Choreography

"Age of Innocence" at the Joffrey's Spring Desire

The Joffrey Ballet's Spring Desire is a richly successful evening; it features three works, "Age of Innocence" by Edwaard Liang, "In the Night" by Jerome Robbins, and the world premiere of "Incantations" by Val Caniparoli. Spring Desire continues this week, from Thursday through Sunday, and ticket information is available at the Joffrey website.

Johnny Nevin wrote about the Joffrey performance here at aotpr.com, and has also taken a much more in-depth look at the making of Edwaard Liang's richly enchanting "Age of Innocence" at 4dancers.org. Here's a video collage of photographs by Herbert Migdoll of scenes from "Age of Innocence".

The Joffrey Ballet Lights It All Up With "Spring Desire"

Joanna Wozniak and Matthew Adamczyk in "incantations".  Photo by Herbert Migdoll
Joanna Wozniak and Matthew Adamczyk in "incantations".  Photo by Herbert Migdoll

The Joffrey Ballet's "Spring Desire" is a beautiful, masterful evening, made out of elegance and precisely focused inspiration; it opened April 25 at Chicago's legendary Auditorium Theatre, and will run through the beginning of May.

"Spring Desire" starts out with Edwaard Liang's "Age of Innocence", an intricately conceived and beautifully performed work of profound insight. I wrote about the making of the piece in an article at 4dancers.org called "The Choreography of Understanding", and in the process I had the chance to see one of the rehearsals for it. In a way it's a revelation to see the movement isolated in the bright light of the Joffrey's expansive rehearsal studio, repeated again and again until it shows the multiple perspectives of individual performance, ensemble precision and choreographic architecture, but it's nothing like seeing the lights come up on it at the Auditorium. There's a depth to the staging, a harmony to its richly woven movement-fabric, a brightness in the dancers who perform in it, that immerses you in it's rich, brooding story.

The second work in "Spring Desire" is a widely respected work by Jerome Robbins entitled "In the Night", set to four Chopin Nocturnes. The Nocturnes are performed live, and beautifully, by Paul James Lewis, as six dancers weave a hopelessly enchanting spell with Robbins' movement design. The program notes say that the "exquisitely romantic pas de deux explore love in all its phases", and although "exquisitly romantic" is exactly what they are, the graceful eloquence of the Jofferey dancers adds a whole new kind of love to the list.

The last work in the show is the world premiere of "Incantations" by Val Caniparoli that I won't even try to describe; you just have to go see it. It starts out with a nonstop energy that could be the finale of almost anything else, then one of the most effective lighting changes you'll ever see brings everything way down, and it finishes, it finishes, maybe I shouldn't say how it finishes. You should just go see it.

Watching the Joffrey work is beyond impressive; the performance is at a level that's stunning in its gracefulness, its energy and its commitment. In three very different works, "Spring Desire" showcases what can happen when a group of richly talented people work really hard together to make something brilliant. This is a band where everybody knows how to play; this is a show to go see.

Spring Desire is at the Auditorium Theater through May 6, tickets are at the Joffrey (10 E. Randolph Street) and Roosevelt Box Offices or from Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787.

Hedwig Dances and "Vanishing Points"

Hedwig Dances "Dance of Forgotten Steps" Photo by Eileen Ryan Photography

Hedwig Dances' current presentation of "Vanishing Points", a full length program of four original choreographic works, is so imaginative and effective that you have a feeling of seeing something brand new, a Company full of innovation and forward-looking ideas. That's exactly what you're seeing, but you're also seeing a Company that is in its twenty-seventh successful year, so "Vanishing Points" is not only bright and surprising, it's also a carefully woven presentation of professionalism in every detail, and there are a lot of amazing details. Two of the four works feature original scores, and the evening includes unusually bold and effective set designs. Perhaps most surprising of all, even though the show is expansive and multi-faceted, it's actually only danced by six performers, but you're not even conscious of that unless you study the program.

Artistic Director Jan Bartoszek's "Dance of Forgotten Steps" opens the program in a sophisticated, successful integration of movement, music, set design and video. "It's Not About You", a new work by Cuban-born, Berlin-based choreographer Judith Sanchez Ruiz, is a focused, well-crafted duet, while Victor Alexander's "Line of Sighs" explores an intriguing interaction between another remarkably imaginative set design and three dancers. "Vanishing Points" closes with a new work by Michel Rodriguez (whose "Moi Aussi" was a finalist in the 2010 A.W.A.R.D. show), an intricate and driving ensemble piece entitled "Por Dentro".

