Dance Creation

The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert: Ron De Jesús and Shift

Shift at the The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert

Accomplishment and serenity are not always traveling companions. The continuous effort that an unending series of challenges and successes demands often occupies most of the space in life that might have been reflection or relaxation. Ron de Jesús knows something about that, because nobody accomplishes what he has without working hard and working a lot. Every line in a long list of credits and awards --- dancing from Hubbard Street to Broadway, work in film, work in theater, choreographing for many of the world's great dance companies --- every credit and every award is its own list of meetings, cab rides, rehearsals, and airports, of meals missed and sleep forgone. On the other hand, you can't create original choreography that is as thoughtful (and thought-provoking) as his unless you can somehow find a way to stop. To look. Or as De Jesús says, "to respect all that this grand, delicate world has to offer".

The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert: Wade Schaaf and Dancer, Net

Dancer, Net at the Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert

Wade Schaaf's "Dancer, Net" is a truly daring work; conceived as a series of studies of the same subject in different lights, it was inspired by Monet's Haystack paintings, but Schaaf's interpretation of "same subject" and "different lights" is so blisteringly imaginative that the reference to the French impressionist paintings becomes quite an understatement. The original work featured the same dancer (Jacqueline Stewart) in more or less the same amazing costume (the Net) by Nathan Rohrer, performing in three separate solos, and at its World Premiere in July, 2010, the three solos were placed at different stages throughout the program. The wildly expansive variety of music, movement and staging that Schaaf conceived stretched the fabric of his original concept in ways that seemed essential to the success of the work.

The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert: Melissa Thodos and Getting There

"Getting There" at the Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert

In 1988, Melissa Thodos presented her first major professional work, a solo she also performed, at the Internationale Dance de Paris competition. "Reaching There" was innovative and elegant; it featured a brilliant original electronic score and a large (almost as big as her) wood cylinder, the Wheel, that she danced through, around, and with in what turned out to be an award-winning work. "Reaching There" also defined the beginning of an important career; it brought the talented dancer recognition as a choreographer, and began a trajectory that led not long afterwards to the founding of the Company that is now Thodos Dance Chicago. In the twenty years that followed, Thodos' career expanded; while it always included successful and award-winning choreographic work, it began to be even more defined by the development of a very different concept in what a Dance Company can be. Her idea of emphasizing equally performance, choreography and education led to a Company of artists who now include several award-winning choreographers in their own right.

The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert: Francisco Avina and Stephanie Martinez Bennitt and Quieting the Clock

Quieting The Clock from The Thodos Dance Winter Concert

Before Francisco Avina and Stephanie Martinez Bennitt were asked by Thodos Dance Chicago to be the guest choreographers for the Tenth Anniversary of the New Dances series, they had already begun the discussion and reflection that would lead to "Quieting the Clock". When the work premiered it was an audience favorite, perhaps because of its embracing visual elegance, and a critical favorite, perhaps because of the integrity of its ambitious architecture. "Quieting the Clock" is inspired by a simple and profound question, or rather, by an endless series of interrelated questions. How does the passage of time effect who you are? As time progresses, what is the relationship between who you are now and who you once were --- and may never be again. As the passage of time changes what you are capable of, where do you find balance, and hopefully continuity, in a redefinition that is gradually forced into your life? Avina and Martinez Bennitt expand their exploration to embrace all of the ways in which identity is defined by the logistics of time, by the pressures of schedule and obligation, and more gradually, of age.

The Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert: Ann Reinking, Melissa Thodos and The White City

Photo by Cheryl Mann (Courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

Artistic collaboration is an art of its own, and a successful collaboration can achieve a level of artistic expression that is very different from what either of the artists individually might have found without the other. It seems like this would be particularly true of large, daunting artistic projects, but with collaboration, as with any art, the larger the undertaking, the more complicated the challenges become. In Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos' "The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893", the two choreographers present an intricate, large-scale work that embraces a daunting series of artistic challenges, and in their collaboration manage somehow to bring all of them together into a single, convincing presentation.

It might seem surprising that a renowned Jazz and Broadway choreographer and an innovative and respected Contemporary choreographer would together make a ballet, but to call the work a ballet isn't entirely accurate. The richly costumed, story-driven work, framed by a compelling, classically textured score, creates an experience that is certainly ballet-like, and the scope of the work is also on that scale. Yet the movement vocabulary is multi-disciplined, and while there is a framework of the classical in the movements that portrays story, "The White City" is too complex to classify. The Thodos Dance performers bring such unrelenting commitment and ability to the thirteen scenes, and the entire concept is so intricately interwoven with Nathan Tomlinson's lighting, Chris Olsen's video, Nathan Rohrer's costumes, Gary Chryst's staging, and the Carpe Diem String Quartet's impeccable presentation of Bruce Wolosoff's "Songs Without Words" that there may not be any real reason for (or any real chance of) categorizing the work. More intriguing is to speculate about where this comes from, about how Reinking and Thodos found this, imagined this, made this.

