SHINE: Dance Doc to premiere on WTTW

Photo by Kai Harding.

This Sunday September 8, go from behind the scenes to on stage with Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC). Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Christopher Kai Olsen of Kai/Harding followed the company as they prepared for the world premiere of a new story ballet earlier this year. Partners in crime TDC artistic director Melissa Thodos and Broadway legend Ann Reinking teamed up once again to create an original work set in historical fact. This time, the two decided to tell the story of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller’s unique relationship through dance.

When A Light in the Dark* premiered in March 2013 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Olsen was there to document the premiere in delicious HD detail. With his keen editing eye, he also filmed the creative process and put together an impressive dance documentary with behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage as well as one-on-one interviews with Reinking, Thodos and TDC lead dancers. The prelude of Shine – Making “A Light in the Dark debuts on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW this Sunday at 1:30 pm with A Light in the Dark showcasing the final production and performance immediately following at 2:00 pm.

I got to preview both films (so I can not feel guilty if I flip back and forth between the Bears game – Go Bears!) and the footage and editing is quite remarkable. I sat in on the interviews and rehearsals, but the way they come together in the film, incorporating Bruce Wolosoff’s original score and perfectly dropped quotes, takes it to another level. Watching what the dancers are creators go through to make the show and then to watch the entire performance makes it more believable and will make for a very entertaining afternoon of television.

“Shine” debuts Sunday, September 8 at 1:30 pm on WTTW followed by “A Light in the Dark” at 2:00 pm CST.?

*You can see A Light in the Dark live in Thodos Dance Chicago’s 2014 Winter Concert February 22, 2014 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and on March 8 and 9 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Visit thodosdancechicago.org for more information.

Meeting at the Edge

Natya & Mordine collide in "Pushed to the Edge". Photo by Ravi Ganapathy.

Last Saturday, East met West choreographically on the stage in Skokie.? Supported in part by the Audience Architects MetLife Stages for Dance Initiative, Indian Bharata Natyam dance company Natya Dance Theatre and modern staple Mordine & Co. Dance Theater shared an evening of dance at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts.? The two stylistically divergent companies have worked together before and the respect for the respective art forms was evident in the performance.? A note from directors Hema Rajagopalan and Shirley Mordine in the front of the program talked about the collaboration.? “The choreography is undertaken with the understanding that culture is written by, in and through the body, and that how we move is in many respects who we are.”

Two works from early collaborations? started the show.? Two Rivers (2007) presented two duets side by side: one gestural, precise and percussive – the other earthy, grounded and present with the two rivers theme representing “the image of two bodies of water moving separately”.? The couples dancing in linear patterns intersected and passed each other like streams and seemed to be using the aesthetically different styles to say the same thing.? Lovely.? Sahridaya, from 2008, was a short, sweet duet to Philip Glass music with one dancer representing each company.? The stark contrast of the dancers, choreography and styles made for a really interesting study in form.? Ushasi Naha’s thin frame and pristine, placed approach against Mary Kate Sickel’s muscular, rounded, organic movement.

The title work – Pushed to the Edge – featured live musicians (barefoot) on stage.? Wings out, the stage deconstructed as well as folding chairs a la Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 and video panels on the back scrim added a contemporary feel to the 15-dancer, all-female, cross-company piece. ? The groups with Natya in beige and Mordine in sage green (beautiful costumes for all pieces by the fabulous Jeff Hancock!) took turns center stage in a passive, progressive dance off joining together at the edge of choreographic similarities, but never fully crossing over to the other style.? It was wonderful to see so many talented dancers together in such a cohesive and unique work.