Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Summer Series/Hubbard Street Dance

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Jonathan Fredrickson and Ana Lopez rehearsing for "The Impossible"

Jonathan Fredrickson and Ana Lopez in rehearsal for “The Impossible”

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Hubbard Street closes out their season on the big screen, with a Friday night simulcast to a forty-foot LED screen in Millennium Park. The free seats may be some of the best ones, allowing you to catch a reprise of Jiri Kylian’s “Falling Angels,” which the company premiered in the winter, and two pieces by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo: “PACOPEPEPLUTO,” a charming, witty work for three soloists set to Dean Martin tunes, and a new piece entitled “The Impossible.” Cerrudo’s new work is a return to narrative choreography; an elderly couple is mirrored by their younger selves and haunted by a ghostly band, lead by a mysterious, menacing, somewhat lecherous puppetmaster. The music is big and suspenseful, edited together (as always) by the choreographer. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Snow White/Ballet Preljocaj

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blanche_neige_9. 300 dpiRECOMMENDED

Sex, violence, murder, revenge, high fashion. Angelin Preljocaj’s vision of Snow White delivers the most visceral elements of the Grimm Brothers’ tale with delicious aplomb. The woodland nymphs and satyrs who befriend the runaway Snow White are interrupted from sensuous flirtations; the first kiss between Snow White and her prince is deep, long and performed in the horizontal; the disguised evil queen does not offer her poisoned apple for a timid bite, but rams it into Snow White’s mouth with shocking force, dragging her across the floor by her head until she falls unconscious; and the grief-stricken prince drags, rolls, spins and tosses about the completely limp Snow White in what must be the most imaginative pas de deux ever staged. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Visceral Dance Chicago/Harris Theater

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There’s a new high-profile contemporary dance company in town. Nick Pupillo’s Visceral Dance Chicago, born of and named after the studio he opened on the Northwest Side, made its debut last fall at the Harris Theater—an ambitious start for an ambitious artistic director. Over the winter the company acquired some strong repertory and their first spring program features works by familiar names. Rising star choreographer Monica Cervantes, the tiny powerhouse who formerly danced with Luna Negra Dance Theater, brings “Changes,” an abstract piece woven through with images of everyday life. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Vinegar Works: Four Dances of Moral Instruction/Trey McIntyre Project

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Photo courtesy Trey McIntyre

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Looking at the ten-year catalog of Boise-based Trey McIntyre Project—which includes dance repertory, short films, spontaneous public performances and community-based collaborations—the old saying about artists being adults who never forgot how to play comes to mind. Technical virtuosity, athleticism, curiosity, humor and cultural reference meet in McIntyre’s work, which has been inspired by the music of Queen, the majesty of Glacier National Park, the Basque population of Boise, and the iconic children’s album from 1972, “Free to Be…You and Me.” TMP’s most recent—and final work as a full-time dance company—is inspired by the illustrations of Edward Gorey. McIntyre said he was drawn to the challenge of presenting surrealist story lines in a story ballet format. “Trying to make an engaging path to move through, when these particular stories don’t follow a traditional story arc, was really fun for me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Homage to a Modern Master: Hubbard Street Dedicates Spring to Jiri Kylian

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Photo courtesy Todd Rosenberg

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

The opening moment of Jiri Kylian’s “Sarabande” is a mass birth. Six men fall from out of the bottom of six dresses to the floor, hovering on rounded backs like overturned turtles. After a moment, their limbs slam to the ground then lift again. Six mouths open and together issue a sustained and gut-felt yawp. Thus begins Kylian’s vision of the formation of self: playful and posturing, rigorous, but with a sense of abandon. The men in “Sarabande” grimace and giggle, holler and groan, pounding their bodies, creating the majority of the score themselves. The companion work for all women, “Falling Angels,” is a striking contrast: set to a drum phase piece by Steve Reich, it’s all angles and aggressive athleticism, patterned, sequential and controlled. Like much of Kylian’s work, these two dances delve into both the unexpected and the familiar: the piece about men centers on emotion, the one about women, on strength.

Before Hubbard Street began acquiring works by Jiri Kylian, you could not see the prolific Czech choreographer’s work without traveling to Holland or catching Nederlands Dans Theater on tour along the coasts. No American company had rights to his work and Chicago wasn’t yet a popular destination for international touring companies. Former Hubbard Street director Jim Vincent and current director Glenn Edgerton (former director of NDT) can be thanked for bringing Kylian’s brilliant choreography to stages across the country and now, for dedicating an entire program to his work. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Alonzo King LINES Ballet/Harris Theater

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Photo courtesy Angela Sterling

Photo: Angela Sterling

This performance has been postponed. Check back for updated performance dates and times.