Craig Kaufman's A Path Home Premieres

Eddy Corley and Rian Maxwell in Craig Kaufman's A Path Home  Photo: Drew Yenchak

Any work of art is the product of the experiences of the artist who creates it, and although many artists think of their creative process as more dependent on imagination and skill, the way that creativity forms the reality of art is inseparable from the experiences that shape an individual. In his new work, "A Path Home", Craig Kaufman creates a study in Dance of something he has experienced, perhaps more imaginatively than most: how to choose a path. Kaufman's biography is already a study in dedicated but unusual choice; for Kaufman, who now lives and works in Chicago, home is both the hard-working world of western Pennsylvania where he grew up, and the aesthetically intricate world of professional choreography. Although such paths are not unusual in the arts, they usually imply contradiction, but for Kaufman the different worlds he's experienced are fluid and balanced aspects of the same choice, the same path.

Craig Kaufman's Return to Point Park University

Kaufman in 2002 (age 18), just before starting at Point Park.  How bout that

Craig Kaufman left Point Park University in December of 2005 and set out, like so many other graduates from the prestigious dance program, to see what he could see in the world of professional dance. It's not that long, but he's already returning to Point Park as one of the choreographers for the University's widely respected Pittsburgh Connections series.

OVAL - Ah!

Isabelle Rune performing OVAL - Ah! • Photo by Sebastien Gonon

Choreography on film and video is not a new idea, but it still seems in many ways to be in its very early stages, not so much as an art form, but as an idea in the Dance community. Here's a video from Amberley Productions, a film and video company in Berlin, that is visionary in its sense of how to visually record choreography.

Comparing the often divergent, often converging worlds of music and dance is irresistible whenever this subject comes up. Way, way back, music was always performed, and never recorded, and it took decades, maybe six of them, before a gradual creative understanding emerged that the record does not have to be the same as the live performance. The record includes the performance, but it will always be more than, and less than, a live performance of the same song. You lose the intensity of immediate personal communication, but you have access to immense areas of more complex, more colorful communication; there are realms of technology-induced imagination that become available to the expression of the creative ideas in the composition.

Thodos Dance Chicago's NEW DANCES Reviews

The New Dances 2010 concerts at the Dance Center presented three nights of some of the most impressive new dance creation you could ask for. The combined creativity of the ten featured choreographers, expressed in the movement of an inspired cast of performers, and with the support of an exceptional production staff, made for a one-of-a-kind presentation. The reviews have been exceptional, with Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, and Hedy Weiss on Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times both writing strongly supportive pieces. Hedy Weiss opens with a great paragraph about the daunting challenges of dance creation in an article whose title described the show as "a rich threatrical work". She goes on to describe the presentation as "very thoughtful, richly theatrical work that often was downright virtuosic." Sid Smith described New Dances 2010 as a "worthy potpourri", and observes that "the production is slick, the technical trappings superb and the event is well worth replicating elsewhere". To read either review in full, click on either the Chicago Sun-Times or the Chicago Tribune. To read some of the aotpr.com series on the Choreography of New Dances, click on any of the links below:

Sharon Joyce Kung and "Just Before Now"
Brian Hare and "Temporary Proof"
Wade Schaaf and "Dancer, Net"
Jacqueline Stewart and "Jiffy Pop"
Joshua Manculich and "____versus____"
Danielle Scanlon and "Heart Strings"
Francisco Avina & Stephanie Martinez Bennitt and "Quieting the Clock"
Jeremy Blair and "2:00 AM, Delancy St."
Jessica Miller Tomlinson and "Big Technique"

Thodos Dance Chicago Presents NEW DANCES 2010

Thodos Dance Chicago NEW DANCES 2010

Thodos Dance Chicago’s NEW DANCES 2010 will be presented July 16 and 17 at 8PM and on Sunday July 18 at 5PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago 60605. (312) 369-8330. For ten years, New Dances has been a uniquely successful showcase of new choreography; it's innovative approach to supporting the development of new works has created a whole artistic scene around the rehearsals and studio work, costuming, sound and lighting design that go on each spring and early summer, leading to the July performances. It's a once-a-year opportunity to see a bright and broad spectrum of innovative dance creation, but at major-company levels of performance and production. You can find out more about each of the choreographers and the works they will be premiering here:

Sharon Joyce Kung and "Just Before Now"
Brian Hare and "Temporary Proof"
Wade Schaaf and "Dancer, Net"
Jacqueline Stewart and "Jiffy Pop"
Joshua Manculich and "____versus____"
Danielle Scanlon and "Heart Strings"
Francisco Avina & Stephanie Martinez Bennitt and "Quieting the Clock"
Jeremy Blair and "2:00 AM, Delancy St."
Jessica Miller Tomlinson and "Big Technique"

Syndicate content

Top of the page
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
© 2008-2015 All Over The Place Records - All Rights Reserved