2014 Chicago Dancing Festival Ticket Release

Chicago Dancing Festival at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Hey y’all! It’s that time of year again. Tickets for the 8th annual Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF) will be released this week. Tickets are FREE, but must be reserved.

This year boasts a stellar line-up (as usual) featuring Chicago’s own Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet, plus Stars of American Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Adam Barruch, The Juilliard School, Pam Tanowitz Dance, Rennie Harris Puremovement and stars of the Washington Ballet.

Tickets for the Wednesday, August 20th program (7 pm) at the Harris Theater will be released tomorrow, July 8th at noon. You can pick them up in person at 205 E. Randolph or reserve over the phone at 312.334.7777. Limit two (2). If you can’t get in-house seats, this performance will also be simulcast live on the outdoor screen at Pritzker Pavilion. Wine + cheese + dance = done.

Tickets for the two Friday, August 22nd performances – 6 and 8 pm – at the MCA Stage will be released Wednesday, July 9th at noon. You can pick them up in person at 220 E. Chicago or via phone at 312.397.4010. Limit two (2).

For the Saturday, August 23rd performance at Pritzker Pavilion (7:30 pm) , you do not need tickets. More wine + cheese + dance = date night! Do it.

 

CRB Takes On the Seasons

Schaaf in rehearsal with dancer Lizzie MacKenzie.

“I feel like I’ve been painting with all the colors in my palette,” said Wade Schaaf, founder and artistic director of Chicago Repertory Ballet (CRB). “As I’ve been creating more and more, I feel like my movement vocabulary is pretty expansive, so I felt really free with this piece to use everything I know.” Schaaf presents the premiere of his one-act, 30-minute The Four Seasons this weekend alongside CRB favorites including his Peoplescape: Juxtaposition; Manuel Vignoulle’s duet In a Box; Jacqueline Stewart’s cheeky One Way; and a tender, personal trio, Of Alice, by Autumn Eckman. “The audience is really going to get a ride.”

For The Four Seasons, Schaaf found his inspiration in the music, using composer Max Richter‘s modern take on Vivaldi. “The Richter version is a little more contemporary and a little more streamlined, applicable to now,” said Schaaf on a quick break before teaching class at Joffrey Tower (#convenient). “I wanted to hone in on the humanity of the piece. To me, the whole thing is about people, which always intrigues me as a choreographer.” He also cites the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute as an abstract inspiration. “I feel like we’re watching these little vignettes. The music is set up with three sections per season. I treated each of those sections like the miniatures. It didn’t make sense to look at the picture as a whole, but to look at each individual part.”

CRB’s motto may be “Everyone has a story to tell”, but this new The Four Seasons let’s the audience fill in the blanks. “We’re just watching these scenes from life and together they make the four seasons or life, the four seasons of a person’s life, or even the seasons of a relationship,” Schaaf said. “There’s no set plot. I’m not translating a particular feeling, but you get little elements of a story. I wanted it to look like little moments in people’s lives.”

Chicago Repertory Ballet presents THE FOUR SEASONS: and contemporary works Friday-Sunday, May 9 – 11 at The Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $25 ($20 for Saturday matinee); visit: victorygardens.org or call 773.871.3000.

Hubbard Street Does Kylian (x 4)

Jiří Kylián repetiteur Roslyn Anderson, former dancer and rehearsal director at Nederlands Dans Theater, rehearses Petite Mort with Hubbard Street Dancers Andrew Murdock, foreground, and Jason Hortin. Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

This weekend my favorite contemporary company takes on the Czech master choreographer Jiří Kylián. In their first-ever program dedicated to one artist’s work, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents four of Kylián’s works in their Spring Series at the Harris Theater.  Two of the works – 27″52′ and Petite Mort – will be familiar to local audiences and two are Hubbard Street premieres.

Répétiteur Roslyn Anderson, former dancer and rehearsal director at Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT), is no stranger to Chicago. She’s been coming here to set Kylián’s work on Hubbard St. – his work has been in their rep since 1998 – and The Joffrey Ballet for many years. In all, she sets about 16 of his works around the world and has worked with him, in one capacity or another, since the mid 70′s. “I told him I was interested to rehearse,” Anderson said from Hubbard Street’s West Loop studios. “I knew that from a young age that I wanted to rehearse.” Her first staging was Forgotten Land for San Francisco Ballet in the mid 80′s.

