Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: Spontaneous Combustion/Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser

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Photo: Jonathan Hsu

Photo: Jonathan Hsu

RECOMMENDED

A longstanding collaborator of the renowned Bebe Miller Company (whose namesake performed in Chicago recently as part of the lauded aMID Festival), Hauser teams up here with Smith College Department of Dance assistant professor Aiken to create a new improvisational duet that’s sure to challenge viewers’ assumptions about dance. The buzz is that this is a must-see among this spring’s glut of programming; expect surprises, both subtle and overt. Kay LaSota, manager of the Hamlin Park Theater, says that “improvised dance can seem to ignite from nowhere. The chemical/technical term ‘spontaneous combustion’ refers to self-heating—which I think improvisers do; they are generating internal heat and ideas which suddenly become visible. The slow heat of physicality/imagination is there all along, but there can be ‘thermal runaways’ where the dance quickly takes shape, flight, and catches fire.”

Additionally, following on a six-month residency with Hauser, dancer JulieAnn Graham will present a new piece, “The Interpreters,” performed in collaboration with Josh Anderson, Peter Carpenter and Jessica Marasa to DJ sets and sound design by Matthew McMunn and Zhenia Nemirovsky. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Thank You for Coming: Attendance/Faye Driscoll

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Faye Driscoll, Thank You For Coming work in progress

This month, the New York-based Driscoll brings an audience-integrative approach that would have had Brecht guffawing with delight to the MCA Stage. Typically blown past in the New York press as a crazy “game of Twister,” the contact improvisational, orgiastic subtext of her effort to literally blur and blend the boundaries of the five dancers’ bodies, and with the perception of physicality as experienced in the minds of the audience, imbues the performance simultaneously with a potential for danger and an eerily echoing jouissance. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Bold Moves/Joffrey Ballet

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Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein in "Forgotten Land." Photo: Herbert Migdoll

Christine Rocas and Rory Hohenstein in “Forgotten Land”/Photo: Herbert Migdoll

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The title of the Joffrey’s winter program references not only a stylistic theme for the movement on the stage—three pieces by contemporary choreographers—but also the music accompanying it. Performances will be accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic, which sinks its teeth into Benjamin Britten’s stormy, sweeping “Sinfonia de Requiem,” the accompaniment to Jirí Kylián’s lyrical, emotionally charged “Forgotten Land.” Kylián’s 1981 piece takes place before a backdrop of a troubled sea; dancers in flowing, ankle-length dresses evoke a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. The piece is inspired by an Edvard Munch painting, but the imagery could as easily be pulled from a Virginia Woolf novel. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Buffer Overrun/Ginger Krebs

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Photo: Kevin Keane

Photo: Kevin Keane

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You’d expect to find more examples of Information Art as text printouts or video, not incorporated into dance—but that’s precisely the conceptual background against which longtime performance art and dance figure Ginger Krebs places “Buffer Overrun,” which premieres this month at the Storefront Theater. The piece is grounded in the artist’s concern for salutary self-reflection: “Everything that I set out to make cutting-edge always has a retrofuturist feel to it. No matter what. With this piece, for some reason, the eighties—I’ve had to become way more educated about what performance art was happening and what was happening in alternative theater at that time.” The project is also a recipient of a coveted Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist grant, and of numerous other development grants. “It’s the way capitalism filters down, there’s this idea, you’re going to maximize efficiency, on some level to make money for somebody, but the way that filters down and affects interpersonal relationships, that’s deeply troubling to me and I’m guilty of it,” says Krebs of her earliest contemplation of the performance, now in its final-stage settings. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ring Sour/Khecari and Blind Tiger Society

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Khecari. Photo: William Frederking

Khecari/Photo: William Frederking

As part of Links Hall’s Midwest Nexus Touring Initiative, the upcoming “Ring Sour” performance brings San Francisco touring company Blind Tiger Society to Chicago to perform in a double bill with Julia Rae Antonick and Jonathan Meyer of Chicago dance collective Khecari. Their “Orders from the Horse” represents a continuance of Meyer and Antonick’s duet-intensive collaboration, “both equally choreographing, directing, and performing, with live improvised music by long time collaborator Joe St. Charles and lighting by Rachel Levy.” Continuing their experimentation with somnolent states, Khecari, which offers the audience the choice of a thirty- or 200-minute performance, plays with the notion of movement in states resembling, for instance, the negotiation of dark hallways of a home in the middle of the night. Blind Tiger Society’s “Dressage” performs what artistic director Bianca Cabrera refers to as a “re-wilding” of the body, using contact and improvisational techniques as tools in the effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tiny Liquid Bones/Mad Shak

