DanceWorks Chicago Open Audition!

AUDITION NOTICE:

DanceWorks Chicago’s unique open company audition will be held at the Dance Center of Columbia College THIS Saturday, November 23. DWC welcomes the general public, FREE of CHARGE, to observe a professional dance audition – an intriguing part of the dance world that is usually off-limits. Take advantage of this unique opportunity and join us as we search for exceptional young dancers to join the DWC family. This innovative approach to an audition is compelling for its exposure to the possibilities of the body, the activation of the mind, the vulnerability and power of the spirit.

DATE: Saturday, November 23, 2013

TIME: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Audience members may come and go throughout the day.

PLACE: The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago (on stage)

WHAT YOU WILL SEE: The audition will be conducted by Artistic Director Julie Nakagawa. Ballet class with eliminations will be followed by DWC repertoire. DWC representatives will be available that afternoon to answer questions about what’s happening on stage. We hope you will come away with a deeper understanding and fresh curiosity about dance that will inspire your continued relationship with dance artists and their art.
To learn more about DanceWorks Chicago, visit www.danceworkschicago.org.

Ballet Legére Nutcracker Auditions

The Battle Scene in Ballet Légere's "The Nutcracker".

River Forest company Ballet Légere is holding auditions for their 29th annual performance of The Nutcracker on Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18 at the Légere Dance Centre, 7377 W. North Ave., River Forest, IL.

All roles are available. Dancers need to bring a photo with them to the audition. Gymnasts and tumblers (8+) should call to set up an appointment.

 

A detailed breakdown of audition times is below. For more information, call 773.237.1874 or email balletlegere@yahoo.com.

Saturday, Aug. 17 at 8:30 am: girls, ages 4.5+, under 45″

Saturday, Aug. 17 at 10 am: girls, 46″-48″

Saturday, Aug. 17 at 11:30 am: girls, 49″-52″

Saturday, Aug. 17 at 1 pm: girls, 53″-57″

Saturday, Aug. 17 at 2:30 pm: girls, 58″-61″

Sunday, Aug. 18 at 9 am: boys, ages 5-12

Sunday, Aug. 18 at 10 am: Male and female dancers, teen thru adult, pointe and non-pointe roles

 

Movie review: Fame High

“If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re dead,” the teacher says. The kids in class giggle in response. With a deadly serious face, he says, “Not a joke.”

This interaction sets the tone for a behind-the-scenes year at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) or FAME HIGH, the subject of a new docu-drama by Oscar nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy. The film follows select freshman and seniors through a year at the intense arts school training in their respective fields of music, theater and dance.

The opening scene shows Brittany, a music major, as a 6-year-old playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on the harp at her home in Wisconsin. Now a senior, we follow her through the struggle to balance academics with her desire to begin her singing career immediately. Zak, a freshman music major, learns a big lesson while dealing with a sometimes overbearing and overprotective father. A freshman theater major from a theatrical family, Ruby, finally finds acceptance and sees that professional gigs aren’t always what you think they’ll be. And finally, Grace, a senior dance major, works to break out of her shy ballerina mold within a strict, traditional Korean family.

The film follows these four and their various interactions with teachers, parents, and professionals through a year of ups and downs, laughter and tears, budding romances, broken hearts, and auditions to their final performances/graduations and then resolves the lessons learned. You grow to root for them and love them for their passion, fears, strengths and naiveté. Oh, and their talent. These are some talented youngins.

Of course the shy ballerina pulled at me the most as she danced around en pointe in her Converse sneaks (who didn’t do that?) and pines over a cute boy that her parents won’t let her date (Romeo and Juliet anyone?). In ballet class, her teacher says, “I want to see your soul. I don’t care if your feet aren’t pointed. I don’t care if you can’t get your leg way up to here. I want to see you dance from inside of your heart.” While I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard that in a ballet class, the challenge and struggle to break out of yourself to give more resonates with any dancer.

There are no dancing in the lunch room or on top of a taxi in the middle of the street scenes here. Just raw footage and honest confessions overlapping a plethora of performances in class and on stage. Kennedy goes for the heart and hits it with a bulls eye.

The movie is available digitally now and will be in select theaters/cities in June. For more information, visit FAME HIGH.

 

Another Daley in Chicago

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre dancers in "Revelations". Photo by Christopher Duggan.

