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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Dancin' Feats
by Zachary Whittenburg
2009-10-14

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Behind every dance company's anniversary—be it tin, china or silver—stretches a trail of late-night grant submissions, exhausting studio hours and development brainstorms. Ice packs tend to make frequent appearances as well. It seems Chicago dancemakers have a habit of going official in years ending in "4" and "9": Luna Negra Dance Theatre celebrated its first decade last weekend with a gala in honor of founder Eduardo Vilaro ( who recently stepped down to lead New York's Ballet Hispanico ) , and Jan Bartoszek's Hedwig Dances is well into its 25th season.

Oct. 14 marks the second of two evenings of dance cinema Bartoszek curates annually with Sarah Best at the Chicago Cultural Center—Arch of Repose, shot beachside, is a rushing dream of a film she based upon a concert work from 2007, Night Blooming Jasmine, that's become a Hedwig staple. Whereas Jasmine onstage billows like a sheer curtain two hours before a summer storm, Repose's anti-gravity cinematography, by Dan Kullman and Nicolas DeGrazia of Bitter Jester Creative, amplifies the dancers' tumbling over one another into a horizontal avalanche. Tonight's free showing previews a full début of Repose, aside Nadia Oussenko's On Falling..., Nov. 11 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport.

Acrobatic and mercurial Hedwig Dancer Michel Rodriguez, new to Chicago, made a stunning impression last month in Khecari Dance Theatre's The Waking Room. He follows up in Bill Young and Colleen Thomas' passionate, elusive "Rein, Bellow," which Hedwig shows at Links Hall this month along with Marianela Boan's "Stampede" and Rodriguez' own creation, "Moi, Aussi." It's the first of two triple bills for the company: in April, Bartoszek will show another new creation, "Dance of Forgotten Steps," alongside Andrea Miller and Susan Marshall's intelligent organicism. Bartoszek's ensemble is in top form, birthday or no—this is a perfect time to see the company, again or for the first time.

Ditto Lucky Plush Productions, whose 10th anniversary kicks off Oct. 22 with Punk Yankees. Artistic and Managing directors Julia Rhoads and Katie Leander, who are neighbors, have been putting their kids to bed and burning midnight oil not just to roll Yankees out but keep Lucky Plush's organizational growth spurt on schedule. StealThisDance.com, a Web project expanding upon ideas of sampling and appropriation in choreography that are central to Punk Yankees, has crowdsourced new fusions of dance techniques i.e. "Cloggingham" ( Merce Cunningham-eque modern abstraction meets Appalachian footwork ) and hosted a contest, So You Think You Can Choreograph?, whose winner's choreography Rhoads is kneading into the final version of the stage show. Yankees' movement mashups and real/virtual experiments, Rhoads said, are a great way for her company to comment on retrospection both inside and out of Lucky Plush at the same time they mark a decade, but as for the show's format she added, "It's not about finding a new 'look.' Our research has opened my eyes to lineage, and our process as dancers has become a much denser and quickly moving space. Those things will definitely continue."

Mining the past and making it new again is also on River North Chicago Dance Company's ( RNCDC's ) agenda, who have a 20th-anniversary season recently anointed with four Midwest Emmy nominations for HMS Media's documentary on the company, "Every Dancer Has A Story," which aired in January on WTTW. It goes up for its directorial, production and technical awards the same evening the company's Harris Theater concert unveils a ground-up rework of the 1992 signature piece "Reality of a Dreamer," originally created in collaboration between then-Artistic Director Sherry Zunker and RNCDC's current head, Frank Chaves. Chaves and composer Evan Solot's last collaboration, "Underground Movements," had a dark edge that its dancers jump into with gusto every chance they get—see Robert Battle's "Train"—and they've reconvened for another premiere entitled "Forbidden Boundaries." A native Cuban, Chaves looks to his own roots for "Habaneras, the Music of Cuba," a color parade set to songs Chaves grew up hearing by Ernesto Lecuona, Carlos Puebla and Silvio Rodríguez. Rounding out the bill is Monique Haley's "Uhuru," which has a purity of spirit as contagious as H1N1.

Hedwig Dances' 25th Anniversary Season takes place at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield, Oct. 23-24 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 each; see www.brownpapertickets.com and www.hedwigdances.com .

Lucky Plush Productions' 10th Anniversary featuring Punk Yankees is at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, Oct. 22-31. Tickets are $24; visit www.colum.edu/dance_center and www.luckyplush.com .

River North Chicago Dance Company's 20th Anniversary is at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$65; see www.harristheaterchicago.org or www.rivernorthchicago.com .

—Choreographer Lar Lubovitch and composer Elliot Goldenthal's take on Shakespeare's Othello opens the Joffrey Ballet's 2009/10 season Oct. 14-25 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress. Tickets are $25-145; call 312-739-0120 or visit www.joffrey.com .

—One last anniversary to mention: Lucinda Childs' DANCE, a landmark multimedia production with music by Philip Glass and projections by Sol LeWitt, has been rebuilt to mark its 30 years. It's at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, Oct. 15-17. Tickets are $40; see www.mcachicago.org .

—Erin Carlisle Norton stayed offstage for The Moving Architects' excellent evening-length Stops on the Line last May. For her company's next concert, The Tasting Room, she'll be performing a solo of her own creation, "Standing Girl with Raised Right Elbow," as will the otherworldly Ayako Kato in "impression." Company dancers will appear live in Norton's new piece, aptly titled "The New," and on screen in a film version by Jocelyn Kelvin of a subtle, tense quartet from the Architects' repertoire, "This Sandy Cube." This will be at Links Hall, Oct. 16-17 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door; see www.brownpapertickets.com .

—Globetrotting Australian stomping sensations Tap Dogs are back at the Paramount Arts Center in Aurora, 23 E. Galena, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45-$55; see 630-896-6666.

—Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago has a huge show planned for its next engagement at the Harris Theater. They've enlisted Philadelphia-based choreographer Rennie Harris—beloved by just about all who've seen his smart, hip-hop inflected choreography—to create an original work on the company. His work hasn't been seen much in Chicago; this is a show to catch. Also débuting new pieces are Lindsey Leduc Brenner and Autumn Eckman, with live music by composer Dan Myers. Dances from the company's repertoire fill out the high-energy smorgasbord Oct. 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-60; visit www.harristheaterchicago.org and www.giordanodance.org .


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