Urban Pointe Shoes: Bringing Beauty Back

Briana Robinson and Kevin Shackelford didn't exactly know at first. As they loaded Shackelford's video equipment into a car they borrowed from one of Briana's friends, they didn't know that what they would film that bright summer day would turn out the way it did. The project they were about to film became a burst of bright discovery called Urban Pointe Shoes, but as they set out to shoot that day, they didn't yet realize that they were going to make a such a beautiful document of defiant hope.

They didn't really even know each other. Shackelford is an independent filmmaker who works with music and fashion artists. Robinson is a choreographer and dancer with Thodos Dance Chicago, the widely respected dance company she joined after completing her studies at Juilliard.

"I first heard about the project from a woman by the name of Eileen Mallory," Robinson recalls. "At the time, she was working at Ballet Chicago, where I trained when I first started dancing. My close friend Joshua Ishmon, who was also on staff at Ballet Chicago, heard about the project from Eileen and recommended me for the opportunity."

The project was a short film that Shackelford was making for his production company K-Shack Video. "Kevin was looking for an African American ballerina who was comfortable with improvisation, and not afraid to dance in unlikely environments."

Mordine & Company, Clinard Dance and Deeply Rooted Dance All at Once

Mordine & Company (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

When Shirley Mordine arrived in Chicago in 1969, nobody really realized how much dance she was bringing with her, if only because she hadn't made most of it yet. She hadn't founded the Dance Center of Columbia College, which she went on to direct for thirty years as it became the nationally respected institution it is today. She hadn't started Mordine & Company Dance Theater, which has been inventing successful new kinds of dance presentation for forty-three very active seasons, and she hadn't really begun the incredible series of ingenious collaborations that are a hallmark of her creativity.

On Thursday, February 28, Mordine & Company begin a series of performances at Chicago's Stage 773 (through Sunday, March 3) in a program entitled All At Once. The program is characteristically imaginative; it includes two works by Mordine, both of which feature original compositions by composer Shawn Decker, as well as guest performances from two other talented companies. On Thursday and Friday, Clinard Dance Theatre will perform, while the Saturday and Sunday shows feature performances by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater.

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