Joining Anderson to recreate these contemporary masterpieces are fellow “Kylián authorities” Urtzi Aranburu (staging), Dick Schuttel (sound design and effects), Joost Biegelaar (lighting) and Hubbard Street artistic director Glenn Edgerton, a former director of NDT. Stopping by the studios to catch Edgerton rehearsing the company’s men in Sarabande proved enlightening. As the artistic head of the company, you know he’s the brain behind the rep, but you don’t normally see him in action in the studio. He danced two roles in the work and gave insights to the dancers from a performer’s perspective.

Sarabande, a piece for 6 men, is about “exploring all aspects of masculinity”, said dancer Jesse Bechard. Grunting, shouting and crawling take a beautiful, human edge when set to Bach music. The all-female piece, Falling Angels, a throbbing, tight ensemble piece performed to live music by Third Coast Percussion, immediately follows providing the perfect compliment. The beautiful Petite Mort, set to Mozart, and the abstract, improv-driven 27’52″ round out the program although the works are presented chronologically backwards, a choreographic timeline in retrograde. “His work is so unique,” said Anderson. “The structure of this program, starting with the more recent and going backwards in time is just such a beautiful arc that people are going to see.”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents their Spring Series, an All-Kylián program, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Thursday, March 13 through Sunday, March16. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com/spring.

 

Dancer Spotlight: Hubbard Street’s Emilie Leriche

Hubbard Street dancer Emilie Leriche. Photo on left by Quinn B Wharton. Photo on right by Todd Rosenberg.

“I’m an old soul,” Emilie Leriche said. At 20, she’s the youngest main company dancer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She’s also the first dancer to come up through the Hubbard Street ranks entirely from attending Youth Summer Intensives all the way to joining the main company earlier this year. “I’ve done every step on the ladder.” If you haven’t seen her dance, you should. She’s stunning.

Leriche took her first dance class in Santa Fe, NM “because my babysitter danced”. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, soccer was more her style, but she quickly found a love for the art. “I didn’t want to go to ballet class, ” she said. ” She [Mom] forced me into a leotard and kicked me into dance class and, I don’t know, I just liked it.” Proving a natural, she auditioned and was accepted into the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, leaving home at 14 to attend the school full-time for three years. “I had to go,” said Leriche. “This is what I had to do.”

She attended workshop intensives on her summers off including Hubbard Street’s for younger dancers in Los Angeles. The summer before her senior year, she came to the older/advanced dancer intensive in Chicago and was offered an apprenticeship with the second company at age 17. “It was another situation where I had do.” Leriche finished her high school courses online and danced with the second company, HS2, for two years before being promoted to the main company this year. “It’s been really crazy and whirlwindy,” she said.

As a member of HS2, Leriche had to chance last year to perform with the main company in the premiere of resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s evening-length One Thousand Pieces inspired by Chagall’s America Windows, which the company revisits “by popular demand” this weekend at the Harris Theater. She credits being in the same room with the main company as a learning experience that taught her about professionalism and productivity. “Resetting it has given us the chance to set everything and fix things. It’s given us the chance to beautify it. At this point, we’re excited to get into the theater,” she said. “You hit that point where you say, ‘We’re ready. Let’s do it!’”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr., December 12-15. Performance times vary. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com/winter.

P/Review: River North’s Autumn Passions

River North dancers in Frank Chaves' "Eva". Photo by Cheryl Mann.

This weekend River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) takes the stage of the Harris Theater with their Autumn Passions program. RNDC opened the 2013-2014 season with a shortened gala program on Thursday, Nov. 14 featuring two world premieres, a company premiere and the Harris debut of a 2013 work by Artistic Director Frank Chaves and will perform a full program Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16-17.

Thursday’s gala performance began with Chaves’ Eva, a suite of dances to jazzed up songs sung by Eva Cassidy. Gorgeous vocal mixed with Chaves’ talent for partnering and duets. Three couples swirled to Cassidy’s rendition of Sting’s Fields of Gold (one of my favorite songs) and although timing was off, it offered  a perfect opening for the evening. A hot, hot, hot quintessentially RNDC, Vent-like duet with Jessica Wolfrum and Ahnad Simmons and a lovely side-by-side duet for Lauren Kias (sassy haircut, btw) and Hank Hunter. Eva closed with a feel good, full company section to Wade in the Water – a jazz-meets-Ailey’s Revelations.

It was a gala, so speeches and donation pitches came before the world premiere of Ashley Roland’s Get Out the Ghost. Roland, co-artistic director of BodyVox came to Chicago in July to set the new work. When I popped in to rehearsals, it wasn’t complete, but after seven days was quickly taking shape. “I need to choreograph faster, otherwise my head gets in the way,” she said. Chaves had asked her to create something “ethereal”. The final section of the Americana work dealing with getting rid of personal baggage or “cleaning your own personal house” is ethereal, but as Roland said, you have to get there first. The work began with the movement, although that’s not always how she works. “It comes through me. It’s not manufactured,” said Roland. “It’s definitely a gift.”

Dancers twitch and twist in angsty spurts while pulling shiny gold mylar pieces from their costumes throughout the first two sections. I get the idea, but it was too literal and while the dancers gave it their all, it seemed over-danced. A little less attack, a little more softness would have served the work better. Daring running dives and catches wowed, but overall, the work needed more subtly.

Dancer Drew Fountain is the first dancer other than choreographer Adam Barruch to perform his theatrical solo work The Worst Pies in London set to the song of the same title from the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. Barruch himself performed it here at the Chicago Dancing Festival in 2011. Fountain was hilarious and charming in this quirky duet with a table. It’s a definite crowd-pleaser.

The world premiere of  Dawn by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater‘s Kevin Iega Jeff closed the hour-long show and proved to be a stellar showcase of the dancers’ talents. Set to the driving beat of a version of Carmina Burana, Dawn depicts an intense, physical, ritualistic society with goddess overtones, or as Iega Jeff states in the program notes – “a new Age of Enlightenment”. All gold tones and biceps – and I’m talking about the ladies! – Iega Jeff makes these dancers WORK! It really is non-stop, balls-to-the-walls dancing – just what we’ve come to expect from RNDC. Wolfrum was fierce as a the head of the hierarchy, boldly commanding the stage.

My only regret not going to see the performances this weekend is I will miss the stunning Nejla Yatkin solo Renatus danced by diva Wolfrum and Daniel Ezralow’s SUPER STRAIGHT is coming down, which was originally created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (and one of my fave pieces EVER). RNDC’s first attempt at Ezralow’s work didn’t meet expectations (injuries, etc.), but I’m glad they are bringing it back with a different cast. My guess is they will knock it out of the theater this time around.

River North Dance Chicago’s Autumn Passions at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Saturday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30-$75; call 312.334.7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org. 

 

Sneak Peek: Giordano Dance Chicago

Giordano dancers Maeghan McHale and Sean Rozanski in "Exit 4". Photo by Gorman Cook.

Giordano Dance Chicago (GDC) opens the first Chicago engagement in their 51st season this weekend at the Harris Theater. The program boasts a world premiere by Israeli choreographer Roni Koresh, Artistic Director of Philadelphia’s Koresh Dance Company, a world premiere for GDC II from GDC Assistant Artistic Director Autumn Eckman, plus three full-company works and audience favorites Brock Clawson’s Give and Take, Kiesha Lalama’s Alegría and Liz Imperio’s La Belleza de Cuba and a revival of Eckman’s Commonthread.

RB stopped by rehearsal back in August when Koresh was in town working with the dancers on his new work Exit 4. Set to Israeli music with a tribal feel, Koresh’s work is intense. That is an understatement. “There should be danger in this piece,” he said to the dancers. “I want to see who you are. It’s more valuable to me than your movement.” For a company known for its solid technique and upbeat vibe, he was asking them to go deeper. Much deeper.

A fun group section breaks into strong and fierce men’s and women’s sections respectively. The fourth section is, well…intense. After working on the last section, which they had just finished, the dancers looked physically and emotionally spent. Not one to mince words, Koresh did not let up. In fact, at times he was downright mean. But in a final full run of the entire work, what he got out of the dancers was amazing. Perhaps it was the week-long process, the “audience” of friends, board members and press, or just pure exhaustion, but the dancers brought an honest, raw energy to it that blew me away. (Don’t tell anyone, but I had to fight back tears. It was – again – intense.)

“Your last interaction with the audience will determine your strength. Make the audience uncomfortable,” he said. “I am. Just be. Connect.” If (and it will be hard to do), but if they can recreate that final run and make it read from the vast Harris stage, they will have accomplished something really spectacular. I think they can and I hope they do.

Giordano Dance Chicago in their Fall Engagement at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr., Friday-Saturday, Oct. 25-26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$60; call 312.334.7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org. 

