Fall Dance Preview: Big Steps Forward for Chicago Scene

September 18, 2011
Chicago Sun Times
Heidi Weiss


Updated: September 18, 2011 2:33AM

It is a given by now: Chicago is fast becoming a major center of dance, with both homegrown and imported companies on stages large and small. The audience of 10,000 that filled Millennium Park for this summer’s Chicago Dancing Festival finale, and the 3,800 fans who packed the Auditorium Theatre for Dance for Life a week earlier, were certainly solid proof of this.

Additional evidence comes in the form of the planned spring 2012 engagement of the Paris Opera Ballet (at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance), and at the Auditorium Theatre, visits by American Ballet Theatre (which has made a multiyear commitment to Chicago); the return of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, and the annual Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre season.

Every bit as important is the increasingly impressive work of many Chicago-based companies. (Visit www.seechicagodance.com for a continually updated calendar of all their activities.) This proliferation of ensembles and independent dance artists is reminiscent of the earliest explosion of the theater scene here, and it suggests dance might very well follow a similar trajectory.

Following is a glimpse of some of the more intriguing offerings on the fall schedule:

Joffrey Ballet in “Don Quixote,” Oct. 12-23 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress: In his “re-imagined” full-length ballet about that aging, chivalrous nobleman who battled windmills and conjured an elaborate fantasy life, choreographer (and former Bolshoi Ballet star) Yuri Possokhov will give us all the characters from the 19th century Petipa original. But he also will let us experience the story from Don Quixote’s perspective, with help from set and lighting designer Jack Mehler, animated projections by Wendell Harrington and a life-size animated puppet of Don Quixote’s horse, created by Chicago puppeteer Cynthia Von Orthal. The Chicago Sinfonietta will play the Minkus score. Tickets: (312) 386-8905 or visit www.joffrey.org.

Hubbard Street Dance Chi­cago , Oct. 13-16 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph: The big name on Hubbard Street’s fall program is Twyla Tharp (of Broadway, ballet and modern dance fame), who has been commissioned to create a world premiere that will drive her, and Hubbard Street’s astoundingly accomplished dancers, into new territory. The still-untitled work, to sonatas by Scarlatti, will be part of a program that also includes revivals of Nacho Duato’s “Arcangelo” (to music of Scarlatti and Corelli), and Johan Inger’s “Walking Mad,” a zany escapade set to Ravel’s “Bolero.” Tickets: (312) 850-9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com.

River North Dance Chicago , Nov. 4-5 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance: This company is hot, hot, hot at the moment, and the three works on its fall program promise to show off the troupe at its very best. Artistic director Frank Chaves’ recent work, “Simply Miles, Simply Us,” set to music by Miles Davis, is a superbly insightful “inside” evocation of jazz by way of dance. “Al Sur del Sur,” the suite of tangos devised for the company by the masterful Argentinean team of Sabrina and Ruben Veliz, is awash in heat and passion. And the River North debut of Daniel Ezralow’s “SUPER STRAIGHT is coming down,” a dynamite work that feeds on urban angst (previously danced by Hubbard Street), is right up the troupe’s alley. Tickets: (312) 334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

Luna Negra Dance Theater , Oct. 1 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance: This superb Chicago company with Latin roots has only one major performance this fall, but make an effort to catch its high-quality dancers, sophisticated theatricality and fine visual design. Under the umbrella title “Mujeres” (“Women”), the company will dance three works: The world premiere of Spanish choreographer Asun Noales’ “Juana,” a portrait of the 15th-century Spanish queen some called “Juana the Mad,” set to music by contemporary Spanish composer Tomas San Miguel; another world premiere, “Not Everything,” by Luna Negra’s artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, inspired by an image caught by the powerhouse Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, and a revival of “Paloma Querida” (“Beloved Dove”), Michelle Manzanales’ work capturing the many aspects of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Tickets: (312) 334-7777 or visit www.lunanegra.org.

Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago , Oct. 21-22 at Harris Theater of Music and Dance: Two world premieres — “Alegria,” a full company work by Kiesha Lalama, and “Alloy,” a duet by Autumn Eckman, the company’s artistic associate — are among the program’s seven works. Also on the bill will be a restaging of Davis Robertson’s percussion-driven “BeIng One,” and such rep pieces as Jon Lehrer’s “Like 100 Men,” Eckman’s “Yes, And . . . !,” Giordano’s “Sing, Sing Sing” and Del Dominguez’s recent Latin ballroom work, “Sabroso.” Tickets: (312) 334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company , Nov. 18-19 at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance, co-presented with the Dance Center of Columbia College: This will be a historic event — one of the last stops on the company’s Legacy Tour that is designed to celebrate its namesake choreographer’s work (he died in 2009) before a planned disbanding. The Nov. 18 program will feature Cunningham works from the 1950s through early ’80s, including “Antic Meet,” “Squaregame” and “Quartet,” while Program B will feature the 1983 “Roaratorio,” a large, evening-length work to music by John Cage that references Irish writer James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake. Tickets: (312) 334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

Note: Also presented at the Harris Theater will be Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Inaside Chicago Dance (Sept. 24) collaborating on “Constant Motion,” a program of three works by choreographer Wilfredo Rivera and Richard Smith, set to Latin-Spanish, Afro-Latin and jazz scores, and Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre (Oct. 8) in the world premiere of “The Flowering Tree,” a work about love and transformation, choreographed by Hema and Krithika Rajagopalan and performed by a company of 20 dancers specializing in classical Indian dance (with all its elaborate footwork, hand gestures, facial expressions and complex rhythms).

Presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College , 1306 S. Michigan: Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (Sept. 29-Oct. 1), with a program of early works (and some nudity); the Pick Up Performance Co(s) (Oct. 13-15), in the Chicago premiere of “Dancing Henry V,” an hourlong dance-theater work about war, featuring former American Ballet Theatre star Robert La Fosse and using William Walton’s score for the 1945 Laurence Olivier film of Shakespeare’s “Henry V”; Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (Oct. 28-29 at the Harris Theater), in the Chicago premiere of Lin Hwai-min’s newest grand-scale work, “Water Stains on the Wall,” a seductive multimedia evocation of classical Chinese landscape painting. Tickets: (312) 369-8330 or visit www.colum.edu/dancecenter.

Presented by the Auditorium Theatre , 50 E. Congress: Rasta Thomas’ “Bad Boys of Dance” (Nov. 5-6), the fast, furious, super-athletic company that arrives with many commercial credits, and AXIS Dance Company (Nov. 19-20), a much-acclaimed troupe from California consisting of performers with and without disabilities.

Presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art , 220 E. Chicago: Faustin Linyekula’s “more more more . . . future” (Oct. 21-23), a dance-theater piece about the chaos and struggles in the contemporary Congo, featuring three dancers and a Congolese band; Chicago’s Lucky Plush Productions in “The Better Half” (Oct. 27-29 and Nov. 3, 5, 6), a new dance-theater work inspired by the 1944 film classic, “Gaslight,” and Dance Exchange in Liz Lerman’s “The Matter of Origins” (Nov. 10-13), a multimedia work about physics, poetry and faith. Tickets: (312) 397-4095 or visit www.mcachicago.org.

Chicago Dance Crash , Sept. 23, 24, 30 and Oct. 1 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn: This bold young fusion dance troupe performs guest choreographer Paul Christiano’s “Immediate Gratification,” which aims to “appeal to the DirecTV generation while also being ‘good’.” Tickets: Visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

Dance Chicago Festival 2011 , Nov. 2-20 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont: The 17th annual showcase extravaganza of all that is fresh, young, popular and playful. For complete details, visit www.dancechicago.com.