Podcast episode 8: Carrie Hanson

Photo by Julie Ballard

My next guest on the Rogue Ballerina podcast is the Artistic Director of The Seldoms, Carrie Hanson.

Carrie Hanson is a choreographer, dance educator, and the Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms. Her work involves research and embodiment of social, political, environmental issues and history, as a mode of pressing performance to speak to larger subjects. She has created connections with artists across Chicago, designing projects with practitioners of visual arts, theater, music/sound design, fashion, and architecture. Hanson pursues a type of performance that stages articulate, rigorous, problem-solving bodies.

In 2015, she was named Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoan of the Year in Dance,” honored for her “brawny, brainy movement.” Time Out Chicago called her work in an outdoor pool, Giant Fix, on of the “best dance moments of the past decade.” Her 2015 work about the figure Lyndon B. Johnson, Power Goes, was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, received a National Performance Network Creation Fund and NEFA National Dance Project Award, and toured to ten U.S. venues, hosting community members as on-stage performers via a workshop entitled “Bodies on the Gears.”

She has received commissions from Texas Performing Arts, the Morton Arboretum, and the National Theater of Mannheim, Germany, and was a resident artist at the National Center for Choreography at Akron. She teaches at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and was an Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence for Fall 2019 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She is certified in Laban Movement Analysis, earned a BFA at Texas Christian University and an MA Laban London. Hanson has received two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, a Ruth Page Award, was a Chicago Dancemaker’s Forum Lab Artists, and one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 To Watch” in 2012. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Hanson is among the more fascinating and surefooted of our contemporary choreographers.”

You can see two virtual excerpts of the work, Floe, on Thursday, April 22, on the Art Institute of Chicago‘s Earth Day webpage. Floe is The Seldom’s dance theater work about our climate crisis: vanishing polar ice, rising sea levels, extreme weather, forced migration, the tension between denial and evidence, and adaptation and resilience. Hanson will also be part of a Virtual Panel: Art and Climate Crisis on April 23 from 12:00 – 1:30 PM. More information and registration here.

Topics discussed:

Podcast episode 6: Ethan Kirschbaum

Photo by Noah Powell of Osprey Visuals.

My guest for episode 6 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast is Ethan Kirschbaum, founder of the Chicago Movement Collective. I thought it would be fun to leave this episode RAW: UNCUT, UNEDITED, UNCENSORED – so there is explicit language. You will hear our entire conversation including flubs, faux commercial breaks, sirens, commentary, and lots of laughs. Enjoy.

Ethan is originally from Oakland, CA, and began his dance career as an apprentice with the Savage Jazz Dance Company while still in high school. He studied at the Ailey School/Fordham University in NYC, graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in dance performance and a BFA degree. During his junior year, he joined Hubbard Street 2, dancing and teaching workshops around the globe while concurrently completing his degree.

He has performed with the Sante Fe Opera and danced internationally in various countries including Canada, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Luxemboug, France, and Russia. In 2011, he moved to Germany to dance with Donlon Dance Company under the direction of Marguerite Donlon. He was on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio since 2012 and was named the scholarship mentor, delegating scholarships to promising pre-professional and early-career artists until its closure in March of 2020. Ethan also performed as a company member of River North Dance Chicago for five seasons.

Ethan is certified by the Ailey School to teach all levels of the Horton Technique and is a freelance artists performing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, choreographing locally, and teaching nationally as a guest to dance studios and university programs alike.

Ethan is proud to be the founder of Chicago Movement Collective and director of the Claire Bataille Legacy Program, continuing to provide a home for talented and passional pre-professional dancers.

Photo by Noah Powell of Osprey Visuals.

Click HERE to donate to the Chicago Movement Collective. If you want to take class (you may qualify for a FREE class!) or audition for the Legacy Program, email chicagomovementcollective@gmail.com.

Other topics discussed:

Podcast Episode 5: Melissa Thodos

On episode 5 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we welcome Melissa Thodos, Artistic Director of Thodos Dance Chicago. We discuss her career, the evolution of her company, and her long friendship with Broadway’s Ann Reinking.

Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking.

