Fall dance preview: Revivals and promising premieres afoot

September 9, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Hedy Weiss


Chicago’s fall dance season arrives on the winged heels of a dance-filled summer that began with a pricey cork-popping visit by the Paris Opera Ballet to the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (plus a video simulcast in Millennium Park), and ended with the wholly admission-free sixth annual Chicago Dancing Festival, which drew about 10,000 more to the same outdoor venue.

Meanwhile, both the Joffrey Ballet and Luna Negra Dance Chicago were featured companies at this summer’s 80th anniversary lineup at the fabled Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires. River North Dance Chicago recently returned from a grand tour of the outer reaches of Russia. And Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, celebrating its 35th anniversary this season, was selected by the U.S. State Department to tour North Africa in spring 2013.

Closer to home, several studios in the Fine Arts Building at Michigan and Congress are now being readied as a part of cooperative venture undertaken by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Giordano Dance Chicago (celebrating its 50th anniversary this season), and several of the flourishing ethnic dance companies now attracting growing audiences here. Meanwhile, many smaller Chicago-based companies are dancing up a storm, too, as this city transforms itself into a dance destination.

Here is a starter kit for the high profile fall 2012 season:

JOFFREY BALLET (Oct. 17-28 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress): As part of its “Human Landscapes” program, the company will honor the 80th anniversary of a signature piece in its repertory — Kurt Jooss’ 1932 anti-war ballet, “The Green Table.” This German Expressionist masterwork conjures remarkably timely scenes of futile peace negotiations and the formidable machinery of war. Also on the fall program will be Jiri Kylian’s “Forgotten Land,” a work inspired by an Edvard Munch painting, set to the music of Benjamin Britten, and the revival of James Kudelka’s “Pretty BALLET,” a lyrical yet hard-driving homage to ballet itself, created for the Joffrey in 2010. Call (800) 982-2787, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO (Oct. 18-21 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph): The company will launch its 35th anniversary with “One Thousand Pieces,” a full-evening work commissioned from Alejandro Cerrudo, Hubbard Street’s resident choreographer and a company dancer. Inspired by Marc Chagall’s 1977 “American Windows” — the much-beloved, cobalt-blue stained glass mural at the Art Institute of Chicago — it will be set to the music of Philip Glass and, in the choreographer’s words, will suggest “the magic and mystery” of the work Chagall created in honor of America’s Bicentennial. Call (312) 850-9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com.

LUNA NEGRA DANCE THEATER (Oct. 13 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance): A group of this company’s male dancers had the Dance for Life audience laughing out loud a few weeks ago as they performed a section of “Bate” (Portuguese for “heartbeat”), by Fernando Melo, the Brazilian-bred, European-based choreographer and filmmaker. This exceptional company will dance the full work — a playfully absurdist piece that combines the machismo of samba with the melodrama of Latin soap operas, along with a world premiere by Melo “about expectation and surprise, in which everyday objects appear in unexpected places and are put to surprising uses by the dancers.” Another world premiere, “18 + 1,” is being created by artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, using the music of Perez Prado (“The King of Mambo”).

GIORDANO DANCE CHICAGO (Oct. 26-27 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance): Slated for the kickoff of Giordano’s 50th anniversary season will be a world premiere by Christopher Huggins (whose “Pyrokinesis” invariably sets Giordano audiences on fire), as well as a smaller scale world premiere by Chicago-based Autumn Eckman. Also on the bill will be repertory favorites by Lindsey Leduc and Mia Michaels, and “JOLT,” the Autumn Eckman-Nan Giordano collaboration that captures the beat of contemporary life. Call (312) 334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

RIVER NORTH DANCE CHICAGO (Nov. 16-17 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance): The company will perform new (still untitled) works by such up-and-coming choreographers as the Broadway-bred Adam Barruch, whose influences range from Bob Fosse to hip-hop, and Berlin-born Nejla Yatkin, whose dances “explore the beauty as well as complexity of memory, migration, transformation, identity and multiculturalism through movement.” Also on the bill will be works by Robert Battle, Frank Chaves and Daniel Ezralow. Call (312) 334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

AT THE HARRIS THEATER, 205 E. Randolph: The Trey McIntyre Project (Nov. 30): Hailed for its smart, original dances full of vitality and humor, this internationally popular Boise, Idaho-based troupe, (directed by Kansas-bred dancer-choreographer McIntyre), will perform the Chicago premiere of “Ladies and Gentle Men” (inspired by the pioneering 1970s album and TV special, “Free To Be...You and Me,” about identity and tolerance); “Bad Winter,” to music by The Cinematic Orchestra and Arthur (“The Street Singer”) Tracy; and a new piece that grew out of the troupe’s recent U.S. State Department tour to Asia. Call (312)334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org.

AT THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE OF ROOSEVELT UNIVERSITY, 50 E. Congress: It’s the start of a very international season here as Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez (Oct. 6-7), performs works full of mythological and regional references combining folk and modern roots, extravagant costuming and irresistible music. Next up will be Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet in its hit production, “Moulin Rouge ­– The Ballet” (Nov. 2 - Nov. 4), choreographer Jorden Morris’ lavish story ballet. Set to a French soundtrack, it spins around volatile lovers at the infamous turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret of the title. Call (312) 431-2357 or visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org.

AT THE DANCE CENTER OF COLUMBIA COLLEGE, 1306 South Michigan: Opening its eclectic lineup will be “Voices of Strength: A Program of Contemporary Dance and Theater by Women from Africa” (Sept. 13-15), a “mini-festival” celebrating the stylistic diversity and talent of contemporary dance and theater by women from Africa. The choreographers — from Haiti/Mali, South Africa, Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco — muse on both personal issues and political and social themes. Next, New York-based Japanese choreographer Kota Yamazaki and his Fluid hug-hug company (Sept. 27-29), will present “(glowing)”, a fusion of Japanese and African styles with collaboration from American architect Robert Kocik and Japanese composer Kohji Setoh. Gallim Dance (Oct. 11-13), founded in 2006 by former Batsheva dancer Andrea Miller, will perform her full-evening work, “Blush,” set to music from Chopin to electro punk, and drawing on both ballet and Japanese butoh styles. Finally, from Chicago, The Seldoms (Oct. 25-27), celebrating their 10th anniversary, will collaborate with visual artist Anna Kunz and sound designer Mikhail Fiksel on choreographer Carrie Hanson’s “Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead,” a meditation on the contentious national debate over climate change. Call (312) 369-8300 or visit www.colum.edu/Dance_Center/performances.

And there’s much more, including Dance Chicago (Oct. 20- Nov. 25), John Schmitz’s marathon fall event, returning to the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, for its 18th annual edition, with 20 performances, from new works to dance slams (visit www.www.dancechicago.com for an updated schedule and more), and the endlessly experimental offerings at Links Hall, 3425 N. Sheffield or visit www.linkshall.org.