Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Chaos, Crisis and Contradiction: Butoh and Hip-Hop meet at the Dance Center

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By Sharon Hoyer

Butoh artist Michael Sakamoto and Rennie Harris, founder/artistic director of hip-hop performance group Rennie Harris Puremovement, merge dance forces into an entrancing, emotionally potent new physical language in “Flash,” a two-man, autobiographical show that plumbs the formation of cultural identity and the power of vulnerability. Michael Sakamoto spoke about the performance in a phone interview from his home in Ohio. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hush/Joe Goode Performance Group

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Damara Vita Ganley (Shadow),      Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Melecio Estrella. Photo: RJ Muna

Damara Vita Ganley (Shadow), Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Melecio Estrella/Photo: RJ Muna

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In dance, the body speaks a language that transcends the need for speech in a mode that depends on the universality of the flesh, uttered in dialects of technique. Joe Goode Performance Group counters this convention in “Hush,” March 10-12 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, in which six interlocking stories about silence and secrets emerge from a chance meeting in a bar, developed from true stories of trauma overheard in San Francisco. The resulting dance-theater piece imagines silence as the essence of self-discovery and empowerment. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Walking with ‘Trane/Urban Bush Women

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Photo: Rick McCullough

Photo: Rick McCullough

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Many musicians stir hearts, some are worshipped, but few have been literally canonized as jazz great John Coltrane was after his brief life of inspired saxophony, destructive addiction and spiritual redemption. Featuring an adaptation of Coltrane’s openly religious Grammy Award-winning album “A Love Supreme” (which, incidentally, plays as the central meditation in the weekly service in San Francisco’s St. John Will I Am Coltrane Church), “Walking with ’Trane,” Brooklyn-based dance company Urban Bush Women’s homage to the experimental musician, makes its Midwestern premiere at the Dance Center at Columbia College February 18-20. Choreographed by UBW chief visioning officer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and associate artistic director Samantha Speis, in collaboration with their small but mighty handful of dancers, the piece made its debut last December at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the album and the thirtieth anniversary of UBW. 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 »

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 »

Lineages: Stephen Petronio Traces his Bloodline by Staging Landmark Dances

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Photo: Sarah Silver

Photo: Sarah Silver

“I’ve had company for over thirty years now. It was very much about recreating work of my own,” Stephen Petronio says of his new five-year project “Bloodlines.” “When I hit the thirtieth anniversary I wondered if this was it. Merce [Cunningham] passed away and Trisha [Brown] became quite sick. I wondered what would happen to their work. And I wanted to open the door to works that have influenced me.”

To trace and honor that influence, the Stephen Petronio Company is in the process of acquiring and staging landmark dances by the most influential American postmodern choreographers. This installation of “Bloodlines,” opening at the Dance Center of Columbia College next weekend, includes Merce Cunningham’s “RainForest,” with sets by Andy Warhol, and Trisha Brown’s “Glacial Decoy,” with sets by Robert Rauschenberg; it’s the first time either of these pieces has been performed by a company other than those of the choreographers. “These were the first pieces I felt I had to have. My life is about collaboration between dance, visual art and music. Merce’s ‘RainForest’ masterwork. I asked for it and got it. I couldn’t believe it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Urban Bush Women/Dance Center of Columbia College

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Photo: Rick McCullough

Photo: Rick McCullough

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Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, inspired by her upbringing in an African-American neighborhood of Kansas City, founded her all-female company to give voice to the disenfranchised, particularly women of the African Diaspora. Urban Bush Women now marks thirty years of impassioned dance making for social change and comes to the Dance Center of Columbia College as part of the celebration. Two pieces are on the program: Zollar’s “Hep Hep Sweet Sweet,” a personal memoir and homage to music and culture of her youth. We’re taken to Kansas City via song, and welcomed into a nightclub scene swinging with jazz and blues—right after the narrative voice tells us that her reflections are “part truth, part memory, part rumor, part nostalgia and part myth.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Stardust/David Roussève/REALITY

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Photo: Yi Chun

Photo: Yi Chun

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In David Roussève’s tender new work, the fragmented, abbreviated language of texting becomes the building material of a story that is at once funny, sad and deeply humane. The hopes and frustrations of a young, unseen protagonist are splashed large on the back wall—emphasized with plentiful punctuation and emoticons—like a digital diary kept in Twitter. In the foreground, the ten members of REALITY give physical expression to his emotional life, dancing out the frustrations, drives, joys and fears of a black gay teenager navigating an inner-city world that is at once hostile and beautiful. Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty in Difference: Heidi Latsky Dance Returns to Chicago

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Photo: Darial Sneed

Photo: Darial Sneed

By Sharon Hoyer

Heidi Latsky is a New York-based modern choreographer who works with mixed-ability dancers to create pieces that investigate and celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of the individual. Her work was last presented in Chicago as part of the 2010 Chicago Humanities Festival. Heidi Latsky Dance comes to the Dance Center next week with two works: “Solo Countersolo” and “Somewhere.”

How did you become interested in working with differently abled dancers?
I became friends with a presenter at Dance Umbrella in Boston back when I was dancing with Bill T. Jones. He had a wheelchair festival and wanted me to come and see it with him and I had no interest. There was a part of me that said “I spend all my days training as a dancer, why would I want to see people in wheelchairs dancing around? I want to see very athletic, virtuosic dancing.” So I had a very ignorant perception. Then he introduced me to Lisa Bufano, who had received a grant. She was a visual artist and bilateral amputee. He mentioned me as a choreographer who might want to work with her. I had no idea this incredible woman would become my muse; because of her fierceness, her vulnerability and her availability my whole life changed. I thought because I love what I’m doing with Lisa, could I do it again? Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Trade Winds & Aires de Cambio/Hedwig Dances and DanzAbierta

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Photo: Susana Pous

Photo: Susana Pous

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A long-growing partnership between Jan Bartoszek, founder and director of Hedwig Dances, and Susana Pous, resident choreographer of the Havana-based DanzAbierta, comes to fruition next weekend in two intersecting pieces created in tandem. The difficulties of traveling between Cuba and the U.S. forced Bartoszek and Pous to work primarily separately, but “Trade Winds” and “Aires de Cambio” interlock on stage and are, in subject, context and structure, about exchange. Read the rest of this entry »