Stephen Petronio’s subterranean revel begins with a cinematic prologue: a descent into the underworld, intercut with black-and-white video of crumbling buildings and other signs of apocalypse. The title of the piece then scrawls through the darkness like a child writing their name with a sparkler. Petronio is an abstract choreographer, but his ode to the music of Nick Cave can’t resist tweaking directly a few of the deliciously dark archetypes Cave favors (including a macabre ballet in tutus and garters that evokes images of the carnival freakshow, the Southwest saloon and the demented toyshop). Read the rest of this entry »
Wife-husband team Zoe Scofield and Juniper Shuey use a visually lush blend of choreography and video to explore the spaces between: before/after, action/reaction, conscious/unconscious, cause/effect. Liminality is framed by the Greek Oresteia tragedy—a trilogy of murder, revenge and the idea of justice—and haunting uses of projection and light. Gold-leaf-encrusted dancers before and behind and projected onto a scrim suggest the role memory plays in the moment of perception; small choruses of three or four move cleanly in a choreography that is simultaneously indicative and suggestive—Scofield uses a unique blend of presentational formalism and guttural expression to “mythologize the experience of our senses,” and the addition of Shuey’s visual aesthetic transports the experience to the magical realm. (Sharon Hoyer) Read the rest of this entry »
Photo courtesy Brian Kuhlmann
The intelligent, issue-based dance theater delivered by Carrie Hanson and her company The Seldoms this time tackles climate change—more specifically the complex relationship we have with the subject and our wide range of responses to it, from denial to panic. “Exit Disclaimer” (the title refers to the warnings that pop up on websites when you click on a third-party link) speaks to two previous works—“Monument” and “Stupormarket”—which addressed waste and consumption, and the economic recession respectively. If all these sound like complicated topics for a dance show to cover, well, they are and Hanson enjoys the challenge. She sees her current work as a nexus of creativity, education and responsible citizenship. Read the rest of this entry »
By Sharon Hoyer
Chicago has, over the last decade, become an epicenter of world-class dance, both as creative incubator for new and established companies and—thanks to a half dozen high-profile venues and as many outreach-minded organizations—as magnet for visiting artists across the country and the globe. Yet it’s rare that choreographers based in Africa showcase their work on the third coast. Happily, the Dance Center of Columbia College is opening their season with two programs of work by independent female choreographers from five African nations—artists who have received broad acclaim in continents across the pond, but have been rarely seen in the United States—entitled “Voices of Strength.” Read the rest of this entry »
Naci/Photo: Rosalie O'Connor
Three years ago Eduardo Vilaro stepped away from Luna Negra Dance Theater, the Chicago company he founded ten years before, to return to New York City and take the helm of Ballet Hispanico. Vilaro spent his childhood in New York and danced with Ballet Hispanico early in his career. This month he brings the company to Chicago to perform at the Dance Center of Columbia College, where he learned, taught and served as artist-in-residence.
Along with a new work by Vilaro, the program includes “Espiritu Vivo” by Ronald K. Brown, inspired by the intersections of African and Latino diasporas, “Naci” by Andrea Miller about Sephardic Jewish culture in Spain, and a piece on the greater human condition by the inimitable Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. I spoke with Vilaro via phone, catching him in New York between tours. Read the rest of this entry »
Aggression, territoriality and myths of masculinity emerged as central themes when Synapse Arts founder Rachel Damon, independent performance artist Erica Mott and the all-female dance collective the Space/Movement Project applied to share a bill at the Dance Center of Columbia College. The venue, either consciously or sub-, no doubt influenced the subject matter: the Dance Center is a big step for all three Chicago-based companies. Watching Damon rehearse one of her quartet numbers in a small third-floor studio in Wicker Park, I got an inkling of the challenges a choreographer faces when they create movement in a space one-fifth the size of their performance environment.
Our post-rehearsal conversation became about more intimate spaces. “I’m fascinated by territory as a human and martial artist,” Damon tells me. “You learn in that training about the red zone, the personal space between people.” She leans toward me, her face about six inches from mine. “This is a little less comfortable if we don’t know each other than…” she sits back to a socially acceptable two-foot remove, “that. Your brain responds to that space in one of two ways—you can go down the intimate track where I trust this person or you can go down the defensive track. The intimate track is a lot more cognitive-based and the defensive track has a lot more to do with back-brain, my lizard sense going off. That’s where the churning comes from: stirring up the space.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sandbox Studio Chicago
The space between performer and audience is where Molly Shanahan and her collaborators in Mad Shak work. Her Stamina of Curiosity project, now in its fourth year, is an ongoing exploration of authenticity and the moment through the lens of Shanahan’s fluid, ceaselessly rippling and spiraling choreography. Last year’s iteration, “Sharks Before Drowning,” brought aggressive, masculine energy into the previously vulnerable equation. This chapter, entitled “The Delicate Hour,” goes beyond, recognizing both the potential of strength and the power of dismantling it. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Mark Palmer
The title of Margaret Jenkins’ evening-length work exemplifies the ethos of the performance, both in the connotative meaning of the words and in the gentle play of syllables on the tongue and lips. Massive-scale projections by Naomie Kremer transform the theater walls into a dream-universe of constellations and kaleidoscopic light, bearing equal importance on the stage as on the white-clad dancers, who sidle in to play against a vast field of shifting lights. Read the rest of this entry »
Darren Criss (#4) with Team StarKid
With our criteria shifted back to artistic accomplishment in theater, dance, comedy and opera this year, our task got infinitely tougher. Because while the number of performing venues grows at a steady rate, the increase in the number of noteworthy artists seems to grow exponentially. For everyone we name on the list below, we had to leave off five, an embarrassment of riches for Chicago. We made a conscious effort to introduce a meaningful number of new faces to the list this year; the necessary absences should not be construed as a loss of worthiness as a consequence. We often find trends when we do the research these lists require; this year we’re starting to see a more meaningful effort to redefine performance itself in the internet age, from the runaway success of StarKids, to the more calculated endeavors of Silk Road. So what defines a “player”? Consider it some complex stew of career achievement, recent “heat” and, in some cases, rising stardom.
Written by Zach Freeman, Brian Hieggelke, Sharon Hoyer and Dennis Polkow
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By Sharon Hoyer
The young king of England takes his troops into France and, against great odds, is victorious. Esteemed choreographer, director and writer David Gordon, founder of New York-based Pick Up Performance Co(s), compressed the Bard’s five-act history play into an hour-long show using original choreography and his own meta-chorus character, who provides commentary on Shakespeare and our own time. Gordon also mined the recent history of “Henry V” to retell the tale of prince Hal; “Dancing Henry Five” uses iconic recordings of Shakespeare’s text as performed by Laurence Olivier and Christopher Plummer, along with William Walton’s soundtrack from the 1944 film.
Why did you revive “Dancing Henry Five” now? Read the rest of this entry »