"Vanishing Points" is a surprising experience in many, many ways. The original scores for "Dance of Forgotten Steps" (by Michael Caskey) and for "Line of Sighs" (by Arianna Brame and Petra Valoma) are musically and choreographically successful, the video in "Dance of Forgotten Steps" is so much a part of the movement it goes way beyond what the term "multi-media" usually suggests, and the performances by company members Victor Alexander, Michel Rodriguez, Maray Gutierrez, Edson Cabrera and Jessie Gutierrez, with Guest Artist Katie Graves, are consistently strong in four very different settings. "Vanishing Points" is at Theater 773 this Friday and Saturday (April 20-21) at 8PM and Sunday, April 22 at 3PM.

Robert Poss and Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry

Robert Poss (Photo by Michael Lavine)

Robert Poss is a forward-leaning composer because he's such an innovative guitarist --- he's been called a "guitar genius" by Tape Op Magazine, and an "enormously underrated guitar theorist" by producer Steve Albini, who observed, "the way he structures the song around the drone instead of finding a drone to fit into the song I think is wholly unique." Most people first heard of him after he and Susan Stenger founded Band of Susans, whose music Robert Palmer described in Rolling Stone Magazine as "soaring sonic architecture", and since 1995, he has composed extensively for Choreography and Film, continuing to explore the myriad possibilities of a musical universe that few can navigate the way he does.

Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry is Poss' latest release, newly available as a digital download at sites like Amazon. The album is a fourteen track collection of Poss' newest work, most of it originally composed for choreographers Alexandra Beller, Sally Gross and Gerald Casel. Settings opens with three tracks written for Alexandra Beller's "Other Stories", which her company, Alexandra Beller / Dances, is presenting in seven performances this April at New York's Joyce Soho, with Poss performing live.

"One of the things Alexandra and I have in common, one of the many," Poss says, "is that we operate in the realm between 'high art' culture and 'popular culture'. We're not afraid to be brainy and cerebral, but we're also not afraid to get down and dirty." That's only one of the dimensional spectrums that Poss' music, and Poss' approach to Music, explores. A few times through Settings: Music for Dance, Film, Fashion and Industry will reveal many more.

Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn Choreograph Shakespeare

Graves and McMunn Pericles Act II (Photo by Katie Graves)

Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn Dance will be featured this weekend in Blunt Object Theatre's Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles, a really unusual, multidisciplinary performance of Shakespeare's play. Graves and McMunn choreographed the three part work as a quartet (in which they perform with Josh Anderson and Adam Gauzza), set to an original score by TOOM (Mason Thorne). They join four theater companies (they're the only Dance company), each performing one of the original work's five acts.

Graves and McMunn have choreographed a movement-based presentation of Act II (which is also the title of the work). They abstract Shakespeare's writing into movement by dissecting its structure, utilizing textual images, and navigating both written and implied events from the play. McMunn described their approach to the project: "We take the repetition in Shakespeare's language, and we use that repetition as structure." The first section of the work is a solo by McMunn, as Pericles, stranded on an unknown shore. In the second section, McMunn dances with Anderson and Gauzza, while the final section is a duet (danced by Graves and McMunn).

The original score is by TOOM, who the choreographers worked with over several months. Graves and McMunn describe the process as a collaborative back-and-forth where TOOM would send musical ideas to the choreographers, revise them with them, and then join them at rehearsals to focus the final score.

For more information on the other companies joining Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn in Shakespeare, I Love You: Pericles, there's more at Stephen F. Murray, The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company, Equity Library Theatre Chicago and Blunt Objects Theatre.

Shows are at the Den Theatre March 30, 31 and April 1 at 7PM, and March 31 at 2PM. For more about Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn check out katiegraves.net.

Triptych: 3 Dance Voices

Manos: FRAME 1 Photo by Jacqueline Stewart.  Used by permission.

"Triptych: 3 Dance Voices" is the perfect name for a collaboration between Winifred Haun, Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Jacqueline Stewart; each is a multi-talented artist focused in Choreography, but all three are perhaps most recognized for the originality of their artistic expression. Winifred Haun is the founder of Winifred Haun & Dancers, a Company that has produced over a hundred and twenty-five original works since 1991. As impressive as longevity and originality are as separate qualities, very few Companies have combined them as successfully as Winifred Haun & Dancers. Jessica Miller Tomlinson is noted both for her consistently unique choreographic vision, and for her ability to successfully express her remarkable range of inspiration. Jacqueline Stewart, whose early works were Chicago based and who now lives and works in New York, is both choreographer and visual artist, and her multi-faceted view of the world is always somehow woven into the fabric of her choregraphic work.

