Anyone who knows Lizzie Mackenzie's choreography is probably surprised that she's not better known as a choreographer. She's widely known as a truly exceptional dancer, from her performances with Giordano Dance Chicago and then with River North Dance Chicago, as well as her many guest appearances in high profile special events. She's also well known, especially in the world of preprofessional dance, as the founder and artistic director of Extensions Dance Company, one of the most successful and respected preprofessional dance companies in the country. When she does choreograph, the results are often spectacularly rich; she combines an ability to create beautiful and engaging movement designs with an unusually effective understanding of concert dance architecture.
That's why the news that Lizzie MacKenzie was creating a full evening original work would have been promising no matter what, but to hear that it was going to be for Chicago Dance Crash made the whole idea even more exciting, and much more intriguing. The work is titled ...and sometimes we were lost, but always we became found, and it runs for two weekends, December 6-7 and 13-14 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago.
MacKenzie is thoughtful in everything she does, but especially in everything that has anything to do with human connection; it's one of the reasons why she's so successful as a teacher. That same thoughtfulness, that same willingness to consider new ideas and actively engage them until she can work them into all of the other things she does, also gives her an exceptional ability to learn, and to embrace new possibilities. Around the time that Chicago Dance Crash first approached her about working with the Company, she had recently discovered, and was hugely impressed by a lecture by a University of Houston professor named Brené Brown.
Lizzie MacKenzie has been a lot of different places as a dancer, both literally and artistically. She performed with the iconic Giordano Dance Chicago for five years, touring the world, landing on the cover of Dance Magazine, and learning Jazz Dance at one of the world's centers of the art. She's an award winning choreographer, the founder and Artistic Director of one of the country's most respected youth companies, Extensions Dance, and she shows up in magazines and online media as a model for Leo's Dancewear and for Illinois Theatrical. Jazz Dance? Yes, and Contemporary, working closely with choreographers from Laurie Stallings and Robert Battle to James Kudelka and Harold Maceldowny, not to mention her current work with Ron de Jesus Dance Company, Chicago Repertory Ballet and numerous performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
That would be enough experience to give anybody an unusually complete perspective on a dance company, but there's one more significant part to Lizzie MacKenzie's bio: for six years she performed with River North Chicago Dance, whose Fall Engagement at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance is this weekend, November 16th and 17th. The program is entitled MOMENTUM, and it promises to be the kind of lush and lucid ride through a uniquely River North landscape that the Company always manages to put together. Lizzie MacKenzie has a really good idea of how they do it.
Each year, the United States announces the selection of 141 outstanding high school seniors as U.S. Presidential Scholars -- a tremendous accomplishment for each of the young people recognized. Twenty of those honored are Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and in 2011 Max Perkins, a brilliant young performer and member of aotpr.com-favorite Extensions Dance, was named by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as one of only two dancers selected from among several thousand candidates around the country. Each U.S. Presidential Scholar is invited to nominate his or her most inspiring and challenging teacher to travel to Washington, D.C., to receive a Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education and to participate in the award ceremonies, which take place at the White House and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Joining Max in D.C. and receiving a 2011 U.S. Presidential Scholar Program Teacher Recognition Award is Extensions Dance Company Artistic Director, Lizzie MacKenzie.
To be selected for such an award from such a vast number of talented candidates is of course extraordinary, but in a remarkable way, maybe not all that surprising to aotpr.com. We know Max Perkins' work from his performances with Extensions Dance, and the quality of his contribution to everything we've seen him be a part of has always been extraordinary. "Passion" and "Intensity" are words that are often used to describe an exceptional dedication to artistic expression, and although they could be used to describe Perkins' work, neither word does so adequately. Both "passion" and "intensity" imply a commitment to artistic effort, but in ways that are often either intermittent or short-term. A more complete description of Perkins' work has to include that unusual quality that some artists achieve when an exceptional level of commitment is maintained continuously, in rehearsal as in performance, in struggle as in success. It's a quality that transcends the drama of passion and the transience of intensity, but achieves the mesmerizing artistic effect of both, and Max Perkins brings that quality to everything we've seen him do.
Extensions Dance will perform May 22 and May 28 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in their Extensions 2011 Showcase.
For seventeen years, Dance For Life's Next Generation has showcased the work of the very best young dance companies. The concert is a major project in support of The Dance For Life Fund and The Children's Place Association, and this year's show at the Sang Theater was more than impressive. DFL's Next Generation is an extravagantly generous display of talent and accomplishment --- eighteen diverse and compelling works by twenty choreographers, performed by ten companies, it would hardly seem right, and probably wouldn't be possible to try to identify standouts from such a successful event. The show featured The Arlington Dance Ensemble, The Chicago Academy for the Arts, Chicago Ballet Arts, Civic Ballet of Chicago, Dance Exchange, aotpr.com and 'ohana Dreamdance friends Extensions Dance (and for more about them check out some of our stories about Extensions and about Artistic Director Lizzie MacKenzie), Forum Jazz Dance Theatre, Loyola Academy, Matrix and Wheeling HS Orchesis. If you missed this year, make plans for next year, or better yet, see if you can see any of these companies before then.