In middle school, Sarah Daley came to Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre (ATRU) to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) perform.  She left inspired, but never anticipating that a few years later, at 25, she would be getting ready to perform on that very stage as part of the acclaimed company.  “It’s so crazy.  It’s very surreal the closer I get to it,” she said.  “Especially dancing at the Auditorium, because that’s where growing up I got to see all these amazing companies.  To be on that stage is going to be great.”  Tomorrow night, Daley will take the stage with her fellow AAADT dancers for opening night of a six performance run.  Dreams – with a lot of hard work – really do come true.

Daley grew up in up in South Elgin and started dancing at the Faubourg School of Ballet in Hanover Park.  When looking for colleges (her Mom said not going to college was not an option), a dance program was paramount.  She ended up at Fordham University which has a partnership with AAADT.  After two years dancing with Ailey II,  she’s now in her first season with the main company.  This is also the first season under new artistic director Robert Battle.   While traditional Ailey pieces like Revelations are still in the rep, Battle includes his choreography but is also bringing in different styles of work to challenge the dancers and the audience.  On the Chicago programs are works from Ailey, Battle, Rennie Harris, Paul Taylor and Ohad Naharin.

I spoke with Daley over the phone earlier this week.  The company arrives in Chicago today.

Did you always want to be in Ailey? Was this your goal?

It was definitely a goal.  I wasn’t sure how realistic it was…it seemed like a long shot, but it was always something that I really wanted to do.  I was going to do everything I could do to make that happen.  

It’s an exciting time with the company going in a new direction.  What’s it been like for you?

Like you said, it’s really exciting.  There’s this air around Ailey everywhere we tour, everybody knows it’s the beginning of a new chapter.  Everyone is excited to see what Mr. Battle is bringing.  He’s a great person to be around. He has a really great energy that’s trickled down into the company and how we work with each other.  It’s good to be a part of it.

Has it been challenging changing the rep to include a Paul Taylor or Ohad Naharin piece?  For instance, Ohad’s work is so particular. Was it hard for your body, since you aren’t used to his technique?

It was difficult in the rehearsal process.  Some things came easier for some people.  “Arden Court” was a bit more natural for me.  It seemed more familiar than “Home”.  I’ve never been a hop hop dancer.  I love that whole genre of dance, but I’d never done it.  “Minus 16″ was just totally new for everybody.  It was research – a total investigation, pare down of everything you know and start from the beginning with a new language.  It was definitely something to get used to, but it was a lot of fun.  It made “Minus 16″ a lot easier to transition into once we’d started learning his way of moving.

Tell me about the Rennie Harris piece, Home.

We had a three-week workshop when he came in to set the piece.  A lot of people weren’t hip hop/house dancers and he wanted it to be authentic and not us just mimicking the moves he would teach us.  We learned the basic house language for the whole time he was there.  It was inspired by people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.  I think it’s more of a celebration of life and music and dance than it is anything else.  When you’re inspired by a topic like that, it can get really dark and heavy, but he wanted it to be about the music and the dance.  It’s a club setting, so we’re almost in a trance at times.  I really enjoy doing it.  It’s so much fun and you get to relax on stage.  The audiences everywhere we’ve gone really love it.  

Can you describe to me what it feels like to do Revelations.  It’s such an iconic work.  What’s it like to actually be doing it?

It’s definitely an experience, especially the first few times you do it.  You’re excited and thinking about the history of the piece and how many people have done it before.  I pretty much do it every night, so there’s always another chance to investigate and get deeper into it.  Sometimes it’s good to take a break and watch it from the audience, so you remember why everyone loves it so much.  You get the full effect of it, so when you go back, you have something to work with.  It’s really an experience to do such an historical work. 

Recently on the Ailey Facebook page, they asked the question: what is your favorite section of Revelations?  What’s yours?

My favorite section to do is “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel”.  It’s short and gets right to the point.  It’s high energy.  I don’t know why – out of all the sections – when I do it, I really feel like I’ve made an impact on the audience when I do it.  I really enjoy doing it. My favorite to watch is “I Wanna Be Ready”.  It has a lot to do with the people I get to watch do it.  Being able to watch Matthew Rushing from off stage do this piece is ridiculous. 

Your bio includes this quote:  “Dance for me is becoming more and more about discovery and imagination.”  Can you explain that?

I started to think about this in Ailey II when we started to tour and perform a lot…to think of ways to keep what I’m doing fresh, not just for me but for the audience. If a dancer is over what they’re doing, the audience totally feels that.  I’ve been trying to go a little deeper with everything I do.  I can focus on something different in “Minus 16″, every time I do it.  That’s been my discovery and revelation in a way.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – April 11 – 15 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy

Tickets are $30-$90. Call 800.982.2787 or visit ticketmaster.com/auditorium.

