Take Five

Elements Contemporary Ballet dancers Yu Suzuki & Joseph Caruana. Photo by John Sisson.

Tomorrow night (Saturday, May 12) in a one-night-only performance, Elements Contemporary Ballet (ECB) celebrates turning five.  There was some confusion in the anniversary, since founder/artistic director Mike Gosney actually started the company in 2005, but he explains that the first two pivotal years which produced experimental material were not incorporated.  Once incorporated, the clock really started ticking and now ECB is hitting the five year anniversary.  Congrats!  Gosney and his company are known for solid technique and stylized movement with an unique approach to teaching and choreographing.  By incorporating the natural elements (fire, earth, air, water) to represent major points of dance (expression, physicality, focus, freedom) his  work takes on an organic quality that allows the dancers to take risks and really shine.

For the Five Year Anniversary Spring Engagement at the Atheneum Theatre this weekend, ECB presents five works – three world premieres, a company premiere and an audience favorite.  Gosney revamps a previous work-in-progress set to Mendelssohn titles Songs without words.  “I’ve asked the cast to sing as if they were standing in line or waiting for the bus on a summer’s day,” he said.  His newer work, Pathos, to Mozart’s Requiem follows a journey through purgatory where a man is guided by the characters “Love”, “Hope” and “Mercy”.  ECB dancer Joseph Caruana also has two pieces on the program.  His premiere The River deals with two women who are battling cancer and his older work Angel was pickes to compete in 2011’s Dancing Under the Stars festival.  Rounding out the show is choreographer and former Hubbard Street dancer Brian Enos’ Dark and Lovely, Mmm, originally set on Houston Ballet.  ECB’s core group of eight dancers will be joined with guest artists, which Facebook suggests will include some local favorites including Lizzie MacKenzie and Ricky Ruiz.

Elements Contemporary Ballet at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Saturday, May 12 at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $25-$30.  Call 773.935.6860 or visit web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9584725


Inaside Concert

The ladies of Inaside Chicago Dance. Photo by Eddo Photography.

Coming at the tail end of National Dance Week, Inaside Chicago Dance (ICD)* takes the stage at the Athenaeum Theatre for its annual spring concert this Saturday.  The one-night-only performance features seven works from a number of choreographers including three from Artistic Director Richard Smith.  A little contemporary, some swing, a lot of jazz and tons of personality.  You will be hard pressed to find a more energetic and enthusiastic group of dancers.  The three ideals that go into the Inaside name and mission are integrity, passion and pride.  Smith has passion tenfold – for life, for dance and particularly for jazz.  “Jazz is totally a giver,” he said.  “It deals with real, human topics.  You’re going to leave the theater feeling better than when you came in.”  He admits jazz has gotten a bad rap as of late and is looking to steer the company into the future of jazz.  “I feel like jazz is the bastard stepchild of the dance world.  When people hear jazz, they think jazz music and jazz hands.”  His ambitious goal is to redefine the word and define Inaside as a contemporary jazz dance company by focusing on creating different approaches to traditional movement and progressing the vocabulary by challenging the dancer’s center of gravity with an asymmetrical approach.  Wherever contemporary jazz is going, he wants Inaside to be leading the way.

Saturday, Smith has three of his works on the program.  When No Means Maybe (2010), a full-company piece with a Southern backwoods feel about strong-willed women (“I’m surrounded by them,” he laughs.); an excerpt from his 2011 work More Than A Conqueror, which he will continue to expand; and his newest work, The Sides of Every Story, a trio questioning truth.  “There are three sides to every story,” Smith said.  “The right side, the wrong side and the truth in the middle, but it doesn’t know it’s in the middle.”  Other pieces in the show include a swing dance extravaganza choreographed last season by Harrison McEldowney and Tony Savino, Mink, Jazz, and Swing: Dancing to the music of Miss Peggy Lee; Eddy O’Campo’s The Alarm Will Sound from 2008; a full-company contemporary work by choreographer Sinead Gildea titled capsule; and a piece by work/study intern and ICD performing apprentice Courtney Kozlowski that received the most votes at the company’s recent Choreographic Sponsorship Event.  The fast-paced seven-number program is sure to entertain.  As Smith said, “Just show up.  We’ll do the rest.”

Inaside Chicago Dance, Saturday, April 28th at 8 p.m., Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.  Tickets are $30.  Call 773.935.6860.

*RB previously served on Inaside’s board of directors.