At the age of six, Melissa Thodos wanted to really MOVE…so she did, by training at the Evanston School of Ballet, choreographing in high school as part of “Esande” the Evanston Township High School dance club, and doing both at Skidmore College. Following acadamia, she became a featured performer, educator, and choreographer with the Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble, performing works by Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, and Ze’eva Cohen, among others until founding Thodos Dance Chicago in 1992.

Thodos Dance Chicago served as a platform for her own choreography and for other American choreographers from the national dance landscape. Melissa also collaborated with such noted artists as Ann Reinking, Yoko Ono, and accomplished architect Jeanne Gang to bring blended vision and voices to the stage and many communities. For a quarter century, the Company performed in over 25 states and six continents, and beyond the stage, Melissa created a professional environment that not only trained dancers, but also nurtured them as choreographers, and activated them to grow as educators.

The NEW Dances choreography project was part of Thodos Dance Chicago’s fabric and structure since 2000, and this special creative project for our community continues in collaboration with DanceWorks Chicago.

Listen here:

Other topics discussed:

Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble

Dance For Life

New Dances Choreography Project

Broadway Theater Project

Thodos Dance Chicago Vimeo page with interviews and dance excerpts

The Devil in the White City

Carpe Diem String Quartet

Chris Olsen

SHINE: Making A Light in the Dark

Podcast episode 4: Jeraldine Mendoza & Dylan Gutierrez

On episode 4 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we welcome Joffrey Ballet Company Artists Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez. It’s also the Valentine’s episode, and this real-life couple is THE cutest!

Jeraldine Mendoza joined The Joffrey Ballet in 2011. She was born in San Francisco, CA, and trained at City Ballet School of San Francisco since the age of five. At 17, she was invited to graduate in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. She later won 1st place at the YAGP San Francisco Regional Semi-Finals in 2011. In 202, she won the young artists’ scholarship from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund and later graced the cover of Dance Magazine in May 2015, the magazine’s first international issue. You can follow her on Instagram @jeraldm

Dylan Gutierrez joined the Joffrey in 2009. He grew up in Van Nuys, CA, and received his training at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy under the direction of his mother Andrea-Paris Gutierrez. In 2006, he was awarded a full scholarship to train the The Royal Ballet School in London and later was offered a job as an apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet. You can follow him on Instagram @dylanrgutierrez

You can read their full bios and learn more about the roles they’ve danced by visiting joffrey.org. All photos by Cheryl Mann.

Links to topics discussed:

Jeraldine wins the Annenberg Grant

Jeraldine and Dylan dance together in Gerald Arpino’s Sea Shadow

WTTW’s Emmy-Award winning Nutcracker documentary (with a cameo by Kahlua)

Action Lines: Interim Avoidance showings will take place Feb. 1 – April 30 at 150 N. Riverside Plaza, Monday – Friday: 8:00 – 9:30 AM, and 4:30 – 8:00 PM, and Saturdays: 1:00-7:00 PM. All attendees are required to wear a face covering.

It Was All A Dream video

Interview on the making of It Was All A Dream

Black Star Project

Excerpt from Joffrey’s 60th anniversary book.

Restaurants mentioned:

Formento’s

The Bristol

Pacific Standard Time (now closed)

Wasabi

Mirai Sushi

Quartino

Cafe Tola

ABA

SKY

Podcast Episode 3: Ahmad Simmons

Ahmad Simmons. Photo by AMBE J Photography.

My guest for Episode 3 of the podcast is Ahmad Simmons. Ahmad is a dancer, choreographer, educator, and creative producer based in New York City. He was last seen on Broadway as Diesel in Ivo Van Hove’s groundbreaking revival of West Side Story. Previous credits include the Original Broadway Cast of Hadestown, and most recent revival casts of Carousel and Cats. Regional theater includes A Chorus Line at New York City Center and a dozen shows with the Pittsburgh CLO. Ahmad co-starred alongside Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams as Ben Vereen in the Emmy nominated FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon. Other TV appearances include ABC’s remake of Dirty Dancing. Prior to his career on Broadway, Ahmad toured internationally and all across the United States as a dancer with Parsons Dance Company, River North Dance Chicago, and Eisenhower Dance Detroit. He is a graduate of Point Park University.

