Hamburg Ballet to return in 2014!

First of all, Happy National Dance Day! I hope you’ll be tapping, pointing, smacking, twerking, turning, jumping, stomping and shimmying the day away.

Big news! The Harris Theater has announced that Hamburg Ballet will return to Chicago to perform in February 2014. The company wowed audiences last season with the epic, overwhelming, evening-length ballet Nijinsky. This season they bring Director John Neumeier’s Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler for the only American performances. Tickets go on sale – today! Deets below.

Other touring dance highlights in the 2013-2014 season are Savion Glover‘s STePz (Jan 24, ’14) Alonzo King LINES Ballet (Feb 27-28, ’14), Trey McIntyre Project (April 3, ’14) and Ballet Preljocaj (May 2-4, ’14). That is on top of the regular season performances by local troupes /resident companies Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, River North Dance Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, Ballet Chicago and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater.

And, I’m super-duper stoked that Wendy Whelan: Restless Creature is coming (March 20). This project pairs the incomparable New York City Ballet ballerina with four contemporary choreographers including Hubbard Street’s Alejandro Cerrudo! The program has its world premiere this August at Jacob’s Pillow (“someone” couldn’t afford to go see it, so…yay!).

Tickets for the Hamburg Ballet’s “Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler” go on sale today – Saturday, July 27 – at 10 am. Tickets are available at the Harris Theater Box Office (205 E. Randolph); call 312.334.7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

2013 Chicago Dancing Festival Ticket Info

Tickets for the 2013 Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF13) are available next week. The annual FREE dance fest runs Tuesday, Aug. 20 through Saturday, Aug 24 at various venues in downtown Chicago. Ticket release days are staggered. There is a limit of two (2) tickets per order for all shows. Details are below.

Tuesday, July 16 at 12:00 (noon) tickets for The Harris at 10! Anniversary Special performance at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph) on Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 7:30 pm are available. Reserve your tickets (limit of 2) in person or by calling 312.334.7777.

Wednesday, July 17 at 12:00 (noon) tickets for the Dancing in Chicago performance at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress) on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 pm are available. Reserve your tickets (limit of 2) in person at the Auditorium box office, by calling 800.982.2787 or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium. (Not available at Ticketmaster outlets.)

Thursday, July 18 at 12:00 (noon) tickets for the Solitaire – A Game of Dance performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago) on Friday, Aug. 23 at 6 and 8 pm are available. Reserve your tickets (limit of 2) in person at the theater box office or by calling 312.397.4010.

The Celebration of Dance performance on Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 pm at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park does not require a ticket.

All tickets will be held at each theater’s Will Call window. All seating is general admission.

Unclaimed tickets will be released to the stand-by line 15 minutes prior to the performance. Stand-by lines begin one hour prior to the performance. (Rumor has it, last year almost everyone in the stand-by lines got in to see the performances!)

For more information about CDF13, visit www.chicagodancingfestival.com

Rogue Ballerina is part of CDF13′s blogger initiative.

2013 Chicago Dancing Festival

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

It’s almost that time of year again. In late August (20th-24th), the seventh annual Chicago Dancing Festival (CDF) hits Chicago stages for another year of fantastic FREE dance concerts. Once again, for the third year, I will be part of CDF’s blogger initiative covering the performances and providing dancer/choreographer interviews and behind-the-scenes rehearsal sneak peeks. Woot!

This year’s line up of performers is fantastic. Local companies Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet as well as NY-based companies Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Brian Brooks Moving Company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company all return to the fest. CDF newcomers include Chicago’s Ensemble Español and Natya Dance Theatre and Philadelphia’s Philadanco, plus artists Brooklyn Mack of Washington Ballet and Tamako Miyazaki of Columbia Classical Ballet and Dortmund Ballet.

2013 Chicago Dancing Festival will also have two commissions: a new piece by Chi-town tappers Lane Alexander and Bril Barrett and the Chicago premiere of Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31 by Joffrey (this work will also appear on their Winter program in Feb 2014). Live music will accompany the Lubovitch company and Ensemble Español. Tuesday (Aug. 20) opens the festival with a celebration for the Harris Theater‘s 10th anniversary. Wednesday (Aug. 21) is the CDF gala performance and benefit at the Museum of Contemporary Art/MCA Stage. It’s the only event in which you need to purchase a ticket ($250). Thursday (Aug. 22) showcases Dancing in Chicago with an all-local show at the Auditorium Theatre. Friday is a free repeat of the gala performance, Solitaire – A Game of Dance, featuring all solo works. And, Saturday is the much-loved, highly-attended Celebration of Dance at the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

All performances – except the gala – are free. Tickets for indoor events need to be reserved, but the outdoor Pritzker show is open to the public. The ticket release for the performances is staggered and there is a limit of two (2) tickets per order. Stay tuned for a post with the ticket release dates and performance times.

Hubbard Street’s 2013-2014 Season

Hubbard Street dancers Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard in Alejandro Cerrudo's "One Thousand Pieces". Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Kylián, Naharin, Ek, Duato, Forsythe. Five big names – perhaps the biggest – in European-based choreography will be represented by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in the 2013-2014 season. Add in a reprise of resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s full company, Chagall-inspired One Thousand Pieces, plus a world premiere from him next June and it looks to be another amazing season for the 36-year-old troupe. All performance will be held at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph).

I’m super stoked about getting to see One Thousand Pieces again. I was very melancholy leaving the theater last year, after seeing it for the second time. I didn’t want it to be over. Set to music by Philip Glass, Cerrudo creates a vivid, beautifully surreal world in water, glass and blue.

Over the years, Hubbard Street has challenged me to expand and/or change my perception and likes/dislikes of choreography. Some of my favorite works now are from choreographers I had never heard of growing up in Central Illinois. It will be interesting (and fun!) to see which of the five superstar international choreographers will come out on top at the end of next season. (Front runner: Forsythe, by a hair.)

Former Hubbard Street dancer Robyn Mineko Williams, now making quite a name for herself as a choreographer, will also create a new work for the company to premiere in October. Also of note, Terence Marling will succeed Taryn Kaschock Russell as the new director of HS2 – congrats!! – and Lucas Crandall returns to Chicago to fill Marling’s former role as Hubbard Street’s rehearsal director.

Fall Series – October 10-13, 2013: Passomezzo (Ohad Naharin), new work (Robyn Mineko Williams), Casi-Casa (Mats Ek), and the Compass quintet from AZIMUTH (Alonzo King).

Winter Series - December 12-15, 2013: One Thousand Pieces (Alejandro Cerrudo).

Spring Series – March 13-16, 2014: All Kylián! Sarabande, Falling Angels, 27’52″, and Petite Mort.

Summer SeriesGnawa (Nacho Duato), Quintett (William Forsythe), world premiere (Cerrudo).

Hubbard Street + LINES Ballet: Review

Hubbard Street & LINES Ballet dancers in Alonzo King's "Azimuth". Photo by Margo Moritz.

What happens when two very different top contemporary companies combine talents for a much-anticipated joint appearance including a premiere commissioned by the Harris Theater in honor of its 10th anniversary and funded in part by a grant from the Joyce Foundation? You get an amazingly danced, slightly overwhelming, long-ass show. Last night Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and San Fransisco-based Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet took the stage for the Chicago premiere of a new collaborative work by King presented with an older work (Rasa) from King and a work by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. As the culmination of a years-long process that included a three-week residency at the University of Irvine and the world premiere collaboration of Azimuth, it is a historical dance feat, for sure, but this felt like a LINES Ballet show with Hubbard Street as mere guest artists.

King has a unique approach to choreographing, pushing the dancers to always investigate and make choices with their movement. This makes for interesting, ever-changing dancing, but at times proves tiring for the audience and with works pushing 40-minutes a piece, a little editing would go a long way. His philosophical base of construction is a bit too heady for my taste, but what he gets out of the dancers is astounding. His dancers are beautiful creatures with legs, arms and technique for days that move in a way that is uniquely King-created. There is something in the way they move their arms that is breathtaking. Courtney Henry, Keelan Whitmore and Michael Montgomery were stand outs in this super talented group.

As if thrown in as a quirky palette cleanser between King pieces, Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump offered lighter fare with its whimsical, theatrical humor. The ending duet between Jesse Bechard and Ana Lopez (my favorite part) is usually clouded in dark, foggy lighting that adds to the ethereal quality of the slow-motion duet. Last night’s lighting was much brighter (showing dancers behind boxes, the couple exiting upstage, etc.) losing some of its magic.

