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Dancin' Feats
by Zachary Whittenburg
2009-09-09

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A full rundown of the fall dance season is coming shortly so I won't get into enumerating the heap of great performances coming our way.

Deserving of its own rundown, however, is this month's eighth occasion of the Other Dance Festival, a three-week compendium of the modern-dance scene's busiest exponents. ODF ( or simply "The Other" ) , as its name suggests, was originally called into being as a fringe event, showcasing work by artists unaffiliated with or uninvited to the larger Dance Chicago festival. But as Dance Chicago was moved toward the end of the calendar and altered its scope to be inclusive of student and suburban companies, the Other has been able to stretch out into repute and recognition, becoming one of the best-attended and most-anticipated events of the season. It's all but outgrown its home at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse theater, with its six shows frequently selling out and latecomers often left standing or sitting on floor cushions.

The Other is a production of the Chicago Moving Company ( CMC ) , a 37-year-old company in residence at the theater but, more specifically, it's helmed by CMC's Managing Director, Kay LaSota. ( Elizabeth Lentz was a longtime co-producer until her relocation to Seattle last summer. ) LaSota manages the logistical feat of programming 16 companies' appearances and the technical aspects of organizing lighting and sound designs for as many works. Encouraging attendance with "open minds and eyes," LaSota doesn't shy away from curating evenings that underline the vast breadth of techniques and styles employed by Chicago's dancemakers.

Of the Other's offerings this month, week one finds Columbia College dance instructors Paige Cunningham and Darrell Jones looking at movement as athleticism with a premiere duet. Wearing pulse monitors and exercising to the point of fatigue, their creative process has been one that resembles an Olympic hopeful's training regimen more than free-associated studio time. A live improvisation on double bass accompanies a dance trio by members of CMC, Lucky Plush Productions and Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak showpieces that point to the companies' own performances in October, and Same Planet Different World will share "Sextet," new to that group's repertoire.

Breakbone DanceCo. and Mordine & Co. Dance Theater both unveiled pieces earlier this year—"Excavation of Remains" and "New Ground," respectively—which they're reviving for the Other's second weekend. "As I entered so will I leave" by Cindy Brandle will take its bow as a quartet previewing an upcoming evening. Brandle's not alone in assessing the state of our selves, split as they are into real and virtual representations, but as a prevailing cultural question of our time it certainly bears investigating. Margi Cole, also a faculty member at Columbia's Dance Center, has recently taken her work deeper into multidisciplinary territory and continues to fold text and video into her work, this time in collaboration with dancer/costume designer Jeff Hancock. Matthew Hollis, beloved by both the dance and queer communities, will perform "That Afterschool Special Feeling," plumbing his personal history for a tale of his first love, Jim. Rounding out the evening, Janet Schmid brings back "Craptastic," a dance about wipe-outs and near misses that zooms out to address grace during instability.

ODF's third weekend coincides with a number of great events around town, including the return of Merce Cunningham Dance Company following the death of its namesake last month, a 30th anniversary celebration for Links Hall, Nora Chipaumire at the MCA and Miami City Ballet at the Auditorium. Nevertheless, intrepid folks will be able to fit it all in, and should. Peter Carpenter's "My Fellow Americans" is a portrait of Ronald Reagan drawn from the point of view of those whose needs and voices his policies consistently tried to suppress; Carpenter and his dancers will perform an excerpt from what will premiere in full the following weekend. The Humans, about whom I've written much in this space, will be accompanied by musician Samuel Robinson for a dance promising enthusiasm and, intriguingly, "costumes that transform from black & white to Technicolor." Putting her personal experience directly into her art, choreographer Ayako Kato—who gave birth just two weeks ago—will meditate upon the event for her solo dance, "Born." The ever-incisive Carrie Hanson will show "Death of a ( Prada ) Salesman," which interrogates the luxury-goods market through the lens of Arthur Miller's play, and Hedwig Dances, celebrating it's twenty-fifth anniversary, shows a dance included in its October program, "Rein, Bellow" by Colleen Thomas and Bill Young.

The Other Dance Festival runs Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17-18, 24-25, and Oct. 1-2 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne. Single admission is $15, and $12 for students and seniors; festival passes for all three programs are available for $35. Call the Chicago Moving Company at 773-880-5402 or visit www.chicagomoving company.org; tickets are at www.brownpapertickets.com .

Coming up:

—Jonathan Meyer's Khecari Dance Theatre opens his evening-length work "The Waking Room" on Thursday. Seemingly narrative but intentionally resistive of conclusive readings, the work's three men are observed in a sort of ritualistic power struggle played out in distressed costumes reminiscent of late-19th-century French court attire, but Christopher Preissing's original score sets the action in a more contemporary—possibly even future—moment. Performances are Sept. 10-19 at the Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S. Morgan, and tickets are $15. Call 773-837-0145 or visit khecari.org for details, dates and times.

—Dim Sum Dance's creations may take place more rarely as its artistic director, Julie Mayo, temporarily relocates to California to continue her studies. However, Jessica Wright, a superb exemplar of Mayo's style, is sticking around and producing some work of her own. "A Chosen Pick of the Decided Spot," danced by Wright and other performers from within the Dim Sum/Moving Architects circle, marks her debut as a choreographer and producer. It will be at the Life Force Arts Center, 3148 N. Lincoln., Sept. 11-12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12/$10 artists; visit www.jessicawrightdance.org and www.lifeforcearts.org .

—The Chicago Dancemakers Forum ( CDF ) presented a fascinating series of presentations and discussions at Wicker Park work/performance venue Silverspace last season by dancemakers and other practitioners in the field; by springtime they were consistently packed with a huge variety of curious folks. The series kicks off another round Sept. 14, when CDF, Links Hall and the Goethe-Institut co-present "Body, Space, Music," a free performance and talkback with Raimund Hoghe, German choreographer and dramaturge for 10 years with Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal. Hoghe will dance, read and present video from his recent investigations; Dancin' Feats strongly recommends you attend. It will be at the Goethe-Institut Chicago, 150 N. Michigan, Suite 200, 6-8 p.m. Read up on the artist at www.raimundhoghe.com; call 773-281-0824 for more information.


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