Ten years is a big deal.
Chicago modern dance group The Seldoms' 10th anniversary season started with a unique program at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance last fall. "This Is Not A Dance Concert" deconstructed an evening of concert dance by dividing the dancers and the audience into groups so that each person and performer had a different experience as the "show" progressed. Dancers stationed in various parts of the theaterin the empty house seats, backstage, perched in a restroom stall, on a staircaserepeated their sections of movement, singing and text for the four groups of watchers roaming separate set paths around the theater, only to have everyone end up on the stage for a wild finale complete with a bingo game where everybody wins. "Unique" is the company's trademark.
Artistic Director Carrie Hanson, named one of Dance Magazine's 25 To Watch this year, is known for setting her works in unconventional locales. Past seasons have placed dances in an empty outdoor pool; an architectural salvage store; a giant, empty garage; and even in the water streams running through the Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Now more interested in issue-based work, Hanson received rave reviews for her 2011 work, Stupormarket, which tackled the economic meltdown complete with excerpts from a lecture by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.
While creating Stupormarket, Hanson and company collaborated with Russia's Elena Slobodchikova Dance Company. The Russian company worked with Hanson to develop movement for one section and the dancers returned the favor by traveling to Krasnoyarsk to teach and perform in their home theater. So, for the final performance of the tenth season, how do you top that? With an international collaborative workshop and performance that includes an issue-based theme, of course.
Aided by funding from the John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's International Connections Fund, The Seldoms and WCdance from Taipei, Taiwan, will present a joint concert this month at the Ruth Page Center for Dance in the Gold Coast. The Taiwanese company landed in Chicago June 3 for a month-long residency with The Seldoms that will culminate in a combined performance with two premieres created during this time. To make it even more interesting, Hanson and WCdance Artistic Director WenChung Lin will trade dancers for these new works.
"I think it's going to be a challenge more for the choreographers than it is for the dancers," Hanson admitted over tacos in the West Loop. "At the same time, I'm starting a new full-length work with my company about clean energy technology and the argument around global warming. What I'd like to do is to work with the WCdance ensemble members on a section that will get pulled into the larger piece. I'm still trying to figure out what that is."
Lin is up for the challenge. "I won't decide until after I see and work with the dancers for one or two days," he said via email from Taipei. "I need to know them more. They are vital to my new piece. The way they think, live and dance will say a lot to me."
A former dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Lin started his company in 2008 and has received critical acclaim for his Small Series work. Similar to Hanson, his pieces tend to be staged in unconventional spaces. Only as she goes big, he goes small: inside a three-meter square Plexiglas box, on a four-meter, raised square platform and in a confined space filled with giant building blocks.
Getting to know each other and each other's work via YouTube and email correspondence, the two artists found kindred spirits. I saw something really interesting," Hanson said. "Looking at his movement vocabulary, I was interested in his language. He staged a piece in a three-meter, square glass box! That intrigued me, because I've done so much site-specific work. When I go into a theater, I want to change it."
Lin is also interested in making international connections. "It's the opportunity that attracts me," he said. "Carrie will be the first guest choreographer for WCdance and it's the first time for my young company to create a piece outside Taiwan." Whatever these two come up with, it will surely be unique, unconventional and spellbinding.
The Seldoms with WCdance will be at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Thursday-Saturday, June 28-30, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 1, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20. Call 312-337-6543 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/246618.
Additional area performances:
The Nanning Art Theatre makes its U.S. debut at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University with Legend of the Sun. 50 E. Congress Pkwy., Tuesday-Wed., June 12-13, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35-$55. Call 800-982-2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium.
Ensemble Español hits the stage with Flamenco Passion at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Friday-Saturday, June 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $26-$46, call 847-673-6300 or visit www.northshorecenter.org .
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents its annual Inside/Out Choreographic Workshop performances at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Theater, 1044 W. Harrison St. with two shows on Saturday, June 23rd at 5 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$35. Call 312-850-9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com .
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre presents New Works 2012 at Hubbard Street Dance Center, 1147 W. Jackson Blvd., Saturday, June 23 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30. Call 312-243-9310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Paris OpÃ©ra Ballet takes the Harris Theater stage with three performances of Giselle, plus three repertory shows. 205 E. Randolph Dr., Wednesday-Saturday, June 27-30 at 7:30 p.m. and June 30-July 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $55-$175; call 312-334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org .
Chicago Tap Theatre's Totally Tap-ular! Is at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Saturday, June 30th at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22-$37. Call 773-935-6875 or visit www.chicagotaptheatre.com .