Listen to our conversation here.

Additional links to topics discussed:

Pittsburgh CLO: CLOse Ups! interview

Beat by Ashley Roland danced at River North Dance Chicago (excerpt)

Ahmad Simmons Takes Center Stage

Broadway Sandwich interview

Fosters Theatrical Artist Residency

Black Broadway Men

Podcast Episode 1: Christopher Wheeldon

I’m so excited to finally share the first episode of the Rogue Ballerina podcast! I chatted with the ever-charming Christopher Wheeldon about two of his “reimagined” ballets, his upcoming project on Broadway, and what has kept him busy and sane during the pandemic.

You can access the first episode on Apple Podcasts (which includes Overcast, Castro, Castbox, Pocketcasts, and Podfriend apps), Spotify, and PodcastAddict. It will be available soon on other platforms. Stay tuned for updates. Or, you can listen to it right here!

Choreographer/Director Christopher Wheeldon. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Welcome to the Rogue Ballerina podcast. My first guest is Christopher Wheeldon. If you haven’t heard of him, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of decades. He studied and danced at The Royal Ballet, he was a soloist and the first resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet, he was on the cover of Dance Magazine, he founded his own company Morpheses, he choreographed the closing ceremony for the Olympics, and he has has created numerous ballets for companies and operas around the world.

His many awards include an O.B.E. designation from Queen Elizabeth II and a Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American In Paris. If I were to list all of his accolades, we would be here all day, so to learn more go to his website at christopherwheeldon.com. Aside from his many professional accomplishments, he is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I know. You can listen to our conversation here.

The Joffrey Ballet’s YouTube page offers many behind-the-scenes videos for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. You can read the program from the 2016 world premiere here, and you can view the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Making of a New American Nutcracker at wttw.com/nutcracker. The Art on the Mart exhibition mentioned in the podcast was also featured in the Chicago Tribune.

HUGE thanks to Christopher Wheeldon for being such a gracious guinea pig and my brother – Michael Crain – for writing my theme music and sound editing. You can learn more about Ross Rayburn’s yoga classes at Peleton and follow him on Instagtram @rossrayburnyoga.

Don’t forget to subscribe and rate the podcast on your favorite platform, and follow me on social @rogueballerina.

Unpacking

Definition of unpack: transitive verb 1a:?to remove the contents of unpack?a suitcase. b:?UNBURDEN,?REVEAL ??unpack?my heart with words? William Shakespeare. Yes, and…both.

The suitcase in the pic below holds the contents of seven years of my life. It has been sitting in my hallway for almost two months, ever since I cleaned out my cubicle at Joffrey. It haunts me. I am afraid of it. I know when I open and unload its contents that means my time at Joffrey is really over.

Dramatic and cliche, but it has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Extreme highs and lows: one of my best friends and mentor dressed up like a glittery princess and read my book for an LGBTQ family charity – I watched it on my way downtown to clean out my desk; I announced I’m launching a podcast – as I received my final paycheck; I had a really great, creative idea – then realized my insurance runs out on Tuesday. No way around the fact that losing your job fucking sucks. I count myself lucky to have worked with some truly amazing and compassionate people. I miss them daily.

As I dive into projects (freelance writing, blogging, launching the podcast, selling my children’s book, printing a coloring book – more to come on these things later!), I’m also navigating a mountain of paperwork (I hate adulting!) and the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My job was quite literally my life for seven years and the grief of losing it is very real. At almost eight weeks out, I find myself bobbing between depression and acceptance. Perhaps unpacking that suitcase will be the closure I need.

A Dreamy Dance Video Collaboration

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the Columbian-Belgian choreographer of international acclaim, brings her talents back to Chicago – virtually, of course. It Was All A Dream is the fifth in a series of video collaborations meant to give artists around the world a way to express themselves during the pandemic when most are confined close to or within their homes. “I wanted to make a diary…what are the artists doing?” said Lopez Ochoa. “These short videos give a stage to the dancers who have been ripped off their stages.”

