Chock full of innovative performances by local independent dance makers as well as opportunities to see new work from some of the most important choreographers of our time, Chicago is brimming with creative energy this fall. Mark your calendars for these not-to-be-missed productions:
The Dance Center of Columbia College ( 1306 S. Michigan Ave.; Colum.Edu/Dance-Center ) welcomes back Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group in CITIZEN ( Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 12-14, 7:30 p.m. ). Centered around questions of belonging, this work for five dancers with varying cultural histories, uses the dynamics of rhythm, repetition and scale within solo and group physicalities to investigate status, isolation and the challenges of non-ambivalent space. Through movement, text and video Wilson's work has the remarkable ability to uncover layers of shared humanity by allowing audiences to scrutinize and relate to the performers and subjects on stage.
Later in the season, Cynthia Oliver's COCo. Dance Theatre makes its Chicago debut at the Dance Center with the much-anticipated Virago-Man Dem ( Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 2-4, 7:30 p.m. ). With sharp discernment and a keen eye, Oliver excels at creating dance-theatre work that is politically and emotionally resonant yet steers wildly away from clichÃ©. In this work she asks, "How can a woman choreograph masculinity without resorting to stereotypes, but instead locate its nuances, challenges and ambiguities? Those very elements that black communities know so well and yet see rarely reflected in the culture at large?"
The Museum of Contemporary Art ( 220 E. Chicago Ave.; MCAChicago.org ) has an exciting season ahead that includes the second installment of the Faye Driscoll's series Thank You for Coming. The new piece, Thank You for Coming: Play, exposes autobiography for the duality that it is: both "mythically urgent and elusively empty." It remains to be seen whether "Play" will require as much audience participation as "Attendance," the first in the series, but there is no doubt that we will be transfixed by her cast of no-holds-barred performers. ( Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 9-11, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m. ).
In addition, the legendary Twyla Tharp will present the world premiere of Minimalism and Me, a new work created specifically for the MCA ( Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 7-9, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 9-10, 2 p.m. ). This is a rare opportunity to see live excerpts from the canon of Tharp's career, as dancers will perform snippets of her most iconic works in an evening conducted as a "performance lecture" hosted by Tharp herself. Dance lovers- do not miss this show.
As always, Links Hall ( 3111 N. Western Ave.; LinksHall.org ) hosts a slew of top-notch performances throughout the year, and this fall is no exception. First up, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak performs Blackbird Ventriloquy, a solo arguably 10 years in the making ( Friday-Sunday, Sept. 22-24 and 28-30 at 7 p.m. ). Performed as a "reopened archive" of her 2007 solo, "My Name is a Blackbird," Shanahan, a rigorous somatic researcher and dance scholar, re-explores the "complicated memory" of her own physicality in this new evening-length work.
Next, writer/producer/curator Cynthia Bond brings us Performing Home, a performance event of new work and deep discussion "engaging the multivalent meanings, spaces, and movement that construct what we call home." Bond has culled an intriguing mix of movement makers and dramaturges for this show including Anita Gonzalez and Joel Valentin Martinez, Joshua Kent, Adrienne Brown and Bob Palmer ( Friday-Sunday, Oct. 13-15, 7 p.m. ).
Later, the Midwest Nexus program, a touring initiative between selected Links Hall artists and out-of-town performers, has expanded this year to include five Chicago makers in an extended program called Trade Routes: A Festival of Artistic Exchange ( Thursday-Monday, Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 7-9, 7 p.m. ). Be sure to get a festival pass in order to see all the exciting work by Chicago performance hotshots Mitsu Salmon, J'Sun Howard and ATOM-r, among others.
Independently, this season also bares witness to culminating performances from two of the 2016 Chicago Dance Makers Forum Lab Artists. Each year CDF grants selected choreographers $15,000 to help advance their careers and generate new work. First, Carole McCurdy presents Waver, an evening-length work "about how we hold and are held, and how we go when we let go." Influenced by her studies in butoh and Argentine tango, McCurdy is a thrillingly unpredictable dance artist who is unafraid to take risks that might throw us off balance. ( Friday-Sunday, Sept. 15-17 and Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 21-23, 9 p.m. at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Ave.; dfbrl8r.org )
Then, CDF lab artist and choreographer Pranita ( Jain ) Nayar premieres Unwinding with members of Mandala South Asian Performing Arts. Nayar has spent years working and researching ways to upend the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam with contemporary practices in an effort to modernize the form's capacity to communicate with modern audiences. Don't miss the one night only reveal of this original new work. ( Friday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m. at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave.; MandalaArts.org )
And one final shout out to the independent dance makers out there: the artist collective Laboratory Dancers will premiere Ladies First, an evening-length collaboration about "societal views of femininity, competition, durability and gaze." These dedicated dance artists have been working on this project for the past two years and are finally ready for our eyes. ( Friday-Saturday, Sept. 15-16, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio 3, 2936 N Southport Ave.; LaboratoryDancers.org )
Lastly, if you are tired of the more experimental work and want to see some tried and true favorite companies, the Joffrey Ballet presents Lola de Avila's Giselle ( Oct. 18-29 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; Joffrey.org ) and Hubbard Street Dance ditches the traditional proscenium stage to dance behind-the-scenes at the Harris Theater in the new work Space, In Perspective, by Peter Chu. ( Sept. 21-24 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.; HubbardStreetDance.com )