By Sharon Hoyer
Chance is the incubator for discovery in Bill T. Jones’ 2011 “Story/Time.” Inspired by John Cage’s “Indeterminacy,” in which Cage read one-minute stories to his audience, chosen at random, Jones applied a similar set of restrictions to his own stories, as well as music composed live by Ted Coffey, and dance excerpts from Jones’ thirty years of repertory. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company brings “Story/Time” to the Dance Center of Columbia College in October and Jones spoke with me via phone about the piece.
What drew you to Cage’s “Indeterminacy” as a basis for the piece?
I was inspired by John Cage, but he and I are so different I thought it would be an ironic interrogation about his notions of making. Cage’s stories are about music, Eastern philosophy, the life inside his head. I thought what is the life inside Bill T. Jones’ head? John Cage doesn’t write about sex; I do. My experiences of the art world come from my experience as an outsider. So the stories have a very different temperature. Read the rest of this entry »
Since the advent of MTV, music videos have been the primary source for our common dance language and YouTube just made it easier for audiences to gain fluency. Now one could learn “Thriller” top to bottom or the “Gangnam Style” gallop with considerably more ease—no more cumbersome switching between rewind, pause and slow-mo. New York-based Susan Marshall & Co made a couple slick, sexy music videos of their own, complete with stiletto heels and plentiful lens flare—in the creation of “Play/Pause,” their new piece that draws from wells of YouTube, contemporary dance and indie rock. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo courtesy Yi Chun Wu
The Dance Center of Columbia College partners with Links Hall for this celebration of cutting-edge, unscripted dance. Artists from across the country gather to perform, teach workshops and lead discussions throughout the week. A showcase Monday night at Links kicks things off, followed by a week of cross-disciplinary workshops at the Dance Center. Workshops delve into Contact Improv, using improvisation as a warm-up tool for artistic production, the creating of scores from systems found in life and a two-day class that begins with developing a solo practice and progresses into ensemble work. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »