Dancers we discovered | 2011 in review

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David Lakein

David Lakein Photograph: Geoffray Bourdais

To call this top ten “best new dancers” isn’t entirely accurate; while many of these movement and performance artists are indeed young, they’ve also been doing their things for a while. But they weren’t on our radar until 2011, because they were working in other cities, still in school or something else. At any rate, we’re happy to have made their acquaintance and look forward to seeing them onstage again in 2012.



  • Stacey Aung Luna Negra Dance Theater doesn’t want for talent; it’s one of Chicago’s most consistently amazing ensembles. Still, each time we saw Aung perform in 2011 was a pleasure, whether in [node:7554081 link=the North American premiere;] of Solo una vez or in Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter, a show for kids.



  • Starinah “Star” Dixon During summer tap fest Rhythm World, [node:14881521 link=Nico Rubio introduced Dixon;] as “one of the most slept-on tap dancers out there.” Admittedly, we were among those sleeping but, hot damn, are we glad we woke up to the sound of her feet.



  • Adam Gauzza During the Other Dance Festival, [node:14947301 link=we got a preview;] of Joanna Rosenthal’s new work for Same Planet Different World, to premiere in full at Victory Gardens’ Biograph in March. We also saw Gauzza dance as we never had before.



  • Ondine Geary Geary’s performance of the fourth installment of Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times, [node:14937745 link=also during the Other Dance Festival in September;], couldn’t have been more perfectly attuned to choreographer Peter Carpenter’s unique, text-heavy style.



  • Katie Graves and Matthew McMunn This young pair of dancer-choreographers popped up everywhere in 2011. Their Sudden Buoyancy was one of the year’s best new duets.



  • David Lakein This solo performer killed with Les Études Profondes: The Power of Cheese at an otherwise unremarkable episode of Dance Union in early March.



  • Johnny McMillan He’s 19 years old, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and began dancing at age 12. In September, he was promoted from apprentice to full member of Hubbard Street 2. His choreographic instincts hold immense promise.



  • Nico Rubio The host of [node:14881521 link=Rhythm World’s “Beat-Niks” concert;] and a competitor at the Biggest Foot dance competition we judged in April, Rubio’s tap-dancing skills are as big as his Beethoven-esque hair.



  • Melissa Schleicher-Sanchez and Enid Smith It’s a cheat to lump these two dancer-choreographers together, instead of just posting a top 11 list. But we did discover them at the same time, [node:250431 link=during a February split bill at Links Hall;], and they do share fine craftsmanship and excellent attention to detail.




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