featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Review 3, 11-27: Chicago Currents
What's New in Dance in the Windy City

By Emily Moellman
Copyright 2002 Emily Moellman

CHICAGO -- Dance Chicago, the annual festival celebrating this city's premiere companies and choreographers, featured a range of programs for all tastes this month at the Athenaeum Theatre. The eclectic grouping of choreography was most visible in two New Dances programs featuring a sampling of work by numerous artists.

New Dances opened November 8 with a hearty serving of Latin hospitality, compliments of Latin contemporary dance company Luna Negra. Gustavo Ramirez Sansano's "Flabbergast" slowly filled the space with one and then two women in colorful, flowing, patterned dresses, followed by men in trousers and shirts, all to building rhythms reminiscent of Cuban nightclubs in the 1950s. The piece ended with a glorious screen of iridescent beads, behind which the full company danced and sang, their inhibitions lost in its intoxicating blend of pink, purple and rainbow. It was a delight to see the exuberance of the company's movement match the choreographer's apparent passion for color and energy.

The program continued with a departure, the performance art piece "Lil Bo Peepshow," created and presented by Links Hall performer Mathew Hollis. In the loosely constructed work, Hollis told the story of a boy living a life of worry and panic, employing spastic gestures, pantomime, and spoken word to describe the poor boy's attacks and longing for relief.

Glass House Dance opened the second act with its impressive apparatus work, "Ashes." Performed as a series of lifts between a male dancer attached to a six-foot tall ladder-like prop anchored to the floor and his sinewy-strong female partner, "Ashes" displayed beauty in strength. The audience watched in awe as the woman hovered effortlessly only inches above the floor, dangling from the man's neck, then seamlessly moved to wrap her body around his chest.

The November 14 New Dances program also featured a great variety of works, highlighted by the premiere of Lisa Johnson-Willingham's "Lush" on the talented Hubbard Street 2. The former Alvin Ailey dancer's work was selected through the Choreography Project, a new addition to the Dance Chicago festival. The latest effort by the festival to foster new work, the project gives five of Chicago's brightest choreographic talents the opportunity to set their works on dancers from the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, River North Dance Company, and Hubbard Street 2. The project provides rehearsal space and other funding for the choreographer. Johnson-Willingham used the opportunity to make a simple trio exploring the nuances of sensuality and seduction in the relationships created between two women and one man. The clean technique of Hubbard Street 2 complemented Johnson-Willingham's smooth, fluid style, and cross-lighting in fog created a dramatic backdrop for this lovely movement.

Seen on the same program, Paul Christiano's large ensemble piece, "Miracle, Interrupted," performed by Melissa Thodos and Dancers, transported us into the fascinating world of sign language. Set to the music of Vivaldi, the work's sign language seemed cryptic yet incredibly inclusive. The partnering, patterns, and floor work created complex little pockets of movement and signing.

The program concluded with the Harrison McEldowney's fully entertaining "A Brief History of Dance." A large screen introduced the work with projected text scrolling up it, a la "Star Wars": "Since the dawn of time, man has the urge to do something more with his life... to turn out." The work continued with more playful pokes at the evolution of dance. McEldowney took his audience on a whirlwind refresher course through dance history, moving from French court dancing to the Puritans to the death of Isadora Duncan. The work lost a little of its momentum during a battle scene between Jazz and Ballet, but was revived during the last section. The piece ended with a moving attempt to display the heart of all dancing, its feeling and artistry. Set to a stirring rendition of the "Porgy and Bess" ballad "Summertime," sung by various artists mixed into one flowing complete version, this final section summed up all forms of dance as a medium for expression and style. What style McEldowney prefers is hard to tell; "Summertime" enveloped several slightly different styles of contemporary movement. And the expression he was going for? Maybe he was just expressing his love of all dance.

Emily Moellman is a Chicago-based dancer and writer who has previously contributed to the Village Voice.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home