'ohana Dreamdance

Extensions Dance Company and Lizzie MacKenzie's Choreography

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.

Making REFLECT: Angela Palladini

Angela Palladini, originally from California, is a dancer with Same Planet Different World, who came to Chicago initially to join the highly respected Lou Conte Dance Studio scholarship program. Like most of the professional dancers I’ve known, she’s done what seems like a thousand things in Dance; her bio lists seven different dance companies, where she’s either worked, trained or studied, as well as six or seven individual choreographers. This wide-ranging openness to new experiences is certainly a hallmark of the best of the dance community, and it’s a necessary backdrop to understanding how a work like REFLECT can be put together, with such intricate cooperation, by artists who perhaps have never met before.

Angela: “I found out about Thodos’ New Dances from attending last year’s performance, and couldn’t wait to audition this year. … There’s a certain aspect of the New Dances audition that I love, and that’s the opportunity the dancers have to learn a piece of every choreographer’s work. It not only gives the choreographers a chance to appropriately choose their cast, but it gives dancers the experience of having to quickly learn different movement in a short amount of time. These types of experiences are invaluable for the professional dancer. You can think of this audition as a menu of varying appetizers- the dancers get the whole experience by sampling a little bit of everything, and regardless of the audition results, the tasting itself was worth the time.”

Making REFLECT: Introduction

Tuesday was the first complete rehearsal day since choreographers Mollie Mock and Jeremy Blair completed their new work REFLECT, which is set to the original ‘ohana track “Hidden”. I had seen enough of the work already to know that they and the cast of seven had something very special going on, but the completed work is a strikingly graceful composition, a dynamic story based on an architecture of carefully interwoven passages.

The whole process of making Dance still mystifies me in many ways. Watching Angela, Caitlin, Carrie, Jeff, Kurt and Megan (Brian returns next week) run the piece Tuesday afternoon, I was, once again, more than amazed at what dancers do, and how they do it. I don’t mean the movement, even when it’s stunning; I mean the cooperation. Time-defying cooperation, to move to where somebody else is going to be, again and again, with perfect focus. But also, the remarkable cooperation that makes it possible for nine people (in this case), who may not even know each other when they start the process, to find a way to schedule, learn, communicate, practice, improve, perfect, and finally perform an original composition of movement.

“Reflect” will premiere July 17, 18, 19 at ThodosDanceChicago’s NEW DANCES 2009 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago 60610. For tickets, call 312.266.6255. Between now and then, I’m going to speak to the dancers and choreographers and ask them a little about the process of putting a work like this together.

Choreographers Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock Complete "Reflect"

It was back in March that Mollie Mock told me that she and Jeremy Blair would be collaborating in the creation of a work set to the new 'ohana track "Hidden". Ironically, I had recently begun to really notice Mollie and Jeremy when they dance together; there is a particularly bright rapport between them that you can see clearly whenever you watch them moving together onstage. So I was really enthusiastic when I heard that they would be applying the unique way they can work together to setting their piece, entiltled "Reflect".

Choreographer Profile: Brock Clawson

Just got word of the launch of Chicago choreographer Brock Clawson’s new website (brockclawson.com, designed by Akio Satoh) and it’s really worth checking out. It’s a really entertaining trip through the world of a new, but already well-respected independent choreographer. This is a remarkable profession; the work of a choreographer begins with a commission from a dance company, which leads to a process that combines the extremes of completely free-form creativity with an astonishing amount of disciplined hard work.

The really free-form part comes at the start of the process. When I’ve worked with Brock, it always begins with a call from a company that wants him to set a work for them (that’s dance language for “choreograph a new work”). Most recently these have been from ThodosDanceChicago (www.thodosdancechicago.org), for “Nine”, from the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company (http://www.houstonmetdance.com) for “The Yawning”, and from Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago (http://www.giordanodance.org/company) for “Give and Take”, all of which were uncompromised successes.

3Q Reggie 'Rajah' Helm

Just got confirmation from Rajah about the show with Stanley Clarke’s new group SMV at The Country Club Hills Theater: It’s Saturday, June 20. The Country Club Hills Theater is a 5000 seat outdoor theater that has become a major venue for some of the best national R&B and Jazz tours. This summer’s schedule includes shows by Babyface, After 7, War and Lalah Hathaway, to name a few. I thought this would be the ideal time (and person) to launch a new series called “3Q” that will serve as a little introduction to some really good people to know about.

"Sleeping Palms" premiers Friday night May 1st

Jennifer Meek

"Sleeping Palms" will premier on May 1st in the MAD BAD (Moving Arts Dance, Bay Area Dance) festival in celebration of Bay Area dance week.

"Sleeping Palms" choreographer works with students from Moving Arts Dance Studio in Concord, CA

Choreographer and Dancer Jennifer Meek has begun working with the students of Moving Arts Dance Studio in Concord, CA on her work in progress titled "Sleeping Palms". The extraordinary students who are trained extensively in modern, improvisation, and contemporary partnering will be assisting her in creating images of a community or crowd of people.


Always a good day when you hear some great news from an old friend. I heard from Reggie Rajah Helm, who fronts a driving, jazz influenced / R&B group as RAJAH, about a really high-profile show they've just been booked for in late June, which he won't let me release details of until the promoter has announced it. That should be soon --- stay tuned. The group is Rajah on Sax, Phil Seed on Guitar, John Owens on Bass, Derek Henderson on Drums, and Brandon McCune joining them on Piano.

"Trek" In Rehearsal With Choreographer Hilliary Murphy

Hillary Murphy

One of my favorite parts of the many worlds of Dance and Choreography is the work done in schools and studios, and the process of artist development that happens in those programs. Naturally, it's great to see something like the "Give and Take" premiere by Giordano Jazz Dance at the Harris where a respected company and a great choreographer are at a major venue in front of three thousand people.

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