Obviously, with King choreographing the new work, the LINES dancers were at an advantage, but the fact that Azimuth looked like another all-LINES piece is a testament to the Hubbard Street dancers’ chameleon-like talent to assimilate. Some adapted quicker than others – Jacqueline Burnett, Johnny McMillan and Kellie Epperheimer were all featured in solos.  Epperheimer was also featured in a soaring quintet aided by Hubbard Street men (Jonathan Fredrickson, Garrett Anderson, Bechard and David Schultz) that had her diving, floating, skimming, jumping and climbing around the entire stage. Yet, when all 26 dancers were on stage moving together, it was a lot to take in. The dancers I’ve spoken with all say it was an inspiring process and I’m sure they have all grown from it, while gaining new friends as an added perk.

Hubbard Street + LINES Ballet at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, through Sunday, March 17. Tickets are $25-$99; visit www.hubbardstreet.com or call 312.334.7777.

 

 

Luna Negra’s Made in Spain

Luna Negra's Kirsten Shelton & Filipa Peraltinha. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Split-second shifts and fluid technique ride on thoughtful, thought-provoking choreography set on articulate, authentic artists. Made in Spain, the latest and greatest from Luna Negra Dance Theater (LNDT), performed last Saturday night at the Harris Theater, once again proved the company’s stellar reputation for presenting electric, entertaining and enthralling works. Under the direction of Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, this small group of dancers is thriving and continues to push the boundaries of local contemporary dance. I fear I sound like a broken record, but if you haven’t seen LNDT lately, you MUST go see this group dance!

In the opening piece, Fernando Hernando Magadan’s 2009 Naked Ape, the elastically eloquent Eduardo Zûñiga manipulated the dancers’ actions manually and sometimes verbally through a made up language. “Gibberish, but with a specific idea in the head,” Zuñiga told me. Starched white clothing-like set pieces dotted the stage, one installed with a live mic that when touched by Zuñiga sent the dancers into spasmodic improvisations. Strong performances by all (Zuñiga, Nigel Campbell, Mónica Cervantes, Kirsten Shelton and the continually-impressive Christopher Bordenave) solidify this work as a staple in their rep.

A world premiere by Cervantes, Presente, set to Max Richter’s “recomposed” version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons delightfully muses on what it means to be present, not stuck in the past or focusing on the future. Fast-moving backward sequences and stunning solo-work by Shelton fly by as little black balls fall out of a hanging abstract white hourglass. The dancers move in and around the balls, even making a separate pile, perhaps trying to save or stop time. Cervantes’ prowess as an aggressive, powerful dancer is matched by her choreographic curiosity and detailed dancemaking.

A new work for LNDT by Magadan closed the show with live, on-stage music from the fantastic Turtle Island Quartet. A chandelier of music sheets and Labanotation notes hanging above the string group, with more crumbled under their feet created a beautiful backdrop for the dancing in Royal Road. The ensemble of dancers again show technical brilliance blending with the musicians in a wonderful riff on the relationship of music and dance. Special mention goes to newcomer Filipa Peraltinha, an outstanding to the LNDT family.

Hubbard Street’s Kellie Epperheimer Talks LINES Collab

Hubbard Street's Kellie Epperheimer in Alonzo King's "Azimuth". Photo by Margo Moritz.

In 2011, The Joyce Foundation awarded a grant to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and San Francisco-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet for a multi-year collaboration culminating in a shared program coming to the Harris Theater next week. Hubbard Street will perform resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s 2012 work Little mortal jump and LINES performs King’s 2007 Rasa. The show ends with the Chicago premiere of the two companies combined in King’s Azimuth.

The well-received new work had its world premiere earlier this year in Berkeley, California and will also be presented for one-night-only later this month in Madison, Wisconsin and later this summer in Los Angeles, California. King came to Chicago last year to work with the Hubbard St. dancers and the companies both did a three-week residency last summer at the University of California Irvine. He used all of his LINES dancers and all but two of the Hubbard St. dancers to create a cross-country masterpiece for 28 top-of-their-game dancers.

One of those dancers is Hubbard St.’s teeny phenom Kellie Epperheimer. At 5’1″ “on a good day”, she’s on the shorter end of the spectrum on stage with the LINES dancers who tend to be tall (one of their female leads is 6′!). Epperheimer, 27, was featured in King’s 2000 work Following the Subtle Current Upstream (in the Hubbard St. rep since 2011) and is featured in the new work, particularly in a quintet section that has four Hubbard St. men carrying her around the stage in a lengthy lift sequence as if she’s floating on air. A California native, she recalls being “blown away” seeing Hubbard St. perform Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 as a teen. She was crushed when she didn’t make it into Julliard for college, but moved to New York anyway to train and took every class she could. In 2005, she joined HS2 under the direction of Julie Nakagawa and Andreas Böttcher. “They were extremely formative in my transition,” she said over the phone while on tour. “I don’t think I would be where I am today without their help and guidance.”

