Flyspace: A Dance Consortium

Four women: founders, directors, choreographers, administrators and artists. Four women working together to elevate the visibility and grow audiences for their perspective modern dance companies. Four women: Jan Bartoszek, Margi Cole, Michelle Kranicke and Joanna Rosenthal. These four women are launching FLYSPACE, a strategic partnership and consortium, with two weekends of shared performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World share the closed-in, outdoor stage this weekend followed by The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance next weekend.

FLYSPACE has been flying around the media recently, garnering tons of press for its unique approach to sharing resources. A meeting with Arts Work Fund director Marcia Festen between eight local female company leaders sparked the conversation and inspiration for the consortium. The discussion revolved around how to share resources and knowledge to help each other, which in turn would help each individual company. As mid-career, female, acclaimed artists, why are the economics not aligning with your accomplishments? Why are you still struggling? Obviously the economic downturn had a say, but a shift in funder focus to new and emerging artists added to the problem. “There’s a shift that happened, which kind of left us standing in the wind with our pants down,” said co-chair Cole.

Energized by the conversation, but realistic about the challenges, the group eventually shrank to four partners and FLYSPACE really took off. “To everyone’s credit, there was a real commitment,” said Kranicke, also a co-chair. “I think those that opted out did so because they realized they couldn’t give to the partnership the amount of energy that it was suddenly becoming clear it would need. It’s like taking on another job.” The group quickly discovered that technology would be a key factor in their success. “We recognized that our challenge is that we’re a one-man-show, for the most part,” said Cole. “Our audience walks up and buys a ticket. They don’t buy in advance, so it’s really difficult to get information. If we’re lucky enough to have them fill out a survey, who is going to enter all that data? I am. I’ve got grants to write and dances to make, so maybe technology is the way to solve the challenge.”

Cole and Kranicke make it clear that this is not an artistic collaboration, but a consortium with a shared interest. “The intention of the shared show and the launch is to showcase what we do,” said Cole. “We are dance companies. We are all different. Kranicke adds, “Our interests are strictly business. We operate to try to advance and extend our visibility and enhance our marketing, but we maintain our individual aesthetics.” The ladies of FLYSPACE have set goals with hopes of creating a national model for similar artistic entities and look to expand the FLYSPACE group in the future. “It is not an exclusive organization,” Kranicke said. “We are at a point where we’re still developing certain parts of the partnership, so we aren’t looking for new members at this time, but that won’t always be the case.” Cole said, “We want to have a solid structure before we bring more people in. We put an awful lot of time and energy into it and I’d like to see it sustain itself whether I’m sitting at the table or not.” A running joke between the partners is that between them they have over 100 years of arts administrative experience. With that kind of experience beneath them, other companies will look to them as inspiration and perhaps as future partners.

FLYSPACE Dance Series: Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World, Friday-Saturday, April 5-6 at 7 pm and Sunday, April 7 at 5 pm. The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance, Friday-Saturday, April 12-13 at 7 pm and Sunday, April 14 at 5 pm at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $15, visit

Preview: The Dance COLEctive “free[Bound]”

TDC Artistic Director Margi Cole at age 13.

This weekend The Dance COLEctive (TDC) presents free [Bound] in four performances featuring two premieres and a revival from the company’s 13th season. For the first time, TDC will be performing at Stage 773 in Lakeview. “It’s a nice, intimate setting,” said artistic director Margi Cole. “I think my work is better served in a smaller theater.”

In a fun marketing campaign for the show, TDC posted pictures of the dancers at age 13 on their Facebook page, a nod to Cole’s 2009 work 13, which is being restaged for the performances this week. According to Cole, “13 is: awkward moments, about being embarrassed, trying to own who you are and be ok with it, as well as the pros and cons and uncomfortable situations of being age 13.” Spoken text – the final monologue was written by her niece at age 14 – adds to the texture and character of the work.

A new work by Cole, in orderly fashion, places limitations on the seven dancers to create an uncomfortable, disconnected feel. “I wanted the feeling of being a commuter, of going from point to point without having any intimacy,” Cole said. “We made a ‘contract’…basically a list of things we wouldn’t or couldn’t do. Each dancer’s was different and then they had to come together to negotiate how to do the material.” She admits this proved for a frustrating process at times, but the result was movement charged with a weird energy. “We usually spend a lot of time working on making the movement comfortable, but not this time. I’m ok with that…I’m not sure they are.”

Also on the program is a new solo work created on Cole by choreographer Molly Shanahan. The two previously worked together when Cole danced for Shanahan’s company Mad Shak in the ’90s. Shanahan is currently studying for a PhD in Dance at Temple University in Pennsylvania. The solo, titled Leaving & Wanting, deals with major life changes and the emotional, physical and psychological repercussions they may bring. While the two worked together over the summer, Shanahan’s mother passed away. Add to that the fact that Shanahan was preparing to move and the heatwave they were rehearsing in and, as Cole said, “There was a lot going on.” Aside from these challenges, the two clearly respect each other and enjoyed working together. Cole describes the process as humbling, satisfying and challenging. “The hard part is the transformative, performative element,” she said. Say what? “Molly talks about the audience being a witness. Trying to be transparent, while being in the moment and not performing it…it’s hard.”

The Dance COLEctive presents free [Bound] at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 17-19 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25, $20 for students. Call 773.327.5252 or visit


Eat Pizza, Feel Good

Three of my favorite things come together to raise money for two causes on Wednesday, May 23rd:  pizza, dance and puppies (sorry kitties, I’m allergic, but you sure are cute!).  The Dance COLEctive, The Big Hearts Fund and Pizzeria Serio are coming together for a one night deal that helps the arts and the canine/feline community with Hungry Hearts, Feed the Arts!  From 5 – 10 p.m. on May 23rd, Pizzeria Serio will donate 25% of your bill to both organizations.  It even works on delivery!  If you can’t make it the restaurant at 1705 W. Belmont, you can order in, sit on your couch watching Revenge and enjoy a brick oven, New York style pizza pie while giving support to a great local dance company and helping fund medical care for pets with heart defects.  A great idea, two great causes and…pizza!  Really, the only tough decision is what toppings to put on your pie.

Pizzeria Serio, 1708 W. Belmont Ave. 773.525.0600

Wednesday, May 23rd, 5 – 10 p.m. In house or delivery.

In The Wings

Waiting in the wings for your first entrance in a performance is one of the most exciting and terrifying moments for a dancer – at least in my experience. Nerves, adrenaline, fear and anticipation mix with knowledge, practice, talent and confidence to catapult you out on your cue. My blog is my stage now and I wanted to let you know some of the things that are coming up!

I’ve had a great response to interview requests so far (full disclosure: I’ve pretty much been asking friends or dancers with whom I’ve worked) and I’m still waiting on permission to re-print a couple of previous interviews. Check out the list of awesome local artists that will be featured here soon:

  • Cheryl Mann – photographer, former dancer Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
  • Carrie Hanson – Artistic Director, The Seldoms
  • Calvin Kitten – dancer Joffrey Ballet
  • Margi Cole – Artistic Director, The DanceCOLEctive

And…drum roll please…former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Cynthia Harvey has agreed to do an interview from New York via email!! I know, she really has nothing to do with the Chicago dance scene, but it’s Cynthia Harvey!

Also in the works, an interview with some of the tappers involved with the new Cirque du Soleil show Banana Shpeel opening in November.

I’m off to opening night of Joffrey’s Othello. Merde to all the dancers. I can’t wait to see it.