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WINTER DANCE SPECIAL Winter dance is warming up
by Lauren Warnecke

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This year is shaping up to be mellower one for many local dance companies, many of which are still recovering from a prolific fall dance season filled with ambitious projects and world premieres—scaled back, perhaps, but no less exciting for all brands of dance fans.

—The Harris Theater has a very full calendar this winter, of which the notable engagements include Batsheva Dance Company ( Jan. 27-28 ) and the return of Brian Brooks for his second engagement as the venue's inaugural choreographer in residence. Brooks pairs with New York City Ballet's famed former ballerina Wendy Whelan for a one-nighter Feb. 24.

After their popular duet appeared in Whelan's 2015 national tour, the duo creates their second project together with live chamber music by Brooklyn Rider. Batsheva, the Israeli contemporary dance company which has informed and inspired pretty much everyone, is the creative home to choreographer Ohad Naharin, whose Last Work performed for two nights at the Harris is in his iconic Gaga style. On Friday, the company will be presented with the 2016 Ruth Page Award, followed by a moderated discussion with Naharin following the performance. This one's not to be missed.

—Locals in residence at the Harris this winter include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago ( March 16-19 ) bringing back some of last season's favorites: Lucas Crandall's spectacularly fun Imprint and the serene and sorrowful Solo Echo, by Crystal Pite. The theme of the evening, however, is Nacho Duato, whose Jardi Tancat will be restored after several seasons on the shelf and complemented by a new-to-Hubbard Street duet from the choreographer's Multiplicity.

The main highlight of Giordano Dance Chicago's two nights at the Harris ( March 31-April 1 ) is a new staging of former River North Dance Chicago artistic director Frank Chaves' 1993 Grusin Suite, originally created at Giordano's well-known Jazz Dance World Festival. On March 5, Visceral Dance Chicago teams with the Chicago Philharmonic for the telling of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky's story. The creative rendering of The Dream of a Ridiculous Man features artistic director Nick Pupillo's choreography to music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Osvaldo Golijov, and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, among others. 205 E. Randolph Dr.,

—After an exhausting Nutcracker season unveiling The Joffrey Ballet's new production by the ballet/Broadway legend Christopher Wheeldon, a winter contemporary program at the Auditorium Theatre will be delightfully understated. The company revives Wheeldon's Fool's Paradise and Wayne McGregor's INFRA, rounding out the program with the Chicago Premiere of Justin Peck's Year of the Rabbit. It's a program that may challenge Joffrey's audiences, but then again, so did the Nutcracker. 50 E. Congress Pkwy.,

—Also at "The Aud," Thodos Dance Chicago will celebrate its silver anniversary March 11 as part of the venue's "Made in Chicago" dance series. The program boasts a trilogy of works, one brand new, based on a signature work of artistic director Melissa Thodos. This downtown performance follows a winter engagement at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 25 that will include Thodos' stunning Near Light, created in 2015 as a tribute to her late brother ( ). Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater makes its annual stop in Chicago March 22-26. It's a shorter engagement than usual, but packed to the gills with varied programs and Chicago premieres, including MacArthur "Genius" ( and Chicago favorite ) Kyle Abraham's work Untitled America. Fear not, Revelations closes every night.

—The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents a new exhibit dedicated to one of the 20th century's most prolific choreographers: Merce Cunningham. Running Feb. 11- April 30, the Common Time exhibit boasts original artifacts from an extensive collection of drops, costumes, and renderings at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, a co-presenter of the event. The art exhibit is complemented by four performance events, including the first-ever U.S. appearance of Ballet de Lorraine ( Feb. 18-19 ), co-presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and performing, among others, Cunningham's Sounddance, which is reputed as one of his favorite works. Also on the Edlis Neeson stage, former Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener present Tesseract March 23-25, an immersive collaboration between dance and 3-D video created with radical filmmaker Charles Atlas. 220 E. Chicago Ave., .

—Worth a note are two ballet companies celebrating their fifth anniversaries: Chicago Repertory Ballet March 24-26 at the Biograph Theater including director Wade Schaaf's elegant one-act The Four Seasons ( 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., ) and Ballet 5:8, performing work inspired by the Scarlet Letter at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., March 18-19. .

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