I'm not trying to start a brawl, but I'll go ahead and say that Czech choreographer JirÝ Kylián is the most influential artist working in the field. His formal, musical style has absorbed the lessons and secrets of nearly every school of movement, from the Aboriginal dances of native Australians to the kinetic fluidity of the B-boy tradition. Although Nederlands Dans Theater ( NDT ) dates from 1959 ( when 18 Dutch National Ballet members broke off to pursue a more progressive agenda ) , the company is, to this day, indelibly associated with Kylián—who, from 1975 to 1999, served as artistic director, creating dozens of signature ballets and solidifying the troupe's sterling reputation.
Though only in his early 60s ( and still quite prolific ) , a succeeding generation of dancemakers is emerging from under Kylián's wing, hinting at the path that lies ahead of the identity he's built for NDT and contemporary dance as a whole. Anders Hellstr÷m, artistic director since 2004, has commissioned many works from these young artists and Jim Vincent, who will take over for Hellstr÷m in the fall, will no doubt continue the trend. The choreographic team of Sol Léon and Paul Lightfoot are exemplars of this new look, taking Kylián's sculptural approach to set design one further and accelerating the intricacy of his vivid mechanics almost to a blur. "Shoot the Moon," a work from last year, turns the stage into a haunting carousel of rooms and live video, Philip Glass' score fleshing out the anguished acrobatics and Expressionistic grimaces of a series of couples. Although frantic at times, it lands hard and firm on many unforgettable images and elevates "I wonder what's going on next door" voyeurism into exquisite third-person poetry.
Crystal Pite is NDT's most recent choreographer-in-residence and last year synthesized many themes of her portfolio for "The Second Person," a city of a dance that pushes multiple idioms and strong personalities into close proximity. Inescapably, choreography is to some extent puppetry, and Pite tackles the subject head-on, using a small wooden mannequin as a cipher inflated with life by a stage-filling ensemble. Omniscient narrative pops up in other forms as well, in prim British voiceovers and duets that have dancers swapping turns manipulating one another. It's a sprawling, ambitious work, but Pite keeps her eye on the road and, as is her wont, reins her tangents down to Earth with a succinct and breathtaking finish.
Kylián doesn't go unrepresented, mind you: 1997's "Wings of Wax" is as good as any example of his unparalleled inventiveness with couples, and its solos for men leave little doubt as to how high NDT's male dancers set the bar. NDT hasn't performed in Chicago in over 30 years: Get tickets today if you haven't already.
They will perform at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress, June 16-17 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30-$89; visit auditoriumtheatre.org .
Other offerings this month include:
—Mixed bill Dance Shelter continues for a second weekend at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, featuring work by Nana Shineflug, Cindy Brandle, Rachel Bunting and Atalee Judy on June 12-13 at 7:30 p.m., 3035 N. Hoyne; $12-15. Details are at chicagomovingcompany.org .
—Aerial dance company AMEBA says to hell with gravity as they take to the floor, walls and ceiling with "String Theory: You are a force of nature" June 12-13 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, at 7 p.m; $20. Call 773-463-4402 or visit www.amebadance.org .
—Synapse Arts Collective exercise a unique voice in Chicago dance, taking vocal expression and fusing it with movement generated through a collaborative process. The five performers assembled for "Stridulate" have considerable skills in both environments, allowing their work to seep into its audience through multiple sensory channels. The Galaxie hosts six performances at 2603 W. Barry, June 12 and 19 at 8 p.m. and Sat. June 12 and 20 at 4 and 8 p.m. Go to www.synapsearts.com .
—"In the Middle, Somewhat Replicated" is the cheeky title of Lucky Plush Productions' and Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts' joint production/reunion. An evening of four works orbiting around very timely issues of authorship and authenticity, it reunites the Bay Area's Sheldon Smith and Lisa Wymore with Lucky Plush's Julia Rhoads and kicks off the company's tenth anniversary. It's at Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, June 12-13 at 8 p.m. and June 14 at 7 p.m. $15. Find out more at luckyplush.com and stealthisdance.com .
—Also at Link's Hall this month are Jaema Joy Berry's "You Can't Dance Out the Side of Your Mouth" June 19-21 and the always terrific ( and very cheap ) benefit series Poonie's Cabaret June 15. Visit www.linkshall.org .
—Innervation Dance Cooperative struck gold last year with "Everyman," its loose interpretation of a 15th-century morality play set to Led Zeppelin. Featuring nine choreographers and a thorough once-over, it's back for a run at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N. Noble St., June 18-20 at 8 p.m. and June 21 at 2 p.m. $15-18. Go to innervationdance.org
—At the Vittum the following weekend are Matter Dance, back with their new production "Revolving Doors" June 25-27 at 8 p.m. and June 28 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 each; see www.matterdance.com .
—Chicago native Paul Sanasardo, celebrating 80 years, and Muscovite Dmitri Peskov share a bill at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts June 26 and 27. Sanasardo, a point of connection to nearly all of modern dance history from Martha Graham to Pina Bausch, has created "Sleepless Nights in the City" to a suite of music by modern composers and Peskov, who's received much acclaim from the local press, brings five works to the stage ( two premieres and three repertory dances ) . Both shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday's performance coincides with a benefit for the new Joel Hall Dance Center and is $50. Find out more at sanasardopeskov.com .
—Props for Spain are in order upon the 33rd anniversary of the American Spanish Dance Festival. Presented by Northeastern Illinois University's Ensemble Espa˝ol Center for Spanish Dance and Music, a whole host of activities and performances are on tap at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie, Skokie, June 26-27 at 7:30 p.m. and June 28 at 3 p.m. Tickets $26-46 each; visit www.northshorecenter.org .