One thing's for sure: dance artists are not hibernating this winter. Working with themes like perception, heritage, anger, displacement and joy, a bevy of local choreographers as well as national and international touring companies will grace Chicago stages this season.
Here are some highlights:
Links Hall ( 3111 N. Western Ave.; LinksHall.org ) starts off with dance maker Paige Caldarella with an original production with filmmaker Jessica King entitled If Left Unchecked ( Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 25-27, 7 p.m. ). This timely political work performed by dancers Keyierra Collins and Jessica Duffy aims to examine "how cultural norms against female anger, created by sexism and amplified by race, affect female bodies."
Shortly thereafter we will see the culminating performances of Links Hall's Co-MISSION fellows, choreographers Ayako Kato and J'Sun Howard, in a two- weekend run ( Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 15-18, 22-25, 7 p.m. ). Kato's world premiere of stÃ╝ck 1998/anchor 2018 will be a movement "actualization" of 30 pages from Manfred Werder's 4,000 page musical score. Raised in a Japanese culture where women are taught to accommodate others, the work is a rigorous reflection on the relationship between "independence and harmony." Likewise, Howard premieres the final rendition of Working on Better Versions of Prayers, a dance many months in the making centered around "Black boy joy" and the poetics of hope.
Collaboraction ( 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Collaboraction.org ) is well underway with their Encounter festival, a "mixed-medium explorative series on racism and radical healing in Chicago," but there is still time to see dance performances responding to these themes by choreographers Yariana Baralt Torres, Elysia C. Banks, Sharidan Rickmon, and Stephanie "Malibu" Banes all on Saturday, Jan. 20 ( 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. ). In particular, don't miss Banks' Of Wine and Chocolate that explores "how we connect as women while honestly acknowledging and celebrating our different cultures, ideals, and heritage."
The Auditorium Theatre ( 50 E. Congress Pkwy.; AuditoriumTheatre.org . ) has got ballet covered this season with two programs. First, the Joffrey Ballet presents Modern Masters, a mixed program featuring work by dance legends Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine, as well as piece by rising star Myles Thatcher and a world premiere by Joffrey's own ballet master, Nicolas Blanc. ( Feb. 7-18, visit Joffrey.org for tickets ).
Then, Les Ballet De Monte-Carlo, the renowned dance company from Monaco, comes to Chicago with The Sleeping Beauty ( La Belle ) ( Saturday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 4, at 2:00 p.m. ). Returning to the original story by Charles Perrault, this ballet promises to be a "ferocious psychoanalytical interpretation of this famous fairy-tale, tapping into our childhood memories, fears and desires."
The Dance Center of Columbia College ( 1306 S. Michigan Ave.; Colum.edu/Dance-Center ) welcomes back Doug Varone and Dancers for the first time since 2001 ( Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 8-10, 7:30 p.m. ). Dance lovers will revel in the rare opportunity to see Varone himself perform two solos within the robust evening of repertory work.
Later this season, the Dance Center partners with the Alphawood Foundation to bring the internationally acclaimed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan back to Chicago for a presentation of their newest evening-length work, Formosa ( Friday-Saturday, March 2-3, 7:30 p.m., Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. ). Meaning "beautiful," Formosa is an exploration of the homeland as "a playground of love and life, mediated by tragedy, hope and rebirth."
Last but far from least, the Museum of Contemporary Art ( 220 E. Chicago Ave.; MCAChicago.org ) presents Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis: The Way You Look ( At Me ) Tonight ( Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 8-10, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 11, 2 p.m. ). An internationally known, self-identified disabled artist and activist, Cunningham is teaming with acclaimed choreographer Curtis in a work that investigates how we see each other, the "impact of movement on perception and identity, and how we relate to one another."