Dance Performance

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.

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

Thodos Dance Chicago New Dances 2011

There's a well-known dance theater whose web site describes with pride -- and justifiably so --- how more than twenty new choreographic works have been commissioned by the space over fifteen or so years. An impressive accomplishment, considering the complexity and challenge of sponsoring and staging even a single new work. It puts into vivid perspective, though, the incredible achievement of the Thodos New Dances series, which in its eleventh year is approaching its one hundredth new work, many of which have gone on to achieve impressive success beyond the New Dances program.

The process that transmutes an idea from experimental to iconic is long and improbable, and a careful look through the program for the ever-more-impressive 2011 edition of New Dances gives some idea of what that process involves. It requires a substantial community of shared enthusiasm, working hard to make everything work successfully.

In a great article called Together With A Gift at 4dancers.org, Kimberly Peterson talks about the latin roots of the word "communiity", which comes from the latin words for "together" and "gift". New Dances 2011 is a community of more than forty dancers, ten choreographers, a distinguished advisor panel, the Thodos Dance Chicago staff and technical organizations, and several independent lighting, sound and costume designers. Over its eleven year history, New Dances has probably been the shared creation of four or five hundred artists, and now regularly performing to packed houses, in its various editions it has played to an audience several thousand people too large to fit in any dance theater. It's an astonishing achievement, of course in the multi-faceted success of nine different choreographic visions, but even more significantly, in the multidimensional gifts shared by the unique community that makes it happen.

The Dance COLEctive's Balancing Act

Dance COLEctive (Photo by William Frederking)

To be the founder of a Dance Company requires a vivid balance, because it's a challenge that juxtaposes two kinds of artistic effort that are, if not explicitly contradictory, at least a little paradoxical. On the one hand, the undertaking would be unthinkable to anyone with less than a profoundly individual sense of motivation. Directing a Company is a daunting enterprise, and like any artistic beginning, it demands a compelling personal vision, a clear but always-unfinished visualization of art that should be created but hasn't been yet. But unlike the artist who approaches a blank canvas or an as-yet unwritten musical score, the individual who sets out to begin a Dance Company immediately embraces an unpredictable and unending series of challenges and limitations to their individual vision, because the process of Dance is inevitably so collaborative. Collaborative with the performers who must present a choreographer's composition, but just as importantly, in all of the logistical and financial challenges that come with funding, staging, and administration.

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.

The A.W.A.R.D. Show Finals: Joanna Rosenthal, Michel Rodriguez and Jacqueline Stewart

Choreography by Joanna Rosenthal (Photo by William Frederking)
Choreographer Michel Rodriguez and Jessie Gutierrez (Photo by Lindsay Schirk)
Grace Whitworh and Charlie Cutler in "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes"

"Grey Noise" by Joanna Rosenthal, "Moi Aussi" by Michel Rodriguez, and "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" by Jacqueline Stewart made for an outstanding final evening in the 2010 A.W.A.R.D. show in Chicago. The three works express the three distinctly different visions of Rosenthal, Rodriguez and Stewart and, as is fitting to the final evening in a prestigious competition, each of the works was carefully thought-out and executed at award show level. Jacqueline Stewart was awarded the 2010 prize for her intoxicating duet, presented in a stunning performance by Grace Whitworth and Charlie Cutler, on the basis of a decision by a panel of four judges: Lane Alexander, Homer Bryant, Roeli Schmidt and Linda Shelton. The final decision is actually determined by five votes, one by each judge, as well as one vote based the results of an anonymous ballot of audience members.

The A.W.A.R.D. Show tries to establish parameters for how to choose among the works presented, but it can never be easy to compare such richly different voices in any hierarchical way. Stewart's "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" is certainly a uniquely compelling vision, not only because of the imaginative way that a simple light on stage serves as a focus of the work, but even more so because of the effortless flow of movement ideas in an unspoken story. One of the real challenges of judging a competition though, is where to even find a basis for comparison, how to even begin to judge creative ideas. Is there really any way to compare the somber mysteries of "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" to the expansive and bright "Moi Aussi"? Although also a duet, in Rodriguez' work Jessie Gutierrez and the choreographer perform a dynamic, intricately athletic drama, effortlessly commanding the full scope of a large stage. Joanna Rosenthal presents yet another challenge to a judge, and at The A.W.A.R.D. show that includes everyone in the audience, with an excerpt from her work "Grey Noise", in which a cast of five dancers develop a broadly-conceived architecture to some of the boldest soundtrack ideas that a choreographer could design.

The A.W.A.R.D. Show Chicago

The A.W.A.R.D. Show is presented in a really unique format, with work by the twelve finalists in the competition divided between three consecutive nights. Last night's presentation was the first of the three shows that leads up to Saturday's finale, where three works, one from each evening, are presented again to complete the selection of the award winner. Wednesday's show included works in four very different styles. The first was the duet "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" by Jacqueline Stewart, which was followed by an innovative solo work entitled "Sometimes/Always", both choreographed and danced by Alicia Wilson. The third piece in the program was an intriguing excerpt from the ballet "Curiosity" by Mike Gosney, performed by seven dancers, in an interwoven series of solos, duets and trio. The final work of the evening was Kate Corby's imaginative "Go", which was choreographed in collaboration with the dancers Erin Kilmurray, Emily Miller and Anna Normann.

The Joyce Theater Foundation A.W.A.R.D. Show

Jacqueline Stewart

The Joyce Theater "was created by dancers for dance". That's the simple introduction that the Joyce Theater Foundation begins with in the section on the Joyce's history at their site's Mission & History page. The description of what the Joyce Theater Foundation does is especially interesting in light of The A.W.A.R.D. show program that they sponsor now in five cities around the country, including on Wednesday July 28 at 8PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College. Here's what they say: "The mission of The Joyce Theater Foundation is to serve and support the art of dance and choreography [and] promote the richness and variety of the art form in its fullest expression ...". Especially interesting to me was to learn that the Joyce Theater itself, which I've often heard about but haven't yet been to, is a 427-seat theater, exactly the right size for the support of small and medium-sized dance companies.

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