 

 

 

 

Artist Profile: Joffrey’s Michael Smith

Smith as Drosselmeyer in Joffrey's "Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

“I’m very thankful,” Michael Smith told me over cocktails this summer.  ”The Joffrey chapter of my life has been going on for a while.  I’m lucky because I never really planned on it being this way.”  A Chicago native, he lived for a short time in Gary, Indiana with his teacher/social worker mother before moving back to the city.  That is where he got his first taste of dance at school.  ”My grandma would say that I watched The Nutcracker in her living room and just dance around.  She’d say, ‘ok, you need to stop it before you knock something over!’”   Smith, now in his 11th season with the Joffrey Ballet, is finishing this year’s run of Nutcracker performances (only two matinees left!).  This season he’s dancing multiple parts:  a parent in the Party Scene, a soldier, the Mouse King, in snow scene, two parts in Waltz of the Flowers and Russian nougat and Dr. Drosselmeyer, his favorite part.  “There’s nothing like it.  It’s an acting role, but it really gives you a chance to tell the story with Clara and have a great time with the audience,” says Smith.  “You are the storyteller and you get to make all the magic happen.  It’s hard because if it’s not done well, the story is lost.”

Here’s my Q&A with a man that literally grew up within the Joffrey and who I’m happy to call friend.

So, what’s your story?

(Laughing) I’m a child of the 80′s.  Imagination was really pushed with me and my sister.  When I was going to be a freshman in high school, my Mom thought I should audition for this private school…Chicago Academy for the Arts.  I wanted to just go to school and be a teenager, but she convinced me.  I went to the audition and I got in…then I freaked out.  I had no idea what that really meant.  Most kids know that they want to dance and have been dancing since they were three.  For me, it was more like a hobby.  At school. I was taking three hours of ballet, jazz, modern classes and learning about the art form.  It wasn’t until my junior year that I thought maybe I should do this…maybe I should start taking this seriously.

How did you go from hobby to Joffrey?

The secretary of the school told me the Joffrey was looking for boys to fill in the background in The Nutcracker and I was like, “no, I don’t do ballet”…but she convinced me.  The school sent four of us over and we had to take class.  Mr. Arpino came and watched.  The asked me and a friend (David Gombert) to come back and take another class, then asked if we were interested in doing Nutcracker.  So for a few months, we would go to school in the morning, then head over to Joffrey to take company class at 10:00 am.  We were there all day rehearsing.  We did Nutcracker season and started getting to know a few people in the company that we weren’t scared of.  I was terrified of everyone, but Calvin (Kitten).  He’s the cutest little nugget ever.  I was a soldier.  I still am!  I did the same soldier spot for like 12 years. (laughing) That’s sad.  Now, I help teach it.  

Were you hooked?  Was Joffrey it for you?

My goal since my junior year was I want to go to New York.  I’m going to dance for Ailey.  Period – end of story.  My email address used to be Ailey2000!  Being at Joffrey…we were in this fantasy bubble where dance was our life for a few months, it was weird transitioning back into school life again.  Joffrey was starting a new apprentice program for six dancers and asked if we (Smith and Gombert) were interested.  I’d just started taking it seriously, meaning, ok I’m not going to skip my ballet class and go take another modern class.  I knew that I didn’t want to go to college.  I thought ‘you need something.  You can’t be poor!’  I agreed to it and signed the contract.  Literally a week later I got offered a contract with Hubbard Street 2 and had to turn it down.  I graduated in 200 and started the apprenticeship in the fall.

Over the years, how has the company changed?

Technically, the company has always had its technical people in it, but now it is really emphasized.  The company is a lot younger than it used to be.  There’s a huge age gap.  There’s a small group of us that are about to turn 30 and a few at 25, then the babies…19, 20, 21.  Over the years, the emphasis on rep has changed…the things being brought in and what is being demanded of us.  I kind of miss doing some of the historic works.  There’s nothing better than to be choreographed on, being that vehicle to produce art.  At the same time, there’s something very interesting and a lot of growth can happen by doing older, historic works.  I go to do the horse in ‘Parade’.  Who wants to do that?  The experience was amazing.  I miss doing Arpino stuff a little.  I guess that’s a change as well.  I got to dance while he was still alive in his company.  To have that greatly influenced how I viewed and still view dance and this company.  

Do you have a favorite Mr. A story or memory?

