Have I recently mentioned that right now is an amazing time to see dance in Chicago? This week marks the opening of The Other Dance Festival and the mass output of thoughtful art is worth reiterating. Now in its eighth year, The Other Fest is a three-week smorgasbord of movement, each program serving up a mix of short works and tasty little samples of larger dishes cooked up by the most daring dancemakers in Chicago. The coming weeks feature premieres by Margi Cole and The Dance COLEctive, The Humans, The Seldoms and Cindy Brandle; a sneak peek into Peter Carpenter’s much-anticipated evening-length inquiry into the identity of Ronald Reagan, and a reprise of scenes from Breakbone’s episodic take on the moment of death—a disjointed work that will certainly hold up better once culled of gems, the fat discarded.
Week one opts for a power lead, pulling out of the hand a presentation of Molly Shanahan’s ongoing movement exploration with her company Mad Shak. Kay LaSota, curator of the fest, describes Shanahan as a brilliant artist with a gift for spinning out long streams of beautiful movement. I tend to agree; if you haven’t yet seen an iteration of “Stamina of Curiosity” you’re in for an aesthetically pleasing, intellectually probing experience. If you have, you know that, like all organic things, it continues to grow, complicate and evolve. Contrast that with a sample from Lucky Plush’s ultra-contextualized “Punk Yankees” project, which seeks to ask the tough questions about influence, ownership and theft. In “Memory Mash,” the dancers’ bodies contain the stuff of plagiarism and innovation, as they replicate, warp and mash up work placed on them by other choreographers.
The program opens with a collaborative effort between Darrell Jones and Paige Cunningham—two of the finest modern dancers in the city—that seeks to expose the effort and athleticism behind dance. No advance media of the piece was available, but LaSota remarked how “wonderful it is to see these two people with amazing minds and bodies go on this journey together.” The show closes with a new work by The Chicago Moving Company, producers of the festival, which explores the intersection between set movement and improvisation. Also on the bill is “Sextet” by the highly entertaining Same Planet Different World. (Sharon Hoyer)
The Other Dance Festival takes place at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne, (773)880-5402. Thursdays and Fridays, Sept 17 & 18, 24 & 25, Oct 1 & 2, 7:30pm. $15 per performance or $35 festival pass.