Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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

RECOMMENDED

“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: 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”

RECOMMENDED

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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UntitledRECOMMENDED

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

RECOMMENDED

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.

RECOMMENDED

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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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

RECOMMENDED

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 »