Some of my favorite memories are just random moments.  I miss seeing him sitting in front of the room or seeing him in the back giving you a thumbs up or an ‘ok’ sign.  As apprentices, we would get gifts from him every once in a while.  One of them was this huge, oversized knit scarf that,I assume, someone had made for him.  The first couple of years, I only wore it every once in a while, but now it is a saving grace come wintertime.  I need that big, chunky scarf.  I need Mr. A’s scarf.  Getting to dance for him at the opening of the new building (Joffrey Tower), that was a really special moment.  He’d always say, ‘This company is going to have a home.”  To see him walk into that building was such a special time.  His dream just came true.  That was pretty kick ass.

How have you changed?

I’m a lot calmer with age.  Outside of work, I try to be really chill.  In the studio, in my early 20′s, I tried to be a bad ass and talk back.  You’re still trying to figure out who you are at that age and my nature was to be more aggressive about it.  You have to find where you’re going to put your energy.  Life is too short.  I’m here to dance.  I want to be art.  I want to express myself through art.  I want to exchange art and discuss it with other people.  I’m the most senior boy in the company now and I know what it’s like to be that little punk kid in high school.  Now I have all this experience under my belt.  There is nothing more humbling than to have someone new in the company and to go and help them.  I learn things and help teach it to others.  I’ve been here a long time.  I’m dedicated to it.  It’s home to me.  

What have been some of your favorite pieces to perform?

(Jiri) Kylían’s ‘Return to a Strange Land’, hands down.  I got to do it with Maia (Wilkins) and Willy (Shives).   That was beyond a dream come true on so many levels.  Kylían is one of my all-time favorite choreographers.  It just feels good to do his movement.  Having the chance to dance with two people that are such great partners and to be the third in the trio…that’s a lot to live up to. That was a super highlight.  The Pilobulus piece ‘Untitled’, ‘Suite Saint Sans’.  ’Inner Space’ was three dancers in a 4×4 Plexiglass box.  Loved it!  Everyone wants to go out and be the prince or the lead, but there is something to be gained from doing the more abstract stuff too.  Finding your own story in it or how you can get through this to make it entertaining and find growth within yourself.  You’ve never had to do some self-examination until you’ve been put in a 4×4 box with two other people for seven minutes!  Getting to do one of the stepsisters in ‘Cinderella’ with one of my best friends (Gombert).  We were playing ourselves pretty much only in women’s clothing.  I don’t know if anything that silly will enter my life again.  It was pretty fantastic.  And ‘Nutcracker’ is always something special.  I do love it.  It’s the one time of year where you are performing constantly.  It’s like, should I even take this make-up off? I’m going to be right back.

You also have talents in a vast range of hobbies:  photography, videography, choreography and teaching.  What are your goals?

To take whatever comes and see what happens.  When Jessica Lang came and set ‘Crossed’…that was a great experience.  Really inspiring.  You truly just have to be the vessel and let the art come through you.  She told me to never say no to anything.  Go do it and see what happens.  Try to make all these things happen and see what comes out of it.  It was a great piece of advice.  Not that you can’t say no, but if you can do it…why not?  My goal wold be to keep experiencing everything I can possibly experience.  If you allow yourself to be open to just experience it, you’ll learn a lot.  I’ve auditioned for Hubbard Street like five or six times now.  I love them.  I’d love to dance for Hubbard Street.  

Joffrey Nutcracker Children’s Audition

Anastacia Holden as Clara in Joffrey's "The Nutcracker". Photo by Herbert Migdoll.

This Sunday, September 18th the Joffrey Academy of Dance is holding a children’s audition for the Joffrey‘s 2011 production of The Nutcracker.  If you are between the ages of 9 and 14 (as of this Sunday) and between 4′ and 5′ tall, you could be a part of this wonderful holiday classic.  For the children’s cast, rehearsals will be held throughout the months of October, November and December and you must be available for performances between December 9th and 27th, 2011.

The audition will be held at Joffrey Tower (10 East Randolph).  All participants must bring a completed audition form (available here) and a photo or headshot.  There are three audition times with registration being open for one hour prior to the audition.  Here’s the breakdown:

1st audition time:  10-11:30am, 4′ – 4’5″, ages 9 – 11

2nd audition time:  12- 2:30pm, 4’5″ – 5′, ages 10-14

3rd audition time:  3-4:30pm, 4’5″ – 5′, ages 9-10

All dancer should be prepared to stay until 5:00pm!  For more information:  312.784.4600 or email reception@joffrey.org