The men of ’10

December 16, 2010
Time Out Chicago
Zachary Whittenburg


Women are the lifeblood of Chicago’s dance scene. Most of the 248 dance events I attended in 2010 were choreographed, costumed, curated, designed, directed, lit and performed by women. In addition, as key benefactors, board members and executives, it’s women who do much of the financial legwork vital to producing dance here. Women run and staff many of the area’s strongest collegiate and conservatory dance programs. Simply put, an inequity and problem common in dance—women do the dancing, and men everything else—just doesn’t seem to exist in Chicago.

Which is why it bears mentioning that, in 2010, men stepped it up on Chicago’s stages. Here are three examples each of their four types of excellence.

The Creatives
No matter which hat they wore, these dancer-choreographers were consistently inventive and showed a passion for the craft. Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo dialed back the flashy stagecraft and dove into the essential elements of composition, musicality and light. With July’s magical mystery tour, Tacit, and a funny-strange new solo project in the works, Jonathan Meyer continued his climb. Gravity-hater Michel Rodriguez of Hedwig Dances did the impossible more than once and showed nascent chops as a fresh dance maker.

The Chameleons
With their egos checked at the stage door, these men disappeared into every role they danced. Yet again, Paul Christiano gigged all over town, but it was his acrobatic clowning for Dmitri Peskov Dance Theatre that really made memories. Damon Green of the Seldoms wore vogue flamboyance and impenetrable austerity with equal aplomb. And whether he was on Balanchine duty as a Ballet Chicago guest artist or expanding his versatility at Luna Negra Dance Theater, Hamilton Nieh emerged as Chicago’s moving polyglot.

The Powerhouses
These dancers blew the roof off every building in which they performed. Opening night of Billy Elliot the Musical made news with its celeb-studded audience, but even Oprah and Sir Elton couldn’t take the shine off Cesar Corrales’s fearless performance. Christian Denice’s star continued to rise at River North Chicago Dance Company, and José Torres of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater unloaded a ferocious fusillade of flamenco footwork.

The Reinventors
We thought we knew these guys, but each surprised us by dancing like we’d never seen him dance before. The Joffrey Ballet’s Fabrice Calmels went from billboard beefcake to passionate partner in an unforgettable performance of After the Rain. From Chasm to Drifting for Nomads to It’s Not Enough to Close Your Eyes, Charles Cutler outdid himself in the year’s best portfolio. And can we make a suggestion for 2011? See James Johnson of DanceWorks Chicago—the man found a match and lit a fire inside.