Here's a video of Extensions Dance Company performing Lizzie MacKenzie's award-winning work "Time Now", set to an original score of the same by 'ohana Dreamdance. The performance is from the Extensions Showcase, which we was one of the finest shows we got to see last year.
We've done a few stories about this amazing company --- here are a few links to some of them, along with a free download of the piano version of the 'ohana Dreamdance track "Time Now":
Extensions Dance 2010 Showcase
Extensions Dance's Awards at ADA 2010
Choreographer Profile: Lizzie MacKenzie
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 1)
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 2)
Podcast: Composing "Some Time" For Lizzie MacKenzie (Part 3)
Extensions Dance Company’s 2010 showcase, which took place Saturday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, was not only a great concert, it was in many ways a unique experience, the kind of experience that can be difficult to place in a specific category. It was a Dance Concert in the traditional sense, a presentation of dance pieces that each featured excellent performance and inspired design, and that flowed convincingly from one to another. It was also very much a showcase; the program provided an in-depth presentation of the abilities and accomplishments of the Company dancers, both individually and in ensemble works. It was also a celebration of the fifth anniversary of Extensions Dance, a celebration of a remarkably successful season for the Company, and a celebration of the contributions of two Extensions performers, Miranda Borkan and Natalie Pearson, both of whom will attend the prestigious Alvin Ailey / Fordham University partnership program in New York.
‘ohana Dreamdance’s “Time Now Choreography Mixes” release features both of the tracks composed for choreographer Lizzie MacKenzie. The full original score is the Time Now MacKenzie Choreography Mix; it’s an arrangement of the two original tracks “Time Now” and “Some Time” that ‘ohana Dreamdance producers Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin wrote for the Extensions Dance Company performance. Besides the Choreography mix and the two original tracks, the release includes a four minute Piano-only version, which is now available as a free download from All Over The Place Records distributor IODA (the Independent Online Digital Alliance).
IODA runs a service called Promonet. It provides access to sample tracks from many IODA distributed labels, and makes them available to bloggers and review sites, as well as to IODA distributed labels, like All Over The Place.
The download is coming from IODA Promonet, and the link is pasteable into a lot of different social media locations: by all means copy any of the links (but especially the free download link) as much as you wantl. (In Windows, right-click, on a Mac, Control-click the icon and Copy Link. Here it is:
Extensions Dance presents its 2010 Showcase this May 29 at 6:30 PM at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. It marks the completion of an exceptionally successful year for the Company, including most recently an astonishing set of awards at the American Dance Association Chicago Regional.
Extensions Dance, the Company founded and directed by Lizzie MacKenzie for exceptionally dedicated young dancers, would be what is normally referred to as a “preprofessional company” -- I think I’ve used that term in an earlier article, and it’s certainly accurate. None of these dancers are professional in the dictionary sense, where the most basic definition of “professional” means “to be compensated monetarily for work performed.” The term “preprofessional” actually has a very positive implication in the dance world, because it implies a level of commitment and ability in the company members that is characteristic of someone who will dance professionally.
I went to see Extensions Dance at the American Dance Awards competition at Governors State University last Saturday, and I’ve never seen a more professional demonstration (although that’s true every time I see this company anywhere, in rehearsal or in performance).
The process of choreography is variable and complex, and several projects ‘ohana Dreamdance has done in the past year, along with the Tenth Anniversary of Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances, makes this a good time to talk about that process. Extensions Dance Company, who’s 2010 Showcase is on Saturday, May 29 at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts, will be performing Lizzie MacKenzie’s work “Time Now”, set to two ‘ohana Dreamdance tracks, “Time Now” and “Some Time”. We’ve just finished the choreography mix of our track “What Was Beyond” for Shayna Swanson’s brilliant aerial choreography and performance. Finally, Mollie Mock and Jeremy Blair’s enchanting work “Reflect”, set to our track “Hidden”, premiered at New Dances last year and has just completed it’s first year in the Thodos Dance Chicago repertoire.
But maybe I should explain how I got mixed up in all of this to begin with. I’m a record producer by trade, but like many mixer/producers, I’ve also spent a lot of time recording and mixing projects that I was not producing. Before the development of system-based recording, choreographers like Melissa Thodos had to find a recording studio to put together the music for their works, and that was my first exposure to the world of Dance.