Joffrey Ballet's Light Rain.
By Eric Eatherly
Veteran Chicago choreographer Molly Shanahan's latest endeavor is to present an evening of dance that is silly ( yet serious ) , exposed ( yet confident ) , and dark ( but not opaque ) . My Name is a Blackbird is a solo performance, although Shanahan has enlisted seven Chicago artists to help realize her vision, beginning with electronic scores by musicians Andrew Bird, Mark Booth and Dave Pavkovic. Then there is Heidi Dakter's costume design, which affects the pallet and range of movement, and Josh Weckesser's lighting. The work of two other collaborators is unseen by the audience: videographer Nadia Oussenko has documented the developmental process, while Leslie Buxbaum Danzig has served as dramaturge, perhaps the most unique contribution of all. As dramaturge, or literary advisor, Danzig poses challenging questions for Shanahan to answer, thus aiding her in the structure and intention of the piece.
In Blackbird, Shanahan excavates her own psyche to explore universal themes, such as gender roles and stereotypes, and the idea of transmogrification, or shape-shifting. How does gender role influence movement? And how, through movement, can a dancer enter a deeper level of physical awareness? Shanahan's last work explored light, but Blackbird explores darkness—physical and psychological, literal and metaphorical.
Molly Shanahan has always avoided conventional approaches to dance technique, preferring a more authentic movement style that's as personal and honest as it is fresh and daring. In Blackbird, the movement is at times insect-like or reptilian; casually pedestrian; or even mechanical. But throughout the performance, two elements remain constant reminders of human fragility: the movement of Shanahan's eyes and breath. Shanahan seamlessly shifts between a languorous internal gaze to an expectant outward gaze, sometimes watching the audience watch her. Shanahan's breathing layers an intimate, living soundtrack over the dance to create an emotionally rich subtext, inviting the viewer deeper into the movement experience.
Shanahan's innovative dance presentation will employ spontaneity and memory, improvisation and anchored movement phrases, to reveal that sometimes the greatest strength comes from making oneself the most vulnerable.
My Name is a Blackbird is a co-presentation of Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak and Link's Hall, running April 12-29 at The Building Stage, 412 N. Carpenter.; 773-743-8014; $15.
Also coming up:
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago offers two different programs in its spring season at the Harris Theatre for Music and Dance. Fresh Visions, April 11-15, features the premiere of Lar Lubovitch's colorful and whimsical Cryptoglyph as well as Bardo by Japanese choreographer Toru Skimazaki and Marguerite Donlon's deliciously irreverent Strokes Through The Tail. Weekend two, April 18-22, showcases Vivid Blooms and includes the world premiere of Palladio by artistic director Jim Vincent and the new work by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo, From All Sides, where the dancers' bodies speak their own eccentric language. Alejandro Cerrudo's new piece, Lickety-Split, and the sensually elegant Petit Mort by Juri Kylian, complete the program. 866-535-4732; $20-$75.
Inaside Chicago Dance presents its spring concert at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, on April 13-14. The program offers two world premieres, one by artistic director Kelly Ann Vitacca and one by Autumn Eckman. 312-337-6543; $15-$18.
Salt Creek Ballet brings their staging of Harlequinade, Marius Petipa's comedic tale of courtship and calamity, to the McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn. The program also includes Gamzatti's Wedding by Petipa, Sergey Kozadayev's Tarantella, and the pas de deux from Flower Festival in Genzano. April 14-15; 630-942-4000; $16-$26.
Don't miss the rare Chicago appearance of the Martha Graham Dance Company at the Museum of Contemporary Art, April 19-21. The program features three classics from the period when Graham collaborated with sculptor Isamu Noguchi: Errand into the Maze, Embattled Garden and Appalachian Spring. 312-397-4010; $24-$40.
Bailiwick Theatre, 1229 W. Belmont, hosts the Collaborations festival, April 20-21. Each piece on the program is a collaboration between different art forms, with everything from dance to song; poetry to puppetry; and more. 847-733-1457; $17.
The Joffrey Ballet presents Light Rain at the Auditorium Theatre April 25-May 6. This spring engagement, titled after artistic director Gerald Arpino's signature work, features six of the most popular pieces from the company's extensive repertoire, including choreography by Joanna Haigood, David Parsons, Moses Pendleton, Cynthia Quinn and Pilobolus. 312-902-1500; $25-$130.
Tatva: Nature's Elements, a cross-cultural dance festival, will be presented April 26-29 at The International House, 1414 E. 59th. The University of Chicago and Kalapriya Dance are co-sponsoring the show, which addresses the global environment through Native American, Indian, Indonesian, African, Asian and Hawaiian dance forms. 773-363-9303; $15-$20.
Lastly, the Civic Ballet of Chicago will present its spring concert at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, April 27-May 6. 312-337-6543; $15-$25.