Podcast Episode 12: Cheryl Mann

On episode 12 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, I chat with dancer-turned-photographer (and one of my favorite people) Cheryl Mann. We hear about her career with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, transition to photography, and the importance of never giving up on your dreams. 

Photo by Selena Moshell

Cheryl Mann began her professional career at the age of 17, dancing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, and received her dance degree from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, PA. She performed with the Civic Light Opera in South Pacific as “Liat” under the direction of Robby Marshall in Pittsburgh. Upon moving to Chicago, she danced with River North Dance Chicago before joining Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a Hubbard Street dancer in May of 1997, where she remained for over a decade, she has been fortunate in her career to travel to and perform in 17 countries, as well as countless cities in the U.S.

She served as the Artistic Associate of Visceral Dance Chicago until she moved to LA to with Ate9 under the directorship of Danielle Agami. LA credits include NBCUniversal’s Little Big Shots featuring Steve Harvey, Associate Choreographer of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Live at the Hollywood Bowl, and Axis Connect led by the Barton Sisters. She also had the pleasure of casting and choreographing Moby’s latest music video Motherless Child.

She is the owner of Cheryl Mann Productions, where she travels the world setting dance works for world-renowned choreographers, as well as photographing companies such as Ate9, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Thodos Dance Chicago, among many more.

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!


Batsheva Returns

Next weekend, March 17-18 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (ATRU), Batsheva Dance Company makes a return visit to the Chicago stage.  The world-renown Israeli company lead by Artistic Director Ohad Naharin impressed audiences last season with their honest, human performances.  Local audiences that missed these shows may still be familiar with some of their work.  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) has incorporated five of Naharin’s pieces in their repertoire since 2000, including the 2011 premiere THREE TO MAX, which has bits of his 2007 work Max woven into its fabric.  Joining Max on the March bill, is a duet for two women set to a synthesized version of the familiar music of Ravel’s Bolero.

The Batsheva dancers landed in California in late February beginning a five-week North American tour that will take them from San Francisco to Montreal, New York City (NY), Tulsa (OK), Chicago, Austin (TX) and Scottsdale (AZ).  After a day off to rest and a couple of days of rehearsing, the dancers were still shaking off the last dregs of jet lag prior to their first show.  “When we went on stage it was 5:00 am in Tel Aviv,” said Rachael Osborne, company dancer and rehearsal director.  “It felt like traveling in a stick of mud, but it became it’s own creature, it’s own texture.”  Osborne, 31, has been with the Batsheva, first in the Ensemble and then the main company, for a decade.  After graduating from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, Osborne was uninspired by the national dance scene considered giving up dancing.  She had a season subscription to a local theater where Batsheva was performing on tour and saw the show and fell in love.  After taking a workshop with Naharin and his late wife Mari Kajiwara, she had a private 15-minute audition and made an impression.  “He later said I caught his eye immediately.”  Naharin invited her to join the Batsheva Ensemble in 2001.

Osborne will be performing Max during the Chicago run.  The work for ten dancers runs an hour with no intermission. “We really enjoy performing Max,” she said. ” The framework is very tight.  It’s a challenge to find freedom in side the framework.” The Gaga Technique Naharin developed helps to keep the now three-year-old work fresh.  Osborne describes the technique as working inside form by exploring different textures, like method actors.  The intention is to connect to your senses and find the pleasure in movement.  As for preparing for a show where you need to keep your physical and emotional stamina on alert for 60 minutes?  She doesn’t think about it.  “You can’t try to plan.  It’s better to be in the moment and be true to sensing what’s happening.”


Batsheva Dance Company, Sat., March 17 at 7:30 pm & Sun., March 18 at 2 pm.  Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. Tickets are $30-$90. Call 800.982.2787.