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SPRING DANCE PREVIEW Women lead the pack this dance season
by Joanna Furnans
2018-03-20

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Clearly, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were needed to raise awareness—yet again—about the inequities, discrimination and harassment that women face in the workplace ( at let's face it, everywhere else ).

It is common knowledge in the dance field that women make up a majority of the "bodies" seen on stage, not to mention all the teachers, choreographers and directors working behind the scenes. Yet, time and again, it seems to be mostly male choreographers who are heralded, commissioned and chronicled as authorities in the field. In a continued effort to change this narrative, here's a small slice of what women and GNC folks are dancing about in Chicago this spring:

The Dance Center of Columbia College ( 1306 S. Michigan Ave.; Colum.Edu/Dance-Center ) kicks off the spring season with the Process v. Product Festival, including performances, panel discussions, workshops, and writing that highlights in equal ( or potentially higher ) value the process of making dances alongside the finished performance. The deeply investigative Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, premieres her latest work "Of Whales, Time, and Your Last Attempt to Reach Me" in an exploration of the body's response, both obvious and hidden, to "a world of perception-altering technology and digitally-dependent relationships." ( Thurs-Sat, March 29-31, 7:30 p.m. ).

Second in the festival line-up is the Bebe Miller Company with "In a Rhythm." Revealing, according to press materials, "the syntax of movement," this work is the result of a rigorous creation process that is documented in a companion project called "The Making Room." Allowing audiences an in-depth look at how dances are made by both Miller and fellow choreographer Susan Rethorst, "The Making Room" is an experiment in the articulation, both verbal and physical, of performance making. So much of a "finished" dance exists solely in the rehearsal room, it's about time audiences got a chance to see what they are missing. Watch the online material and then witness the performance live. ( Thursday-Saturday, April 5-7, 7:30 p.m. ).

Continuing in the spirit of process-oriented experiences, SET FREE, a performance series dedicated to providing dance artists with multiple opportunities to share their work throughout the creative process, returns for its third year at Links Hall ( 3111 N. Western Ave.; LinksHall.org . ). Curated by dancer/producer Jessica Marasa, this year's SET FREE includes a powerhouse lineup of dancers: Emma Draves, Keisha Janae, Julia Mayer and Tara Aisha Willis. Don't miss the opportunity to watch these relevant contemporary makers chisel away at something new. ( Wed., March 21, 7:30 p.m.; Monday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., May 16, 7:30 p.m. ).

Links Hall is on fire this spring with two additional must-see festivals. First, the Bridge Dance Festival presents five unique performances presumably "bridging" the gap between the Midwest and Japan with three works by visiting artists and two from Chicago locals. In particular, check out Kei Takei and Masako Kitaura's "Enmei ( long life )" exploring "what it means and what it takes to age as a woman in the field of contemporary dance" ( Friday-Saturday, April 6-7, 7 p.m. ), renowned butoh artist Yumiko Yoshioka examining solitude in "100 Light Years of Solitude" ( Wed., April 25, 7 p.m. ) and Kaori Seki as she embarks on a U.S. tour with her much anticipated new work "water and tears."( Fri-Sat, April 27-28, 7 p.m. )

Later in the season, Links Hall's Co-MISSION residency program, now in its second year, brings four artists into an intensive three-month incubation period culminating in a mini-festival of performances. Exploring feminine and queer identities, questioning hetero-normative narratives, calling out oppression and hierarchy, and "problematizing hyper-verticality," artists Sojourner Zenobia, Nora Sharp, AJ Mcclenon and Courtney Mackedanz usher in radical new voices to Chicago's vibrant independent dance scene. ( Thursday-Sunday, May 31-June 3, 7 p.m. )

Additional woman-made performances of note:

—The Museum of Conteporary Art ( 220 E. Chicago Ave.; MCAChicago.org ) welcomes Okwui Okpokwasili with her latest work, "Poor People's TV Room." This new piece for four brown women of different generations investigates memory-making, what it means to imprint on one another, and the impact of shared and lost histories. ( Thursday-Saturday, April 12-14, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 15, 2 p.m. )

—Ballet Nacional de Cuba returns to The Auditorium Theatre ( 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; AuditoriumTheatre.org . ) for the first time since 2003 with its renowned production of Don Quixote staged by longtime company director Alicia Alonso. Alonso's version of the iconic ballet gives more focus to the character "Dulcinea" making the ballet an arguably more equal-footed love story ( dance pun intended ). ( Friday-Saturday, May 18-19, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 20, 3 p.m. )

—Julia Rhodes' company, Lucky Plush, will present two dance theater works in an evening called "Tab Show" at The Harris Theater for Music and Dance ( 205 E. Randolph St.; HarrisTheaterChicago.org ). "Rink Life" riffs on old-school roller rink culture and "Curb Candy" promises to re-mix repertory from the company's old favorites hodge podged into something new. ( Thursday-Friday, April 26-27, 7:30 p.m. )

—Last but not least, the Chicago Moving Company presents "Dance Shelter" at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse ( 3035 N. Hoyne Ave.; ChicagoMovingCompany.org . ) with fresh works from artists in residence Rachel Bunting/The Humans and Ayako Kato, with additional work by guest choreographer Emma Draves. ( Thursday-Friday, May 10-11, 7:30 p.m. )


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