It’s late on Wednesday night, and “The Carnival: Choreographer’s Ball” is in Chicago. The dark room at the back of Joe’s on Weed Street is hot and the music is overwhelmingly loud but above it all, the crowd and their screams are louder.
Billing itself as “the hottest dance show by the top choreographers and dancers in the music, film and video industry,” it’s a dancer’s version of an open mic night, and all about free exposure—dancers and choreographers are not paid, nor do they pay, to perform. Over a few hours, eighteen local choreographers and dance companies go on stage with more than 120 dancers, and any kind of style is welcome: tap, hip-hop, burlesque, contemporary, pole.
This raw appreciation of the art form lay behind the founding of “The Carnival” in LA twelve years ago. Superstars like Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Beyonce and The Pussycat Dolls have all stomped their feet on this traveling stage. Now, the worldwide showcase has become an institution in itself, held in London and New York twice a year as well as LA almost every month, and Tokyo and Sydney. But this is the first time it’s ever been to Chicago.
The program is varied. A lone and muscled man twists himself around a pole in an elegant and strangely sexy dance, and winks at the screaming ladies. Design Dance Co. turn an office scene into one of the funniest, sexiest and most energetic workdays you’ve ever seen. (Lauren Kelly-Jones)