Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

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 »

All What Jazz: Contributors to Giordano’s New Program Discuss the Continuing Evolution of Their Singular Dance Technique

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Photo: Gorman Cook Photography

Photo: Gorman Cook Photography

By Irene Hsiao

When Gus Giordano founded his company in 1963, jazz dance was something that fell between vaudeville, social dance and street performance, an ephemeral form that wasn’t yet the legitimate art he was certain it deserved to be. By the time the “godfather of jazz dance” passed away in 2008, his company had made jazz hands, shoulder rolls, isolations and grounded, percussive movement a standard of American concert dance, as well as necessary training for aspiring hoofers. Though it dropped the word “jazz” from its name a few years ago, Giordano Dance Chicago, under the direction of Giordano’s daughter Nan since 1993, has continued to bill itself as “America’s original jazz dance company” and continues to have a strong voice in how the genre defines itself, both by upholding the legacy of Giordano’s signature style and by fostering the evolution of the art with commissioned works by contemporary choreographers. Muscular and explosive, Giordano Dance Chicago performs at its usual scale at the Harris in April, but in “Closer Than Ever,” the legendary company invites scrutiny of its proceedings on the more intimate stage of the Dance Center of Columbia College February 4-6, with a program that places Giordano’s 1978 solo “Wings” alongside recent works for the ensemble by company member Joshua Blake Carter and guest choreographers Roni Koresh, Ray Mercer and Christopher Huggins. Read the rest of this entry »

Unexpected Beauty: Michelle Kranicke, Bebe Miller and Deborah Hay Talk Dance, Ageism and the Experience of Socially Conscious Performance

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zephyrCollage
By Michael Workman

Among the most exciting dance performances taking place in this young 2016 season is a lineup of mature dance talent poised to challenge our culture of youth. In a world too often neglectful of hard-won skill, Zephyr Dance artistic director Michelle Kranicke brings to Chicago some of the world’s most celebrated mature dancers in the aMID Festival at Links Hall. Kranicke and two headline performers, Bebe Miller and Deborah Hay, discussed the performance in a series of interviews. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tiny Liquid Bones/Mad Shak

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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 »

Review: And We Shall Be Rid of Them/Molly Shanahan with Jeff Hancock

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Photo: Molly Shanahan

Photo: Molly Shanahan

As part of the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance laboratory program, Shanahan and collaborator Jeff Hancock performed this dance, in development since 2012, drawing inspiration from the Grimm folktale Hansel and Gretel. Taking place on a dimly lit stage, using mainly an array of floor lamps to illuminate the stage, the minimal use of stage lighting creates a sense of domesticity and home. Moving and heart-wrenching, the performance often counters the difficulties of its subject matter by foregrounding themes of humor, and the exchange of conscious awareness that take place in the experience of emotional attachments between people. Using recordings in which the performers self-referentially exhume the meta-considerations of humor in dance, while simultaneously performing humorously, laughing as they move, movements evoking gags reflecting the audio, the duo lend the atmosphere a sense of vulnerability to create an emotional context of pause. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Line of Sighs/Hedwig Dances

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rsz_dsc_9767RECOMMENDED

As part of Chicago Artists Month, Hedwig Dances reprises company member Victor Alexander’s “Line of Sighs,” a luscious meditation on human connection conceived during a fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council in 2012. Alexander collaborated with set and costume designer Deborah Valoma on a set of both elegant simplicity and infinite complexity. A series of white elastic cords stretch across the performance area from head-height to floor level, creating a third plane that ties horizontal to vertical, intensifying the visual sense of both gravity and transcendence as six dancers weave patterns into space. Internal elasticity is magnified by the radiating bungees—which also serve as part of the score, their whispers when un-stretched whisking through the soundscape of clacking loom and gentle, mystical score by Arianne Brame. The work is one of both powerful, grounded athleticism and supreme, etherial tenderness. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ghost Skirts/Victoria Bradford, Jessica Cornish & Lia Kohl

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Photo: Michael Workman

Photo: Michael Workman

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Few artists or dancers engage their subjects with anything near the capable, distinct voracity of Victoria Bradford’s punctually conceptualist, stratospherically aspirational choreographies. At a special preview of “Ghost Skirts,” performed where the full piece will be presented at High Concept Laboratories, Bradford, Lia Kohl and Jessica Cornish brazenly and boldly hold the line on those standards. Consistently structuralist in approach, the dancers present in the restrictively bilious gowns of idealized dance performers, all in bright white, perfected, markers of restrictive, distinctly physical visuality. Vivisecting this audience perception of “perfected” femininity as merely a form of adornment lends the performance the context of deconstructing the performative figure itself. Initially, both dancers appear only as skirts, following a recorded Wittgensteinian lattice of voiced instructions, followed attentively by an apprentice dancer’s movements, à la Donald Judd-like instructions to museum installers. “Draw a line following the curve dictated by the length of your arm from a point 120cm from the base of the wall” here becomes something along the lines of “execute movement, staying seated on the floor using your skeleton as the point of reference” (memory fails on the exact stated verbiage). In this, the power of despotic impartation of control evinces a form of identification within the context of the dancer’s draped body movements, an attempt at its exultation beyond the clothes given it to work within, and the limits of its costumery. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play/Camille A. Brown & Dancers

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Scott Patterson and Camille A. Brown

Scott Patterson and Camille A. Brown

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The new work by the young Bessie-winning choreographer and TED fellow Camille A. Brown just finished a highly acclaimed world premiere at the Joyce Theater in New York and now travels to Chicago. Brown’s piece is a response to the flat tropes of American black girls in popular media—characterizations usually written by white men—as either angry or strong. “I have a sense of humor too,” Brown said in an interview on MSNBC. “And sometimes I need rest. But it isn’t weakness.” Read the rest of this entry »