After two years in the second company, she joined the main company where she’s now in her sixth season. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

What’s it like working with Alonzo?

He is an incredible mind. He has these ideas and is really interested in having the dancers explore the work of what he gives. There’s a lot of freedom, I think, in his movement. You can push yourself and not get too comfortable. He’s a big fan of it constantly changing and morphing and testing your limits to see what happens. I think he asks a lot from his dancers, in a really excellent way. He’s specific with certain things, but how you interpret that is very free, which allows the dancer to put in their personality.

How are his dancers different from Hubbard St. dancers?

They’re not that different. They are a taller company, for sure. Their bodies can do some amazing things that I can’t. I had hip surgery a couple of years ago, so my legs don’t go up as high as they used to. I think we get low. My initial impulse is to drop my center and get low. It’s been nice to have him test me to be up quite a bit and use that space as well.

Did you notice either company changing the way they moved? Did you adopt each others’ style?

Absolutely. I think it was a good two-way street. We all were very influenced and inspired by each other. They work with him often, so they know his vocabulary better, but they were really interested in how we were approaching it as well. It was a great experience. It was nice to have a community like that.

Tell me about the new work, Azimuth.

He did an excellent job of using all of us. It starts out with a large group section. We’re all dancing on stage, but interpreting our own timing and rhythms. We eventually sync up to do another large group dance. The different bodies and dynamics are interesting. We have a couple of sections with duets where we are integrated amongst the LINES dancers. It’s a nice little journey he takes us on throughout the piece with breakout solos and an ebb and flow to it.

Hubbard Street + LINES Ballet perform at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Thursday-Sunday, March 14-17. Tickets are $25-$99. Call 312.334.7777 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com.

Thodos’ A Light in the Dark premieres

Thodos dancers Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Alissa Tollefson in "A Light in the Dark". Photo by Cheryl Mann.

The Chicago premiere of A Light in the Dark: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan opens this weekend at the Harris Theater. Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC) founder Melissa Thodos teamed up once again with Broadway legend Ann Reinking and dance/acting coach Gary Chryst to co-create this new story ballet about the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

A few weeks ago, I sat in on interviews with Thodos and Reinking by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Chris Olsen of Kai Harding who is filming a documentary, Touch, about the process of making the ballet. You can watch excerpts and clips of the doc here. The thing that struck me most was the passion behind the project from all involved.

After the success of their first collaboration, The White City, Thodos and Reinking knew they had something special. “We knew we weren’t finished, We had more stories to tell,” Thodos said during the Olsen interview. “It was just a matter of finding what story we wanted to tell.” She credits Chryst for suggesting the idea at a White City post-party in 2011. Read my interview with Chryst for Windy City Times here. Reinking said, “It was a precipe of a new age. Once they cracked the code with the alphabet, Helen was brilliant. They became quite famous.” The ballet focuses on a short period of time when Keller first meets Sullivan and they learn how to communicate. Incorporating spoken word and sign language with the dance steps TDC has created a truly special piece that pulls an emotional response. The evening is rounded out with a world premiere from Thodos, a world premiere from KT Nelson of ODC Dance Company and a repertory work from local choreographer Brain Enos.

Thodos Dance Chicago’s Winter Concert at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Saturday, March 2 at 8 pm and Sunday, March 3 at 2 pm. Tickets are $30-$60. Call 312.334.7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org.

 

Hamburg Ballet’s Epic Nijinski (review)

Hamburg Ballet in John Neumeier's "Nijinski".

It was a packed house at the Harris Theater last night for the opening night of the Hamburg Ballet‘s epic ballet Nijinsky. The curtain was already up as the audience began to fill the theater, viewing a stage filled with a grand set depicting a formal ballroom complete with white columned second-level seating, a giant modern chandelier and a live pianist playing. A lone wooden chair sits in the middle of the ballroom waiting as guests arrive talking and laughing aloud. Before a step is danced, it is clear, this is not your typical ballet.

