In 2011, an incoming mayor with a penchant for dance shone an intense light on the art form in Chicago. If Rahm Emanuel’s effect on local dance has yet to be fully seen—beyond his plethora of honorary titles from Chicago troupes—the community has taken full advantage of the attention. New ventures, milestones and multidisciplinary collaborations all made for a stellar 2012.
All for one
The consortium at the newly formed American Rhythm Center experimented with an innovative nonprofit model: Nine arts orgs—including Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Giordano Dance Chicago, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Kalapriya—partnered for a shared, permanent space. ARC’s headquarters, the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue, got a nice renovation and a breath of fresh artistic life with new artists and city interest.
Their first time (in Chicago)
Dance Center of Columbia welcomed five female choreographers from Africa in its “Voices of Strength” program, a humorous and gut-wrenching examination of colonialist oppression. Turner Prize–winning British artist Martin Creed exposed himself with a provocative minimalist staging of Work No. 1020 (Ballet) at the MCA, and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet returned with the first local performance of its latest, Moulin Rouge, at the Auditorium. It was Paris Opera Ballet, though, that made the city’s future feel auspicious. The Parisians brought a classic in Giselle, while the Harris and Millennium Park offered the first-time visitors to the masses by putting them on the big screen at the Pritzker Pavilion, marking the country’s first outdoor simulcast of an international ballet company. We look forward to Paris Opera’s next visit—and hopefully more public simulcasts, Parisian or otherwise.
Consider a dance company’s lifespan in dog years: Take the number, then quadruple its significance. Giordanokicked off its 50th season with a new name (no more jazz) and a new home (the ARC). Muntu Dance Theatre turned 40 with a premiere from Jeffrey Page. Hubbard Street’s a mature 35 this year and acted as such with Alejandro Cerrudo’s (and the company’s) first evening-length piece: One Thousand Pieces, inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows. Joffrey’s Nutcracker turned 25—a long way from Iowa City, where it premiered. Thodos Dance Chicago hit the 20-year mark, while River North Dance Chicago artistic director Frank Chaves celebrated 20 years as artistic head by recruiting Nejla Yatkin and Adam Barruch for two premieres. Dance for Life, now 21, began a new era this summer when producer Anthony Guerrero took over the day-to-day duties from founder Keith Elliott, adding two troupes to the lineup.
Choreographers continued to embrace interdisciplinary collaborations. Margaret Jenkins brought her genre-crossing Light Moves to the Dance Center, while other collabs were less complex yet no less engaging. Kate Corby & Dancers’ In Whole or in Part was a deft example of supplemental imagery used to great effect. The Leopold Group’s A Correct Likeness took light and photography from Jessie Young and Matthew Gregory Hollis to bring inanimate images to life at DEFIBRILLATOR. Media artist/designer Joshua Paul Weckesser’s name seemed to pop up in every program. And there was hardly a moment we didn’t like in Produce at the White Box; in its second year, Lauren Warnecke and Timothy Russell’s improvised experiment cleverly incorporated dancers, designers and musicians. Year three should be even better.