Marie Chouinard's Orpheus and Eurydice. Photo by Chouinard
Even just five years ago, Chicago was consistently left off the itineraries of the world's touring dance companies. Whether it was due to our venues' rental fees, a perceived lack of audience or reticence by presenters, there were perhaps only half a dozen weekends a year during which Chicagoans were given a sense of current trends in global dancemaking. The situation, I'm happy to report, couldn't be more dramatically different than it is now.
So much dance has visited our city recently that I feel like I've circumnavigated the globe. French, Japanese, Iranian, Mexican and Israeli companies have packed houses here with enthusiastic and receptive audiences all winter long, and it's not over yet. Particularly ambassadorial have been the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University and the Dance Center at Columbia College. The latter's program coordinator, Mary Carpenter-Rechner, recently regaled me with stories from her office: It sounded more like the Department of International Logistics at the United Nations than a desk in the South Loop.
This ( hopefully permanent ) increase in performing visitors makes this year's International Dance Day, April 29, even more a cause for celebration than usual. Professor Alkis Raftis, president of the International Dance Council ( the division of UNESCO which sponsors International Dance Day ) , has offered a beautiful message of inclusion in honor of the holiday. Saying "the future of dance lies where there are persons who do not dance," Raftis specifically proposes that dance instruction be brought to the needs of those with physical and mental disabilities, adding that "integrating marginalized persons into the practice of dance is as important as integrating them into the workforce." Dance has long been an inclusive art form, especially as integral as GLBTQ populations continue to be to the development and vitality of the the only language spoken fluently by everyone on Earth. Whether you secretly work on your moves in the kitchen or have to be forcibly removed from the club at 4 a.m. every Sunday, ask someone to dance with you this month.
More information on International Dance Day can be found at the CID Web site, www.cid-unesco.org .
Onstage in Chicagoland this month:
—DanceWorks Chicago covers April like a Snuggie: There's a free performance of their Dance Bytes series at the Harold Washington Library this Thursday at 12:15 p.m., and Friday the company is at Northwestern University's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall for a collaboration with the Canadian Guitar Quartet, choreographed by former River North Chicago Dance Company member Miguel Perez. Dance Chance follows on Monday, while April 25 finds the group at Northeastern Illinois University. More events follow May 9,11 and 12 at FermiLab in Batavia and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in the Gold Coast. Visit www.danceworkschicago.org for details.
—Two new groups have taken exploratory movement to the streets: Ncounter, a monthly site-specific improvisation group, most recently commandeered the Red Line subway station at Lake to the entertainment and surprise of downtown commuters, and Donnell Williams, Szewai Lee and Suzy Grant's equally wanderlusty Portable Dance will stay put only long enough to do three shows at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, April 10-11 at 8 p.m. and April 12 at 7 p.m. Ncounter is free and online at ncounter.me; "Portable Dance House Party" is $12. More info is at www.linkshall.org
—For those who think dancing is only for the young, it bears mentioning that vanguard and still-creating choreographer Merce Cunningham turns 90 April 16.
—Chicago Dance Crash's men are an impressive bunch despite being outnumbered by the company's many ( also strong ) female performers. Their latest show, however, throws boys in the spotlight. It's title—Movement/Gentlemen—says it all. It's the DCA Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph, Fridays-Sundays April 17-May 3. $17-22. Call 312-742-8497 or visit chicagodancecrash.com .
—Some have called Montréalaise choreographer Marie Chouinard's work "profane," often adding "brilliant" in the same breath. Her Canadian troupe is touring a dance-theater work that takes the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and abstracts it into a succession of provocative, surreal scenes organized around both movement and text. The production is definitely not recommended for children, but for adults with a taste for the avant-garde it's going to be a must-see. It's at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, April 17-19 at 7:30 p.m.; $40; www.mcachicago.org .
—Saturday, April 18, River North Chicago Dance Company performs for one night only at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie, Skokie, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $46 at www.centreeast.org; 847-673-6300.
—Dancing with the Wind is Perceptual Motion, Inc.'s celebration of 25 years, featuring works going back to 1988; alumni dancers from even earlier will be on hand to perform "Intersections," a premiere by Lin Shook, and five other pieces. At the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, 3035 N. Hoyne, April 23-24 at 7:30 p.m.; $25. Call 773-549-3958 or visit www.perceptualmotiondance.com .
—Chicago jazz dance kingpin Eddy Ocampo is currently choreographer in residence at Inaside Chicago Dance, who will perform his "The Alarm Will Sound" and "Beckoned," along with works by Artistic Director Richard A. Smith, Amanda Farrar, Lisa Scurlock, Elijah Gibson and Lizzie MacKenzie. At the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., April 24-25 at 8 p.m. and 26 at 3 p.m. $25 at 773-960-4909 or www.brownpapertickets.com
—Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley C. Wheater is passing intimate knowledge from his performance past down to a new generation of dancers: He danced Helgi Tomasson's "Valses Poeticos" upon its creation at the San Francisco Ballet in 1990. Joining it on the company's spring mixed bill are Gerald Arpino's "Round of Angels," dance-history lesson "Les Noces" by Bronislava Nijinska and hot choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's much-hyped "Carousel." The performance will take place at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, April 29-May 10; $25-145. Schedule and details are online at www.joffrey.org .
—"In the Simplest Manner" is an intimate evening featuring three of the city's most intriguing female dancers ( Asimina Chremos, Ayako Kato and Julia Mayer ) and three male bass players ( Darin Gray, Kent Kessler and Jason Roebke ) performing together in a variety of combinations. It will be at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, 3035 N. Hoyne, April 30-May 1 at 7:30 p.m.; $10-20. Visit www.artunionhumanscape.net .
—Next month begins with "Progress," an evening of works by Mike Gosney's Elements Contemporary Ballet at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. It takes place May 1-2 at 7:30 p.m.; $20; www.elementscontemporaryballet.com .
—Big news last week was the announcement that the founder of Luna Negra Dance Theater, Eduardo Vilaro, will take the helm at New York's Ballet Hispanico later this year. See what he'll be running when the New York-based company comes to the McAnich Arts Center at the College of DuPage, Fawell and Park, Glen Ellyn, May 2 at 8 p.m.; $44.; www.cod.edu/artscntr.