The ballet, choreographed in 2000 by Artistic Director and Midwesterner (he was born in Milwaukee, WI) John Neumeier, begins with Vaslav Nijinski’s final public performance in a hotel in Switzerland in 1919. Extensive program notes reveal that the dancer is already quite mad with schizophrenia by then and the ballet dives into his mind’s “thoughts, memories and hallucinations” during this last solo. Memories of his lover Sergei Diaghilev, his marriage and subsequent betrayal by his wife, plus characters he danced and choreographed all morph into a wild, confusing tale of love, sadness and madness. A Harlequin, a poet, a slave, a rose and a faun. With all of the character’s he’s ever danced or choreographed all dancing on stage at once, it makes you feel…well, crazy.

Act II dives even deeper into his mad mind combining his scandalous ballet Le Sacre du Printemps (which Joffrey Ballet will be performing next season) with the first World War making a haunting and frightening mental journey. The score of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 adds to the dramatic climax. Neumeier creates the perfect blend of manic dancing with subtle sadness. On a touching note, even though Nijinksi’s wife, Romola, had broken his heart by cheating on him, she is the one who is there throughout to care for him. As the ballet ends, we’re transported back into the ballroom where the solo is ending, but now all the characters are represented maniacally laughing with the sets askew and distorted. It’s not a feel-good ballet, but it is definitely something you want/need to see.

The large cast (I counted close to 60 dancers on stage at one point) was extremely talented, but Alexandre Riabko as Nijinski brilliantly stole the show. His charismatic and vulnerable portrayal of the troubled artist that had him dancing most of the 2 1/2 hour ballet, was intriguing, inspiring and heartbreaking. Dazzling tours and jumps with pristine technique melt into a contorted, catatonic pile on the floor and back again. Other stand outs were Helene Bouchet (his wife), Carsten Jung (Diaghilev), Alexandr Trusch (Spectre de la Rose), Thiago Bordin (Golden Slave) and Edvin Ravazov (Father).

The final performance of Hamburg Ballet’s Nijinski is tonight at the Harris Theater. For tickets, call 312.334.7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

Chicago Dance 2012 Highlights

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

Nothing says end-of-the-year-review time quite like the last day of the year…am I right? My proficiency in procrastination aside, now is the time to reflect on the past year and look forward to new, exiting surprises in the next. Here’s my Dancin’ Feats year-end review for Windy City Times that came out last week noting 12 memorable performances/performers of 2012, but I wanted to add a few more things.

Looking back at my notes and programs from the year (yes, they are all in a pile, I mean filing system, in the corner of my bedroom) I am so thankful for all the wonderful dance I get to see. Narrowing it down to 12 “top whatevers” was not an easy task for there were too many people and performances to name. Here are some other performances that are still in my thoughts:

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Although Revelations is still amazing, seeing this company in more contemporary work was refreshing. And the audiences at Ailey performances are a show unto themselves.

Paris Opera Ballet and American Ballet Theatre‘s performances of Giselle were stellar for their star-studded casts on opening night, but ABT’s Sunday matinee with real-life couple Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews stole my heart.

Luna Negra Dance Theater founder Eduardo Vilaro brought Ballet Hispanico to town with former Chicago dancers (Jamal Callender, Jessica  Wyatt and Vanessa Valecillos) back for a rep show at the Dance Center to much acclaim, while current director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano continues to take the company in new and fascinating directions.

The Seldoms, in their tenth year, deconstructed the Harris Theater and traipsed around the world to collaborate with WC Dance in Tapei, while tackling the ongoing arguments around climate change with artistic director Carrie Hanson’s trademark wit and intelligence.

Before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago turned 35 this fall, it said goodbye to retiring, beloved dancer Robyn Mineko Williams. Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton completed his goal of presenting all five master European choreographers in the rep with the acquisition of Mats Ek’s Casi-Casa. Ek’s work took the company to a new level, but I’m still haunted by their dancing in William Forsythe’s Quintett from the summer series.

The Joffrey Ballet performed Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated in their regular season and at the Chicago Dancing Festival. I was proud to be an official CDF blogger for the second year in a row. New to the fest this year was Giordano Dance Chicago, now celebrating 50 years. And Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago hit 40!

River North Dance Chicago dancer Ahmad Simmons deserves a mention for his work in Ashley Roland’s Beat, particularly his performance on the Pritzker Pavillion stage in Millenium Park.

Special thanks to Catherine Tully of 4dancers.org for her continuous and generous encouragement and insight. Thanks lady!

Dance writing-wise, I’m thankful for the opportunity to write for Front Desk Chicago, Windy City Times, 4dancers and Dance Magazine.

I could go on (and on…), but tomorrow is a new year and I look forward to seeing more incredible dancing and dancers in our most awesome city. Happy New Year!