Vision, Faith & Desire II at Pritzker Pavilion

Winifred Haun and Lizzie Leopold come together again to present Vision, Faith & Desire II: Dancemakers Inspired by Martha Graham inside on the stage at the Pritzker Pavilon this weekend.

Starting tonight, Haun and Leopold revisit works from the original Vision program that had enormous success in September 2013 (preview here). This time around, they are joined by Randy Duncan, who will present his award-winning solo Love Not Me and Jeff Hancock, who will dance a solo he choreographed titled Quilting Martha.

Vision, Faith & Desire II, Thursday – Sunday, Feb. 6 – 8 at 7:00 pm. at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Tickets are $15, purchase here.

Local dancemakers channel Martha

*Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. ~Martha Graham

Winifred Haun and Lizzie Leopold begin the conversation by saying how different they are, but by then end, they are finishing each other’s sentences. Their friendship began over a quibble about the purpose of Twitter (Leopold won) and has developed over the years to a partnership of two dancemakers exploring their visions. “We’re a good team,” said Leopold. “We work well off of each other. Wini has a lot more experience than I do and…I’m more stubborn than I should be for my lack of years. Wini was the first person to offer me a seat at the table.” That table includes a love and respect (shared by many in the dance world) of Martha Graham and her contributions to the art. Inspired by Graham’s work, the two have put together a remarkable show with a number of artists that have been touched by her in some way or form. Kind of a six-degrees-of-separation, Martha-style.

This weekend, Winifred Haun & Dancers/Leopold Group present Vision, Faith & Desire:Dancemakers Inspired by Martha Graham, a multi-faceted show will include video of Graham’s 1930 solo work Lamentation, a dance film by Graham’s former choreographic assistant Peter Sparling and with the blessing of The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, the world premiere of Leopold’s Lamentation Variation, and new work by Haun, plus other works. “This is a show that I would like to see,” Haun said. “No one else is doing a show like this.”

About a year and a half ago, the two began putting together what they referred to as “The Graham Show”, asking various artists to join and calling in some favors. Haun’s friend Deb Goodman (former Graham student) agreed to teach the iconic Lamentation solo to Haun’s and Leopold’s dancers. When Haun reached out to the Graham Company, she learned that the work was not in the public domain. What could have been a disaster turned into a fantastic opportunity to create their own Lamentation-inspired work (being tackled by Leopold), permission to show the historic footage of Graham performing it and to teach part of the variation in a master class. Score!

With everything coming together – including a stellar list of guest performers like Sparling (who is also giving a guest lecture**), co-artistic director of Kanopy Dance and former Graham Company dancer, Lisa Thurrell (who is also giving a master class – SOLD OUT!) and Ayako Kato – they needed a title. Haun researched Graham reviews and quotes and found a quote (*above) about artistic process that fit perfectly. “It’s about practice,” said Leopold. She worried that people would think they were trying to compare themselves to the iconic choreographer, but eventually found a way to accept the enormity of the challenge on her own terms. “It’s just about saying, ‘We’re working on this’, just like she was working on things,” she said. Haun added, “Martha is a person just like us. Ok, she’s way better, but there’s a quote about when she was making like her 150th dance and thinking ‘I can’t do this. What am I doing?’. That’s all we’re doing. We’ll toss it out there and see what happens.”

Vision, Faith & Desire: Dancemakers Inspired by Martha Graham featuring Winifred Haun & Dancers, Leopold Group, Ayako Kato, Kanopy Dance, and Peter Sparling at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Friday-Saturday, Sept. 27-28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30; visit

**Peter Sparling’s lecture and video premiere at Northwestern University, Marjorie Ward Marshall Dance Center, 10 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 12:00 p.m. (noon). Tickets are free.

Preview: A Correct Likeness

Dancer Amanda Dye of Leopold Group. Photo by Jessie Young.

This weekend the Leopold Group, along with Bread and Roses Productions will present an evening of dance and photography at the Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery. A Correct Likeness, curated by Leopold Group artistic director Lizzie Leopold, explores “the intersection of dance and photography”. More like an art installation than a traditional dance concert, the performance interweaves dancers, photography, video cameras and live musicians (electronic duo Hard R), while the audience moves through the space at their leisure. Video and photos taken this weekend may also be included in the subsequent performance scheduled for December 1st and 2nd.

The three featured photographers – Arn Klein, Matthew Gregory Hollis and Jessie Young – each shot the six dancers over the past year. Once in the space on Saturday, they will lay out all the photographs and, with Leopold, decide where to hang them, intermingling artistic visions as the dancers and audience will later intermingle with the photographic stills. Young, also a dancer, has worked with Leopold before and brings a choreographic eye to her pictures. I spoke with Young over the phone earlier this week.

How did you hook up with Lizzie for this particular project?