Hubbard Street Does It Again

Hubbard Street dancer Meredith Dincolo in "Fluence". Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

I realize it’s redundant for me to exclaim how spectacular Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is, but…well, they are. Last night’s opening night performance of the Fall Series at the Harris Theater was standard in its phenomenal performers and thoroughly entertaining choreography, but with a few surprises. Works from master choreographers Mats Ek and Ohad Naharin, plus a new work from Princess Grace Award winner (and former Hubbard Street dancer) Robyn Mineko Williams and a world premiere duet by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo showcased the company’s talents from top to bottom.

The first surprise was the emergence of Williams as a thoughtful choreographer that can hold her own with the best of them. Not a shock since we’ve seen her work before, but Fluence was the first time she and her handpicked creative team put it all on stage in a longer, cohesive piece. Quirky chaotic moves turn into a slow duet. A group twitches alongside a lone dancer in his own world.  And then came the bubbles. Yes, bubbles. The delicate spheres came raining down creating a serene, space-like atmosphere. A sole column filled with smoke disintegrated in a puff above dancer Meredith Dincolo, whose solo ended the work with a horizontal disjointed backstroke.

Hubbard Street never lacks for stunning duets in their works, but Surprise #2 is, this time, the couples are female. Emilie Leriche and Alice Klock connect effortlessly in Fluence and Ana Lopez and Jacqueline Burnett in Cerrudo’s Cloudless proved a perfect pairing for his intimate choreography. Cerrudo’s newest work, his 12th for the company, features a dark (obviously) stage, stripped bare with two industrial chandeliers highlighting the dancers. Although we may have seen some of his deft duet designs before, they look completely different (dare I say, even more intimate) set on two women.

The rest of the performance was – no surprises here – stellar dancing of audience favorites Passomezzo (Naharin) and Casi-Casa (Ek). Naharin’s romantic, human duet was at times rough, sweet, funny and endearing with some really difficult, knee-killing dancing by Kellie Epperheimer and Johnny McMillan. The company danced Ek’s work for the first time last season and they have really settled into the piece. Comfortable and at ease, they breezed through the extreme choreography with style and aplomb. Here, the men shined. Quinn B (“Legs”) Wharton opened with a smart, sassy take on the “TV Man” solo and the trio of McMillan, David Schultz and Jesse Bechard gets better and more poignant with each viewing.

Shout out to costume designer Hogan McLaughlin for his futuristic take on leotards in Fluence and a hearty BRAVO to lighting and tech director Matt Miller.

Hubbard Street’s Fall Series runs through Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Harris Theater. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com.

 

Hubbard Street Premieres Fluence (preview)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Robyn Mineko Williams' "Fluence". Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

This Thursday, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents its Fall Series at the Harris Theater. Opening this Thursday and running through Sunday, the program features two returning works from master choreographers Mats Ek and Ohad Naharin, plus the world premiere of Alejandro Cerrudo’s Cloudless and the Chicago premiere of Robyn Mineko Williams’ new work Fluence, which premiered last month in Minneapolis, MN.

Williams received the news in August that she is the recent recipient of the 2013-2014 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Award. “It’s bonkers,” she said. “I’m still shocked about it, but I’m really excited.” The grant money that goes with the award went to fund this new work for nine dancers. As a former Hubbard Street dancer, she knows the dancers well and set to work putting together a creative team. Robert (Robbie) F. Haynes composed an original score, Burke Brown provided his expertise in lighting and fashion designer Hogan McLaughlin created intricate costumes. “My creative team has been so awesome,” said Williams. “They’re all so open to anything I have to say and they’re geniuses on their own. They’re cool, laid back people. I think that’s why I stayed so calm throughout the process.”

According to Williams, the definition of fluence “is a stream of particles crossing a unit area, usually express as the number of particles per second”. Another definition references magical/mystical influence. “I thought both were apropos for the work,” she said. She was inspired by the ideas of individualism and solitude and the creative team took off from that. “We’re still learning how we collaborate,” said Williams. “We’re kind of going from our guts. It’s instinctual.”

The fact that her work is being presented along with choreographers like Ek and Naharin, not to mention her colleague Cerrudo, could make a girl nervous, but she is only grateful. “It’s cool. I feel really lucky to have this opportunity. If I’m doing anything, I’m just trying to be myself.”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Fall Series at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Thursday-Sunday, Oct 10-13. Performance times vary. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com/fall.

