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'

Bob Eisen ON GO ING

The first image of 77-year-old Bob Eisen is striking, and not the way one would expect a dance concert to begin: with a tall, lean, white haired man, looking every bit his age in a red and blue sweat suit and sneakers, standing at the center of Links Hall stage. But in the opening dance of five on the program,  An Ongoing Solo , Eisen begins to move slowly articulating his spine, and any notion of ageism that was creeping in fades away immediately. In fact, he seems to reverse the aging process and grow more youthful as the dance progresses. Pacing the room, nodding, swinging his arms in impossible directions, one moment summersaulting backwards on the floor, the next standing doubled over and fidgety, wringing his hands like a child needing to use the restroom. The piece is detailed and frenetic with enough repetition to bring understanding to Eisen's strange movement language. If we didn't know him before, we know him very well by the end of the piece. Eisen moves with surpri

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

April 16, 2015 Hubbard Street Dance Chicago makes periodic stops in Madison. Last night, in preparation for an upcoming Italian tour, the company performed five eclectic works in an almost-full Overture Hall in the Overture Center. HSDC has become a breeding ground for emerging choreographers and of the five dances, two were created by Hubbard Street-bred dance-makers. The evening opened with Jiri Kylian's Falling Angels , a rhythmic percussive powerhouse dance for eight women. This dance c ould stand alone, yet it relies on innovative lighting patterns which isolate dancers and heighten suspense. Chock-full of unison movement and never letting up, in sharp boxes of white light, the women gesture sharply, shake their hands like tambourines, drop abruptly into squat positions, and slide across the floor on their bellies slowly propelled by one elbow at a time like injured seals crawling to safety. Soloists break the unison pattern from time to time, traveling in sharp shaf

Urban Bush Women

February 18, 2015 As part of their 30 th  anniversary tour, the seven dancers of Urban Bush Women along with pianist, George Caldwell, visited Overture Hall for an evening of three dances in their trademark style, a fusion of African and contemporary dance. Founder, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar contributed two of the works, while former “Bush Woman”, nora chipaumire (who does not capitalize her name) choreographed the other. Zollar's Hep Hep Sweet Sweet opened the show. The piece blended voiceover text about Zollar's memories of her mother moving from Texas to Kansas City, with live piano accompaniment, prerecorded songs from the jazz era, and live singing from the cast. It became immediately evident that the scale of the empty-feeling Overture Hall detracted from the intimacy and intricacy of this dance. While the six dancers charged into the space with bold sharp movements, jumping, turning, undulating spines, flailing strong arms, even their bright flashy sequined costu