"Triptych: 3 Dance Voices", which will be presented at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts on Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 PM, features six works, two by each Choreographer. Haun's works include "Bemused", an aerial duet inspired by "the tortured relationship between a man and his slowly developing idea", and her acclaimed "Bento". Jessica Miller Tomlinson presents two world premieres, "Run 1, Run 2, Run 3" is a duet for Tomlinson and Joshua Manculich, and "Transient Interactions", an abstract group work for five couples. Jacqueline Stewart will also premiere two works, "Coffee and Alcohol", a quintet inspired "by the sensations of dehydration", and "Manos: FRAME 1", "the story of a woman lost in her own images and movements". (The piece was inspired by the photograph, taken by Stewart, pictured with this article.)

This is a really unique opportunity to see six works by three compelling choreographers; tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets. After Friday's performance, there will be a discussion with the choreographers, and Stewart will teach a Master Class from 5:00 to 6:00 P.M. For more information about each of these remarkable choreographers, check out each of their sites at Winifred Haun, Jacqueline Stewart and Jessica Miller Tomlinson.

IDC: Innervation Dance Cooperative

IDC Apollo and Marsyas

Innervations Dance Cooperative is an innovative Chicago company currently presenting work from two projects. The first is part of a new initiative that Elisa Carlson, one of the Company's Artistic Directors, told aotpr about recently; it's called IDC SPEAKS, and it's a new touring and outreach program. IDC SPEAKS is bringing two productions to Chicago area schools: the first is Gods, Monsters, and Heroes, which tells Greek mythology through movement, set to contemporary pop/rock music. The second is Everyman, which tells the medieval morality play by the same name, set entirely to Led Zeppelin.

The best place to catch an IDC performance if you're not lucky enough to be at one of the schools they're touring is at Dance Chicago: The company will be performing four pieces at the month-long festival: Crooked by Mandy Work (Jazz Cabaret, Sunday, November 6 at 3:00pm), Three by Molly Beck (New Moves B, Thursday, November 10 at 8:00pm), Got You by Stephanie Unger (New Moves C, Wednesday, November 16 at 8:00pm), and The Tale of Apollo and Orion by Michael Sherman (Dance Carnival, Thursday, November 17 at 8:00pm).

For more about IDC, by all means check out innervationdance.org and their facebook.

Music and Dance at 4dancers

Music and Dance

4dancers.org is a great, broad-based dance site that brings together a number of different perspectives on the world of Dance. Johnny Nevin has joined the site as a monthly columnist, writing about Music and Dance. His third article just posted there, about Finding Music, and you can check out these links for his first two articles: Choosing Music For Choreography, and Music and Dance: An Introduction. There are a number of regular features at 4dancers well worth keeping an eye on; one of them is the series "10 Questions With ...", where Editor Catherine L. Tully engages different people from the world of Dance; her interview with Johnny Nevin is at 10 Questions with John Nevin.

Ginger Jensen and Renegade Dance Architects

Renegade Dance Architects

Choreography is such an active art form that people don't always hear about how much thought goes into its creation, and yet much of what makes Dance so compelling is that an art form whose expression is so physical is the product of such careful thought. This is of course true of the choreographers and dancers, but there is also a rich and careful creative process behind all of the complexities of beginning, maintaining and inspiring a Dance Company, and in the presentation of each of their concerts. Here are some thoughts from Ginger Jensen, the Artistic Director of Renegade Dance Architects.

About the Concert "What Is Home To You": "I like to ask questions of our audiences, as I feel this makes them more a part of the process.  Last year's concert was "What makes you extraordinairy?"  ... This year's idea of home is another universal idea, that largely differs depending on who you ask.  People have replied that home is a place where they can truly be themselves, where they aren't afraid to make mistakes, where there is comfort, where there is love."

Renegade Dance Architects Presents What is Home To You

Renegade Dance Architects

Renegade Dance Architects is a new Chicago dance company with an innovative emphasis on creating accessible new dances in what they describe as "a healthy environment for dancers and choreographers". The Company is presenting four performances of "What Is Home To You" October 6 and 7 and again October 13 and 14 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater (3036 N. Hoyne Ave, Chicago).

What Is Home to You will feature new works by Molly Beck and Stephanie Unger, Amy Williams, and Artistic Director Ginger Jensen, as well as Jensen's audience favorite "Forgiveness, Not Permission". Peformances are at 7:30PM each night, and tickets are available from brownpapertickets.com

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