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2014_1218_Madshak_links-2362

Photo: William Frederking

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For the last several years, Molly Shanahan has put movement under a microscope and chipped away at cellular-level tensions that steel the performer against having a truly authentic experience with his and her audience. Along with her company Mad Shak, Shanahan seeks the elusive balance between what she refers to as “rigorous specificity” in choreography and free spontaneity. In creating this newest piece, part of her “Virtuosity of Forgetting” project, the two poles meet. “I feel like they’re not two different things anymore,” Shanahan said in a phone conversation. “I feel they are one thing: the pursuit of specificity while improvising and the simultaneous retention of spontaneity at all times during choreography.” For Shanahan, this deeply reflective method of crafting dance is all about the relationship between the performer and the observer, and the strange alchemy that takes place during the act of watching and being watched. She said, “I can’t be asking the audience to engage or validate what’s happening. Or tell them what to feel or think—those micro-aggressions that happen in performance…that sense of pushing something just a hair too hard. I don’t want to do that to an observer. It feels like there’s a whole new collaborator in the room with each new observer.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Winter Series/Hubbard Street Dance

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Crystal Pite. Photo: Joris-Jan Jos

Crystal Pite/Photo: Joris-Jan Jos

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The show opener of Hubbard Street’s impressive Winter program is “Solo Echo,” a crossover concept from Crystal Pite, who has metabolized a meditation on the evocative, essential reading poetry of Mark Strand. Strand, who died last year, was among the foremost innovators of the “concrete” in contemporary poetry, borrowing in his own crossover practices from painters such as Magritte and others, to whom he attributed the surrealism in his work. Atmospheric, mysterious and playfully entertaining, Strand pairs well with Pite’s own evocative stage-setting choreographies, composing scenes against backgrounds in nature, such as in a coming snowstorm. Following on the recent rage surrounding William Forsythe in Chicago, of whom Pite is an acolyte, and pairing orchestrations of local site-specific energies against this city’s usual background, this performance should prove compelling. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: REvisited/REnewed/Esoteric Dance Project

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esoteric

Now in its fifth season, this newest iteration of Brenna Pierson-Tucker and Christopher Tucker’s Esoteric Dance Project, with its half decade of extemporaneous choreography, provides a sense of the relationship between two distinctly active, evocative historical performances plus one more, yet to premiere. Aspects of the two earlier performances, “Unsilenced Thoughts of Two Women” and “iloveyouihateyou,” will be added into this new tapestried, as-yet untitled premiere. Also on the program is “Unsilenced Thoughts,” in which the duo presents the ongoing resonances that center their shared movement experience in the music of Ani DiFranco and Tom Waits, funneled into the ears of the audience in much the same manner as physical abuse, and with the same force as vampiric cultural capitalism–commonly condemned for valuing self-survival over a shared right of survival, especially in the artistic community. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: At the Table—A Conversational Dance/Links Hall

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atthetable

This event, founded by the At the Table Collective, comprised of members Lindsay Hopkins, Mike Lahood, Jessie Marasa, Lara Oppenheimer and Bryan Saner, began in December 2013 at Hopkins and Saner’s home. Originally conceived of as using dinner conversation as a method of community building through open exchange of skill in the interest of collaboration, for its November dance event, the group turns to fungi as its social model. Starting from the presumption of natural adhesions between individuals and community, and drawing on art historical derivations of dematerialization concepts, At The Table’s conversational performance forms around the idea of “mycelial” structures as a way of offering the public a handle on situating this panel discussion in the context of a living performative space between language and dance, and equality between the concept of dancer as audience participant and audience member as dance participant. (Michael Workman)

At Links Hall, 3111 North Western, Monday, November 23 at 7pm. $5-$15. Tickets at linkshall.org.

Preview: New Blood IX: SAIC Festival of Live Art/Links Hall

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Photo: Emerson Granillo

Photo: Emerson Granillo

Few of those who taught at the School of the Art Institute haunt this festival so much as the ghost of outré artist Barbara DeGenevieve, who died suddenly in 2014, and whose performance medium, largely a matter of reducing the body to sexuality in her boundary-pushing work, often centered within her practice on photography and video and went so far beyond her chosen, “allowed” media embodiments that she became a subject of consistent government and institutional oppression. Against that background, this ninth iteration of the program from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies, in collaboration with the SAIC Department of Performance, has a lot to live up to with regard to that reflection of the body in any kind of meaningful state, whether in motion or immobilized by inertia. With a largely lackluster showing at this year’s graduate open studios, hopefully this year’s performance works showcase will provide performance and motion studies devotees with something more than just the usual. Read the rest of this entry »