She was a participant on a project that I did last year called “Blue Space”. I invited people, some I knew and some I didn’t know, to have their portrait taken in…it was an old bedroom of mine, but the idea was that the walls of the room were all blue. They would be in this space and I would take pictures of them doing whatever they wanted. At the end of the project, I would have these portraits and they would all have the same background color. That started two ideas for me. The first was getting into some kind of idea or motive and repetitively working with that idea, then allow the difference in that situation be more about the people that come into it. For this project, I had the dancers wear the leotards they are wearing for the show. They came over to my house and we went into my alley. They each had their own bag of powdered sugar and I would cover them in powdered sugar and take their photos. The interest in the sugar is more because of the texture. When they have it on, it would have this looks like sand. No one that has scene the photos knows it’s powdered sugar, unless they were there. There were a number of different elements that I wanted to do with them. It’s almost like asking someone to put on a mask. It kind tends to unlock and show different parts of a personality of a person. It’s hard to get into a photo shoot sometimes. The first 15 minutes, you’re breaking the ice. I wasn’t worried about breaking the ice with these girls. I’d worked with a lot of them and I know many of them. I did want to start to see them in a different way and I did want to see themselves in a different way. Beyond that, the reason I liked the powdered sugar is that it’s so light. Any movement or gesture, it casts this kind of wave of powder around them, so you can see the movement. You can see the echo of a movement because of the powder flying off. It was a very beautiful thing to capture with my camera, because I could see a movement, but I could also capture all of the powder around that movement.

How does being both a dancer and a photographer affect the way you see/watch dance or photograph?

I definitely feel like I photograph like a dancer. I think of movement direction and movement qualities before I would think of any variation. I add variation after I’ve taken the photograph. I’m not giving them any kind of context. All the direction during the photo shoot is completely movement. Afterward, when I look at the photograph, I can see relationships and get highlight that with the way I edit, but I’m still connected to it in terms of movement vocabulary. It will be interesting to see these girls that have done movement that I’ve directed, captured on the walls in a space where they’re doing movement that Lizzie’s directed.

Leopold Group with Bread and Roses Production presents A Correct Likeness, Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 pm and Sunday, Oct 28 at 5 pm at the Defibrillator Gallery, 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets ($20) are available at the door or visit

Happy Anniversary to RB!

Last week – September 24th to be exact – Rogue Ballerina turned 3! While there are ups and downs to having a one-person-pony-show dance blog (up: getting to see tons of kick-ass dance, down: burn out, making very little $ – read 0.00), and while I honestly consider scrapping the whole thing about once a week (sometimes daily), I’m still having a helluva good time doing it. I get to meet amazing artists one-on-one (even if it’s via phone) and discuss what they love passionately. I’ve been exposed to genres and styles I never would have come across in my normal “post-dancer/civilian” life and my knowledge base and tastes have evolved exponentially (I am now a full-fledged Forsythe fan!).

Going over some of the posts from the last year, my belief that Chicago is a world-class city for dance has only grown. From the big dogs like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Joffrey Ballet, to small start-ups like Leopold Group and Elements Contemporary Ballet and everything in between, the Windy City has myriad opportunities to see great dance and a ceaseless artistic creativity that is unmatched.

Someone recently told me they appreciated my enthusiasm. While I’m certain some find it annoying, it was greatly appreciated. I see myself more as a cheerleader for all dance in Chicago as opposed to a critic (although I sure do have my opinions).

On the writing front in the past year, I took over the monthly dance column at Windy City Times, covered the sixth annual Chicago Dancing Festival as one of the official bloggers for the second year in a row and had the pleasure of writing Hubbard Street’s Robyn Mineko Williams’ transition notice for Dance Magazine, as well as my usual gigs as a culture writer for Front Desk Chicago and CS Magazine. Other noteworthy events – and there are way too many to list here – include interviewing Twyla Tharp (terrifying!), singing “Happy Birthday” to Ann Reinking and seeing Batsheva Dance Company, Merce Cunningham Dance Company on the final leg of The Legacy Tour and the American Ballet Theatre (live) and the Paris Opera Ballet perform Giselle live (via simulcast).

Goals for the upcoming year include officially meeting fellow dance lover Mayor Rahm Emanuel (instead of just smiling and nodding in passing at events – an interview would be stellar!) and moving forward with a book project (or two) near and dear to my heart and possibly throwing some advertising up on this mug.

Thanks to everyone who reads RB!

Feeling the love,






A Christmas Story – The Musical


If you like the classic 1983 movie, then you will LOVE the musical!  A Christmas Story, The Musical – playing now through December 30th at the Chicago Theatre -is a delightful way to celebrate the holidays.  This adapted stage version has everything from the movie, plus show-stopping music and dance numbers by a stellar cast.  (Former schoolmates of Lizzie Leopold, director of Leopold Group wrote the music and lyrics!)

The hilarious trials of the Parker family are on full display: Ralphie’s uncompromising desire for a BB gun, a kid’s tongue stuck to a flagpole on a dare – I’m sorry, a DOUBLE-DOG-DARE! ,  a trip to see Santa and his bitter elves, a leg lamp, some cussing and subsequent soap-in-mouth punishment…it’s all there.  And yes, there is even a leg lamp kick line number complete with Busby Berkeley-esque pinwheel sequence.  Showstopper!

Tickets are still available through Ticketmaster. All photography by Carol Rosegg.

Ralphie to the rescue!!