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Expect crossover crowds at the Friday night performance of Alonzo King LINES: some to see virtuosic contemporary ballet at its height and some to hear live the legendary classical and jazz bassist Edgar Meyer. San Francisco-based King and his company are known for fertile collaborative projects—last year with Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance—and for this visit, they bring an impressive set of collaborators in tow: Meyer, who will accompany with a piece he composed for LINES Ballet’s thirtieth anniversary and, on Thursday night, Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani in her Chicago debut. Lahyani sings part of the score of King’s “Constellation,” an evening-length work woven through a thousand points of light. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler/Hamburg Ballet at Harris Theater

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PRESSE8 3MAHLER no textRECOMMENDED

The creation of life, death and grieving, pure beauty, perfect love—these were the bold colors on John Neumeier’s palate when he made the strokes for his monumental, abstract masterpiece, set to Mahler’s Third Symphony. Neumeier’s magnum opus, choreographed in 1975, is a massive, ambitious work set to the entirety of Mahler’s score: six movements that invite the viewer into an unadorned, dreamlike landscape of archetypes, pure feeling and dreams. The Third Symphony is an emotionally driven ballet—sometimes to a fault—but the unflagging sincerity of the choreography and the dancers performing it (Neumeier, a Milwaukee native, has been the primary choreographer for the Hamburg Ballet for decades) make moments that could feel maudlin in the hands of another into the hallmarks of genius. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Queenie Pie/Chicago Opera Theater

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Karen Marie Richardson/Photo: Liz Lauren

Karen Marie Richardson/Photo: Liz Lauren

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Walking through the cinderblock, cement and steel pipes of the parking structure and into the stark modern lobby of The Harris Theater at Millennium Park, I couldn’t help but be reminded that I wasn’t at my Daddy’s Opera House. Chicago Opera Theater opened its fortieth Anniversary Season, serving the greater community as both an addition and an answer to our famed Lyric Opera of Chicago, with a production of “Queenie Pie,” jazz-great Duke Ellington’s unfinished, flawed, but compelling “street opera.” Calling their 2014 season “Illusions and Delusions,” COT continues to exhibit its ambition to bring both a new audience to opera, and to present an alternative to Chicago’s already established opera-loving constituency, by offering a season completely devoid of any of the standard operatic repertoire. Past attempts to mix both expected and unexpected fare notwithstanding, general director Andreas Mitisek, who began his steerage of COT in June 2012, appears determined to sail into new and under-examined compositional waters. Read the rest of this entry »

The Players 2014: The Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago

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In the foreground, Mike Nussbaum. Continuing in a clockwise circle, Nathan Allen, Charles Newell, Autumn Eckman and Nick Pupillo, Rae Gray and Usman Ally, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ann Filmer, Michael Mahler, Michael Halberstam, Dave Pasquesi, Ayako Kato. In the background, T.J. Jagodowski.

Once was the time, when it came to performing arts, that Chicago was a great place to come from. But thanks to the constant upward trajectory of our community, Chicago is now a great place to come from AND to return to. Every year we see more and more evidence of this, whether it’s the regular homecomings of the likes of Michael Shannon and David Cromer, the Chicago reorientation of international stars like Renee Fleming and Riccardo Muti or the burgeoning national reputations of Tracy Letts and Alejandro Cerrudo, we’ve got quite a perpetual show going on. That means of course, that culling a growing short-list of 300 or so down to the fifty folks who make up this year’s Players, is getting more painful. But we’re crying tears of joy as we do it. What follows are the fifty artists (as opposed to last year’s behind-the-scenesters) in dance, theater, comedy and opera who are making the greatest impact on Chicago stages right now.

Written by Zach Freeman, Brian Hieggelke and Sharon Hoyer, with Mark Roelof Eleveld, Hugh Iglarsh and Robert Eric Shoemaker. Photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Pictured above: In the foreground, Mike Nussbaum. Continuing in a clockwise circle, Nathan Allen, Charles Newell, Autumn Eckman and Nick Pupillo, Rae Gray and Usman Ally, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ann Filmer, Michael Mahler, Michael Halberstam, Dave Pasquesi, Ayako Kato. In the background, T.J. Jagodowski.

All photos were taken at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago.

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Preview: Savion Glover’s STePz/Harris Theater

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Photo courtesy Lois Greenfield

Photo: Lois Greenfield

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Some of my first memories of watching dance are of me developing my first crush on a very young Savion Glover—a regular on Sesame Street who taught Mr. Snuffleupagus to rap and tap or who lightly soft-shoed while Elmo mastered tying his shoelaces. Glover has been a legend since the age of ten, the protégé of Gregory Hines, Tony-winning star of “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” and probably the most famous tap dancer alive. Now, at the age of forty, Glover has an eponymous production company, dozens of high-profile choreographic credits (including both “Happy Feet”s) and a new evening-length show touring the country. Read the rest of this entry »