that form when one person performs for another, and her curiosity uncovers phenomena at the microscopic level. “There’s something that takes over before a performance,” Shanahan says, describing the inspiration for the current iteration of “Stamina,” entitled “Virtuosity of Forgetting.” “No matter how much we welcome vulnerability, a change takes place in the body when you consider being witnessed—a cross section of exhilaration and panic. In rehearsal, there’s always the presence of the infinite ways a movement can be done and openness to the reality that anything could happen. In performance, this collapses down to the sense of ‘one right way’ and that we’ll get it right or wrong. When performance is reduced to a binary, we experience loss, because we’re keeping something from the witness.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Dances for the Underground/The Seldoms, Peter Carpenter, Kate Corby & Dancers

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RECOMMENDED

The Seldoms share the bill for two weekends at Links Hall, presenting the first chapter of a new work by the company’s intellectually driven artistic director Carrie Hanson. “RockCitizen” is inspired by the rock-music-driven counterculture movements of the mid-to-late-twentieth century. Hanson seeks to unpack counterculture from social, political and economic perspectives, asking questions about how the phenomenon emerges, the groups it unites, the way it simultaneously questions dominant culture and encourages consumerism, and how it diffuses or fails. Hanson is a great pairing with Peter Carpenter, who last weekend presented the twelfth  iteration of his multi-year, ongoing “Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times,” entitled “Dominant Collapse.” Carpenter is an independent dance-theater maker inspired by many of the same forces that move The Seldoms. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nutcracker/Joffrey Ballet

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image002RECOMMENDED

The Joffrey presents five programs throughout their season, showing works by about a dozen leading choreographers of past and present, but there’s one show that keeps the lights on: twenty-four performances of “The Nutcracker” account for the bulk of Joffrey ticket sales, pulling non-regular dance attendees (and their visitors) into the Auditorium Theatre for a holiday tradition and, in many ways, helping to fund the rest of programming. Robert Joffrey’s vision of the Christmastime confection is a shimmering spectacle, heightened by the additions of the two-story Mother Ginger puppet by Kermit Love and an ensemble of more than one-hundred young dancers. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Princess Grace Awards: New Works/Hubbard Street Dance

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

Princess Grace Awards are distributed each year to emerging artists of formidable talent in the fields of dance, film and theater (one measure of Chicago’s strong and growing dance scene is the considerable number of Princess Grace winners living and dancing in our city). Winners of Princess Grace choreography awards is the unifying theme of Hubbard Street’s two-weekend run at the MCA, but the choreographers in question have plenty more noteworthy lines on their CVs, too. The most recognizable name—certainly on a national level—is Kyle Abraham who, on top of the Princess Grace, has won a Bessie and a MacArthur fellowship, choreographing for the likes of Alvin Ailey and New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan (the performance, which includes a duet by HS’s resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, is this January at the Harris). The Chicago Dancing Festival commissioned a new work from Abraham for Hubbard Street last fall, which is now reprised on the smaller MCA stage. Abraham’s gorgeous, detailed “Counterpoint” will be a treat to see in a more intimate setting. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Made in Chicago/Thodos Dance Chicago

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Photo courtesy Cheryl Mann

Photo courtesy Cheryl Mann

RECOMMENDED

Adler and Sullivan’s dazzling landmark Auditorium Theatre turns 125 this year, and part of the celebratory programming is a welcome “Made in Chicago” music and dance series. Melissa Thodos’ company will perform on the Auditorium Theatre’s boards for the first time—an apropos choice seeing as Thodos is Chicago-made herself: Evanston-born, training, performing and founding her own company in the city by the lake. Thodos Dance reprises their acclaimed hour-long theatrical piece of Chicago history, “The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893,” based on Erik Larson’s famous book.  Read the rest of this entry »