For the most recent video (released today), Lopez Ochoa teamed up with some of our hometown favorites from The Joffrey Ballet. Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez, along with their pup Kahlua, are featured in the video. Gutierrez also composed the music, and Xavier N??ez (another Joffrey dancer) edited the video. “The movie is about two dancers dreaming that they go outside,” Lopez Ochoa said. “Hopefully when we all look back at 2020, it will be like a distant, bad dream.”

“Even though it’s about the pandemic, it’s not sad,” said Mendoza. “It’s still light and hopeful.” Gutierrez agrees, “It’s meant to uplift and be fun. It’s a three-minute break.” While all are proud of the final product, the process of creating a short work via Zoom was a bit of a challenge, but one everybody was ready to overcome. Lopez Ochoa had some practice having worked with other artists on videos previously. Her first foray into filmmaking was a learning experience. She obtained a mentor – a Dutch cameraman – who was not impressed by her first effort. He told her to broaden her vision and think 360 degrees around the dancers.

Lopez Ochoa met Mendoza and Gutierrez in 2015 while in Chicago creating the world premiere Mammatus for the Joffrey. They suggested bringing N??ez on board and the process began in May. “At the point when she asked us, we hadn’t been doing anything,” Mendoza said. “We were obviously excited to work with Annabelle, but also excited to have a schedule and something to work towards.” Described by the choreographer as “contemporary classical with a pedestrian touch,” it really creates the feel of a day in the life of the couple. And aside from the cameos of Kahlua, the real star of the video is the city of Chicago.

The connecting of choreography, music, and video editing make it a true collaboration. One facet does not overtake the others. Gutierrez had worked with Lopez Ochoa previously on music for her piece Delicious Pesticides and their process was refined for this project. With N??ez coming on to edit, it was more of a journey. “I knew from editing the other films that you always have to translate,” Lopez Ochoa said. “He was very respectful of the choreography, but I told him that once you put it on video, it becomes something else. You have to remake the choreography. This is just material for you to play with.” N??ez accepted the challenge and the team worked together on the final product (which was changing up to the last minute). “It was evolving the whole time,” Gutierrez said. “We weren’t sure if the order should stay the same as how it was choreographed. It really speaks to Xavi’s creativity to take something he’d already finished and completely mix it up. It’s so cool and so hard to deconstruct something and make it better.”

Technical artistry aside, the real upside to the project was dancing…actually dancing. Like most companies, the Joffrey has been “off” since mid-March. There are daily classes offered, but that can get redundant and how many battements can you do holding on to your kitchen counter before you go crazy? (Can someone do this experiment? I’d really like to know.) “It was really nice,” said Mendoza. “The motivating factor was Annabelle watching us. To have someone watch us, direct us, tell us what to do, what intention we should have behind the steps…it keeps you going. You get lost in the moment. It was really reminiscent of going back to work.” Lopez Ochoa adds,”The most interesting part as a choreographer in the studio or on Zoom, is not making steps, but talking about intentions and seeing dancers transform and commit to the character or the situation they are playing. That’s when they can lose themselves. It’s beautiful to watch.” Well, watch for yourself.

The Bitch Is Back

Hiiiiieeeeee! It’s me. Rogue. It’s been a while…almost four years since my last post and since 2013 they have been few and far between. I suddenly find myself with a LOT of time on my hands, so look out. The Bitch Is Back.?(Sorry Mom, but it’s kind of my brand.)

Rogue at Dance For Life. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

For the last seven years, I worked in the Marketing department at The Joffrey Ballet. It was the most challenging, difficult, amazing, and rewarding experience of my professional work life. Some of those memories I hope to reflect on in this space. To have that suddenly gone is personally devastating, but hopefully soon, the grieving process will end and I will be left with only happy memories (read: unlimited viewings of The Nutcracker!).

I’ve spent most of my life in some way dedicated to dance as a dancer, teacher, administrator, writer, critic, marketer, and patron. It’s what I love. So, heads up! If you’re involved in the dance community in Chicago, the U.S. or abroad, I will be reaching out for interviews. I’m almost 52, and I have a lot of shit left to do. Let’s get to it. Go rogue.