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Photograph: Emily CoughlinLOOK AWAY Charles Cutler resuscitates Lyndsey Rhoads in Paul Christiano's ADHDivas for Chicago Dance Crash.

Chicago Dance Crash: “Immediate Gratification” | Preview

Paul Christiano experiments with giving his audience too much of what it wants.


“To be sure, we’re in a retrenchment, in a conservative period,” [node:14919933 link=Bill T. Jones;] says by phone from New York. I’m interviewing the choreographer about [node:14916061 link=his early, experimental works;], soon to visit the [node:90785 link=Dance Center of Columbia College;], but we’ve segued into a topic on which he’s recently weighed in, with the vehemence and intellectual rigor for which he is famed. At a July meeting of the Television Critics Association, Jones dismissed TV dance shows as “obscene” because, he says, they repackage dance, “a subtle art form,” as a competitive sport.

At around the same time, during another industry conference, [node:86884 link=Chicago Dance Crash;] performed Paul Christiano’s ADHDivas in a [node:14861315 link=Dance/USA showcase;]. The audience of concert-dance artists and company administrators relished the work’s giddy abuse of every choreographic trope under the sun, from sight gags to flashy tricks to endlessly cascading canons. “It’s a tongue-in-cheek criticism of Americans’ lack of attention span,” Christiano tells me later, also by phone. “I don’t think that there’s much appreciation for art whose meaning isn’t readily apparent. When it’s out of sequence or mysterious…people refuse to engage. So I decided to criticize the viewing public, while giving them exactly what they want at the same time.”

ADHDivas returns to the stage as the finale of “Immediate Gratification,” a mixed bill that Christiano assembled as a guest director for Chicago Dance Crash. It opens September 23 for a two-weekend run at the [node:31859 link=Ruth Page Center for the Arts;].

Christiano, 35, choreographed most of the program’s pieces, which he plans to present without blackouts or pauses, “like a stream of consciousness,” he says. Opener I Digress utilizes the Page theater’s stage-within-a-stage for interruptions to dancing happening in the foreground. In 101 Cures for Boredom, reworked from a piece that Christiano choreographed while in grad school at the University of Iowa, “I suggest that people who are dying of boredom might actually be able to rescue themselves,” he says. The octet employs Bubble Wrap, Post-it notes and Nerf guns in an interpretation of Camille Saint-Saëns’s 1886 suite, “The Carnival of the Animals.” Tyranny of the Geek stars “an overgrown toddler with no friends,” who bullies figments of his imagination into entertaining him.

One work in the mix is a new creation from local choreographer and costume designer Jeff Hancock, and another is a preexisting solo by Harrison McEldowney. Christiano saw the latter in February during an annual, multi-company bill at the Park West, “Duets for My Valentine.” Set to “Making Love Alone,” an ode to masturbation Bernadette Peters first performed on Saturday Night Live in 1981, the piece moved Christiano to approach McEldowney with a request to learn and perform it this month, something he “wouldn’t normally do with a choreographer of that kind of renown.”

The Bartlett native is quick to note that he doesn’t see himself as belonging to a superior category of people. “I have my guilty pleasures,” he admits. “I like reality TV. I watch Wife Swap. I’m as much a sucker for spectacle as anyone. What I want is to at least acknowledge that there’s room for improvement.… As a culture, we shouldn’t expect to be spoon-fed all the time.”

“Immediate Gratification” scratches itches during two weekends of shows at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts beginning September 23.

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