 

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Comes Back to Chitown

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers in Alejandro Cerrudo's "Last". Photo by Sharen Bradford.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) has been busy. Earlier this year, their touring schedule took them to Moscow, Saratoga Springs, CA. and Wolf Trap. The current season, which began on Sept. 1, has already taken them to Laguna Beach, Portland, Oregon and San Diego. The tour finishes this Saturday, Oct. 5 in Chicago at the Harris Theater. Former Joffrey Ballet dancer Tom Mossbrucker brings his company back to town with a mixed repertory program featuring three contemporary choreographers.

“We’re really excited about the program we’re doing in Chicago because it’s all commissioned work,” said Mossbrucker. “It’s become one of our hallmarks, developing relationships with the choreographers instead of just seeing them one time and then never seeing them again. You develop a trust and it shows in the work. This program really highlights that.” Over Glow, “an upbeat piece that shows off the classicism of the dancers”, is the fourth work by Jorma Elo for the company. Set to Mendelssohn and Beethoven, it features an 11-minute adagio in the middle section with intimate moments that contradict Elo’s usual quick, jerky style. “It’s one of my favorite pieces in the repertory,” Mossbrucker said. “I just love it.”

The company is also working with Spanish choreographer Aayetano Soto for the fourth time. Beautiful Mistake, inspired by “the mistakes we make in our lives that sometimes turn out to be good things”, is his second commission for ASFB. His work Uneven appeared in Chicago at the Chicago Dancing Festival in 2011. “It really shows off that hard-edged side of the dancers,” Mossbrucker said. “His super-physical partnering and the articulation of that makes the dancers look like technical athletes, but with the classical lines still there.” This new work premiered in Aspen earlier this year.

The third work on the program (and the one I’m most excited about) is by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Mossbrucker, who has seen and presented Cerrudo’s work many times over the last few years, is a big fan. Having danced with Hubbard Street director Glenn Edgerton at Joffrey, he asked his longtime friend if he could “borrow” his choreographer. “He [Cerrudo] has such an intuitive way of knowing what would strike an audience and how many times to introduce it, how to refer to it and to develop off of it,” said Mossbrucker. “There is always something…an image you remember when you leave the theater.” Having such a packed touring schedule meant that they would be traveling with bare bones, so there won’t be any elaborate sets or dramatic theatrics in this work this time – “just pure Alejandro”. This is also the first time Chicago has seen Cerrudo’s work presented on a company outside of Hubbard Street. “I was in the studio watching him create,” Mossbrucker said, “and there was one of those moments where I said, ‘There it is. That’s what I’ve been waiting for’.”

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Saturday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25-$75; call 312.334.7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org.

 

Where Are They Now? Luna Negra’s Christopher Bordenave

Dancer Christopher Bordenave.

Having worked with Nacho Duato, Alonzo King, Desmond Richardson, and of course, Luna Negra Dance Theater‘s Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, it’s not surprising that after Luna closed its doors, Christopher Bordenave landed on his feet.

Were are you now?

I am currently in San Francisco, CA through the fall, but the majority of my things are in Los Angeles.

What are you doing now?

Since Luna’s closure I moved back home to Los Angeles. I am currently dancing with Zhukov Dance Theatre, a project based dance company in San Francisco, and I am also working for BODY TRAFFIC which is a contemporary based repertory company in Los Angeles. Both company’s schedules are pretty flexible, so I have been blessed enough to juggle back and forth between them.

What do you miss about Luna?

I miss everything about Luna…the people, the direction, the repertory. There was no other dance company in the states doing the type of work we were doing. Gustavo allowed every choreographer that came to work with us during my time at Luna, the utmost freedom to create whatever they wanted. Usually companies are looking for something specific to be able to market and sell to presenters, but we were free from those restrictions, which in turn allowed truly remarkable work to emerge.

What was special about Luna? What did it mean to be a “Lunatic”?

Dancing Gustavo’s work on stage was the first time I truly felt like I was a part of FINE art. Being a “Lunatic” was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced while training or working professionally. I have never felt more love and comfort from the people that I shared the space with like I did there. Gustavo shifted my whole paradigm on dance and turned me into an artist. I can be very cerebral at times and get lost in my thoughts throughout the work day which is hard for most directors/choreographers to work with, but Gustavo understood me. He was patient with me and allowed me to be a part of his genius vision, along with all of the other brilliant “Lunatics,” which I am forever grateful for.