Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Preview: UNDER(cover) Episode 002

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Coming off of more than a decade of dancing with Hubbard Street, and several years with River North Dance, Robyn Mineko Williams landed a spot in this publication’s Top Fifty Players in Chicago for her work as an independent choreographer. And this month, she premieres “UNDER(cover) Episode 002,” developed last May during a residency stint at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Williams caught the national eye in 2014 as one of Dance Magazine’s dancers to watch and her Links Hall debut, set to open in late May, is the second installment of her site-specific program.

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Preview: Venture by Esoteric Dance Project Dazzles In Three Parts

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Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.20.49 PMRECOMMENDED

Much of the current offering from Esoteric Dance Project (EDP) centers on notions of the one and the many, the individual and masses, and of the permutations at the intersections between them. Presenting a pair of the latest works from Brenna Pierson-Tucker, co-artistic director of the Project, “Venture” will also feature a new work by Joanna Paul, the first produced under the group’s new choreography mentorship program. Drawing from notions of perception and social dynamics, the stated goal of Paul’s “Hints of Reality” is to examine the role of repression in interpersonal relationships, and the “power surrendered in hiding the most honest part of oneself.” Concerned as well with the effects of environment, “the eye,” and the attendant fluctuations in movement, the choreographic framework suggests a necessary degree of introspection even in the most public of interactions. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Tea Project: Unveiling our Global War’s Hidden Wages

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Taking place over three weekends at Links Hall,”The Tea Project” tackles questions of racism in American foreign and domestic policies that have not only opened the floodgates of demonization of Muslims, black and brown peoples and others of the most vulnerable among us, but has at times also led to their wholesale slaughter. Performed collaboratively by Iraq war veteran Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg, a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Art, the duo originally met through the OpenSource Art program while they were both living in Champaign-Urbana. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Precious Jennings and Jane Jerardi/LinkUP Spring Session Showing

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Precious Jennings. Video still: Amelia Charter

Precious Jennings. Video still: Amelia Charter


As Plato asserted, we are born with a memory of forms. Bringing together several years worth of relationship histories—between herself and lovers, friends, teachers, colleagues, between her own dance and the poetry of Heathcote Williams—improviser Precious Jennings has built a performance rooted in the relationship of humans to animals of land and sea. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Bronx Gothic/Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born

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Carving out the social history of the Bronx promises, according to the artist statement, to provide viewers of this multidisciplinary performance with a glimpse inside the borough during the 1980s, “where Newports are bought in singles at corner bodegas, sex-saturated notes are passed in class and Orchard Beach erupts in flame.” This place, of course, was also the birthplace of hip-hop as the popularity of block parties drew out increasing numbers of Bronx youth, inspiring a quicksilver turntable culture among DJs and styles of musicality, rhythm and its attendant channels of movement that continue to ripple out across generations. Okpokwasili’s performances similarly carry the weight of a hard-borne authentic comprehension of her subject matter, rooted deeply and painfully in the experience of change, becoming and awareness of the profound cost of our new cultural understandings. Read the rest of this entry »

Memory of the Body: Jessica Marasa on Process and Improvisation

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Photo: William Frederking

Photo: William Frederking

By Michael Workman

Jessica Marasa has collaborated with the leading dance improvisors in Chicago for the last ten years. Starting in February, she will host a work-in-progress series at Links Hall entitled “Set Free.” We talked with Jessica about the origins of the project and her ongoing interest in somatic movement.

You’ve worked with a lot of figures in the dance community in the city. Are you originally from Chicago?
I’m from Fox Lake, originally. I used to go to Libertyville where all the dancers were from Gus Giordano in Evanston. Then I started visiting Evanston and met other teachers—it’s where I met Joel Hall. I went to school and didn’t study dance, I was a journalist at the University of Iowa and after that I moved to New York to work at a public relations firm. I left, got another job and was seeing someone here whom I was madly in love with, so I moved back in 2006. Shortly after that, I met Molly Shanahan and thought, “Dancing sounds good, dancing is joy,” and I’ve remained active with the community since. 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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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: 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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Photo: William Frederking


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 »

Review: The Flow Show

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imageWith a schedule that includes curated fundraising events in New York, San Francisco and, for two consecutive years, Chicago, the Flow Show presented a fun, kid-friendly burlesque show. That’s right, one that makes kids, parents and everyone else feel a sense of acceptance about what our bodies do when we let them work in an authentic way, with what we can express emotionally, and how that can be reflected in near-athletic expressions of our personal daily struggles to survive. All of the performers were adept at object manipulation, a form of circus dance familiar to attendees of the monthly Full Moon and New Moon jams that take place seasonally across the city and, this year, began to draw record crowds at festivals nationwide. Over the past few years flow performances have found more platforms through city-sponsored circus programs in public parks, adding to the form’s visibility and increasing popularity. It is not near as often deserved. Still, the sheer enjoyment and encouragement of expression was pleasant.

Most cohesive from among the lineup was local dancer Emily Perkins, who performs under the stage name Perkulator, and who teaches object manipulation alongside circus techniques, with a cognizance of her composition of space through the dance program Perkins demonstrated all the thrilling athleticism of some of the community’s more stalwart figures, including the always-thrilling Ebonie Hoops, who is consistently an audience favorite at the lakefront jams, usually spinning flaming hoops on the tips of her toes while in a headstand, and always mischievously smiling.

Perkins adds an extra layer, configuring and reconfiguring combinations of silver hoops into a space-age stage performance. As she moves, it’s representative of the movement of energy at the subatomic level, radiating a pure joy at the love of movement. (Michael Workman)