Li Chiao-Ping Dance

In Li Chiao-Ping Dance's I Ching 20 concert at the Margaret H'Doubler Performance Space, dance takes a back seat to voiceover text and giant video projections. With soft atmospheric music accompanying most of the concert, the ten pieces presented fell a bit short on variety, save for a few of Li's works and two lively stand-alone screendances created by guest artist, Omari 'Motion' Carter. In EASE ON DOWN , Carter guides a percussive video duet down a dirt road. What starts as a playful walk in the country, evolves into a beat banter between Carter and partner, Rhona Ashwood. Kicking up rocks in rhythm and hopping down the road in a handstand--upside down and spring-loaded—the pair's light-hearted footwork builds until with a wry humor, they encounter a dead end. Brief and pure fun. Carter's other fine contribution, IN PURSUIT OF JOY: A SCREENDANCE BBQ , allows the camera's eye to flit and cut from one group or person to another in a lively backyard par

Madison Ballet, LOVE

Solidifying its identity as a midwest repertory ballet company, in its varied and well-balanced concert, Madison Ballet's LOVE  spanned history and style in a concise evening of dances highlighted by its bookends—the opening re-staging of Paquita (first performed in 1846) and a rousing 2021 contemporary closer brought in by guest, Stephanie Martinez. Sandwiched between came three brief and light dances contributed by Madison Ballet Artistic/Executive Director, Ja' Malik, and an earthy duet from Richard Walters. Traditional in every sense of the word, Paquita , opened the program, exhibiting the companies classical bravura abilities. Staged by Andrea Long (after the original Makarova and Petipa choreographies), this dance-for-dance-sake for ten was tightly done with a stiff, presentational beauty matching the customary tutu costumes. After a bit of a shaky start with the old-school vocabulary, the corps grew into the demands of speed and dexterity as the piece evolved. Solo sec

Zephyr Dance S45

In an evening of diverse works inspired by avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham, Zephyr Dance's S45 presented risk, danger and surprise in a celebration of the mature dancer. Opening with Cunningham's Suite for Five and closing with a chance improvisation by the five seasoned choreographers who participated in the evening, the concert took place in Chicago's intimate and intriguing SITE/less space. The program also featured a grouping of new Cunningham-inspired works. A home for the exploration of architecture and dance, SITE/less functioned as a colorful unique play space for both dancers and audience. Levels of bright green, red and blue wood platforms designed and built by architect David Sundry, created a patchwork quilt-like floor that extended into all areas of the oddly shaped room. Like a giant Alice-in-Wonderland staircase, the performance area angles and edges looked to pose challenges beyond a traditional stage space, especially a few spots where the desi

Visceral Dance, Winter Engagement

Visceral Dance Company opened their Winter Engagement program of four dances at the Ann Barzel Theatre with Minor Threat , a work they first presented in 2017. Despite the title and dark corset costumes, there is nothing threatening nor dark about this piece. Mark Golden's choreography is straight up music visualization with ten dancers physicalizing the nuances and details of a Mozart piano concerto score. Hunched over, hands behind their knees, they slowly advance upstage like injured ducks. Leaping into lifts, dancers' chests slam together then, legs swing back arching away from their partner. Patterns repeat in cannon to mesmerizing effect. In a highlight moment, one dancer runs at another full force and catapults herself into the air to be caught facing backwards in a side split. The movement seems impossible, but the effort appears minimal. Meredith Harrill stands out in a brief solo, smiling softly and playfully articulating the music with command and clarity. The only

Joffrey Ballet, Anna Karenina

Everything about this the Joffrey Ballet's remount of the 2019  Anna Karenina  tragedy at the Lyric Opera House is lavish and high-end. Although there are moments of clarity and nuance, the action in Yuri Possikhov's choreography falls short of the clear narrative that the program notes suggest. Even the t op notch production values and impeccable dancing cannot save the weak story-telling .  The dancers have the chops to take on this work, but Possikhov hasn't found the nuance and grit that the story needs. Tackling a tome such as this Tolstoy's epic and translating that to 2.5 hour-long ballet is no-doubt a daunting task. And thank goodness a written condensed scene by scene synopsis in the printed program provides a simple outline of the story. Even so, this does not seem to be the same story being told onstage. Some key moments are apparent, as in the opening scene of a man's sudden death by train as depicted using projections on a large downstage scrim. Likewis

Hamburg Ballet, The Glass Menagerie

Envisioning the plays of Tennessee Williams as ballet is not new to Milwaukee-born choreographer John Neumeier. Celebrating 50 years at the helm of the Hamburg Ballet, Neumeier (who studied English Lit and Theatre at Marquette University) took on A Streetcar Named Desire in 1983. Chicago audiences were given the chance to see Neumeier's reimagining of William's classic, The Glass Menagerie, this past weekend at the Harris Theatre for Music and Dance. Neumeier's production starts in a traditional way. Before any action, a collection of glass and crystal animals sits glistening downstage. Slowly, b alconies, ladders and an apartment literally unfold in a gorgeously lit noir-esque opening stage picture. Tennessee (Edvin Revazov) appears on an upper level looking down on his childhood self— a pre-adolescent Tom Wingfield thus establishing the memory viewpoint of the ballet. This striking moment immediately plunges into the world of young Tom, his artistic explorations (he is a

HEAVY OBJECTS (and light movements)

Chicago dancemaker of promise, Drew Lewis, is one of three artists selected to participate in the Work Around Series presented by Steppenwolf Theatre. The Work Around residency gives each artist (in this case three choreographers) 40 hours of rehearsal space and a place to perform their creations. Part self-portrait and part inspired by the work of artist/activist David Wojnarowicz, Lewis used the allotted studio time to create Heavy Objects (and light movements) , an hour-long dance mosaic, and shared the results in the 1700 Theatre. A shallow and wide space, seeing dance in the 1700 feels like watching a tennis match with ample space for dancers to move side to side and not much depth.  Among the pieces sections, there is no obvious activism, and none of the stark imagery that might be associated with Wojnarowicz's art, save for a brief soundtrack of presumably Wojnarowicz recounting witnessing the deterioration of friends and acquaintances fallen to AIDS. No matter. We don'