On Sunday, March 7, at 5 p.m.,Wheeling Orchesis will team with the Arlington Dance Ensemble for the 16th annual Dance for Life's Next Generation. This year's benefit, held in Wheeling High School's Sang Theater, will be emceed by Scott Corchin (WHS Orchesis alumni and on air personality at Kiss 103.5) and Lizzie MacKenzie (River North Dance Chicago). All proceeds will be donated to the Dance for Life Fund and The Children's Place Association, organizations dedicated to the support of those living with HIV/AIDS.
Diane Rawlinson is the founder and co-artistic director of its Dance For Life’s affiliated youth benefit concert (Dance For Life’s Next Generation) since 1995. This year’s benefit features alot of friends of All Over The Place Records -- aotpr artist D. Jeremy is an alumnus of Wheeling Orchesis, of which Diane is the director. Lizzie MacKenzie is co-hosting the event with Scott Corchin, who is featured in the D. Jeremy video for “Loser”, and plays on D. Jeremy’s track “Feel The Love”. Finally, the event features a performance by Extensions Dance Company, performing Lizzie MacKenzie’s new work “Time Now”, to an original ‘ohana Dreamdance score written by Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin.
The most revealing line in Chicago choreographer Lizzie MacKenzie’s biography as Artistic Director of Extensions Dance Company may be this one: “Lizzie spends most of her free time teaching and choreographing." The realization that this is what Lizzie MacKenzie would describe as “free time” does a lot to explain her astonishingly broad range of accomplishments.
Many successful choreographers have had accomplished careers as dancers, and many company artistic directors are also accomplished choreographers. Lizzie MacKenzie, however, is at least unusual, and may be unique, in that she continues to be a successful and highly-respected dancer with one of Chicago’s leading companies (River North Chicago Dance Company), while also working as a leading choreographer. In 2008, she won the prestigious Choreographer of the Year award from Dance Chicago, presented by the Cliff Dwellers Foundation, to follow up on her 2006 New Voice Outstanding Choreographer award.
Her choreography is always graceful and fluid, and one of its most compelling attributes is a remarkable sense of dynamic architecture. In fact, whenever possible, it’s good to see her works at least once from a balcony, because there is a moving structure to what she does that becomes really apparent when seen with a full view of the stage.
Interestingly, this ability to master overall structure may be more the result of a focus on detail than on preconceived design; her designs actually seem to result from the careful composition of individual movements. Watching her in rehearsal with Extensions Dance Company, I heard her make an observation that does a lot to explain the coherence, but also the fullness, of her choreography. “Everything has a reason.” And when you add all of those reasons together, the result is inspired choreography.
Lizzie MacKenzie’s newest piece, “Time Now” is an eight-minute piece set to an original composition by Chicago group ‘ohana. It’s currently in rehearsal with her own Extensions Dance Company, and will premiere this fall.
I spent a really enjoyable -- and enlightening -- Sunday afternoon at Extensions Dance Company, getting to know the company who will be performing Lizzie MacKenzie’s new work TIME NOW, set to the original ‘ohana score that she and Dan Agosto and I have been working on for the past few months. (http://extensionsdance.com/index.html)
Extensions is a remarkable company; I walked in about fifteen minutes early, and that gave me the chance to watch Lizzie working with the dancers on the first section of “Time Now”. It was an impressive display of focus and commitment; Lizzie MacKenzie’s choreography is passionate in its detail, and these are fast-paced, dynamic details, uncompromising in their demand for technique and co-operation. So it wasn’t surprising to see a company that Lizzie founded displaying the same intense focus that she herself is known for. It also wasn’t surprising because I’ve seen Extensions perform several times, and their performances always have a graceful fire that I find unique.