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While some shows for which we had high hopes fell flat—that barely even qualified as a Swan Lake, State Ballet Theatre of Russia—the year in dance was full of pleasant surprises. We saw superb work for puppets and about social issues, and we enjoyed seeing classic works taken out of storage. Many local artists and organizations had breakthrough moments; here’s hoping 2012 brings even more members to that club.
In praise of puppets—no strings attached
For every knockout example of dance for inanimate objects, there’s a bumper crop of misfit toys that never come alive. And yet, two weeks into 2011, we were riveted by the adventures of a child’s empty onesie, which meets a handkerchief wearing glasses, in Show Your Face! at the MCA Stage. (The humans involved in this Latvian-Slovenian collaboration were hugely talented, too. [node:145319 link=Our review;].) Puppeteer Basil Twist and choreographer [node:166277 link=Joe Goode;] made magic with Wonderboy in February, and a late-night cabaret downstairs at the Chopin Theatre, “Madness in Miniature” ([node:13085667 link=our review;]), kept the momentum going well into the spring.
Whisper “politically charged choreography,” and just watch people run for the hills. But we couldn’t get away from—or enough of—performances hell-bent on raising issues. The Seldoms lanced the housing bubble and financial crisis with [node:14957753 link=a sharp new work;], Stupormarket. Les Enfants Terribles ([node:14888309 link=our review;]) and Theater Un-Speak-Able ([node:12398815 link=our preview;]) laid smack down on consumerism and car culture, respectively. Faustin Linyekula ([node:14986947 link=our interview;]), Robert Moses, Andréya Ouamba and Reggie Wilson ([node:7560295 link=our preview;]) recalibrated our understanding of domestic and international relations. And Peter Carpenter’s Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times ([node:14937745 link=our review;]) proposed that creativity and compassion are the most stable (and most valuable) global currencies.
Oldies but goodies
Dance’s obsessive pursuit of the next big world premiere leads to a lot of forgettable evenings. For a variety of reasons, important works came out of the archives this year, offering rewards to both artists and audiences. The [node:14917457 link=Chicago Dancing Festival;] reminded us of Martha Graham’s genius, and we saw 25 years of Merce Cunningham’s during [node:15021487 link=his company’s farewell tour;]. Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago [node:14994489 link=revived a gem by its founder;], and Eiko & Koma ([node:14821771 link=our interview;]) opened their catalog for a summerlong retrospective ([node:14956743 link=our review;]). The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s roots wowed us ([node:14965657 link=our review;]), and Trisha Brown’s mastery of composition and form ([node:14427303 link=our preview;]) felt fresher and more timeless than ever before.
Keep it up
Five local organizations brought their games to the next level, and we hope that, this time next year, we’re saying the same thing about them again. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s [node:7553373 link=two commissions from Israeli choreographers;] triumphed [node:7561633 link=at home;] and abroad. Thodos Dance Chicago [node:247035 link=rebuilt the White City in style;]. Striding Lion Performance Group emerged as [node:14805849 link=a new center of gravity for indie dance;], while Michelle L’amour [node:14940629 link=continued Chicago’s rise;] as a home for top-notch burlesque. And on Thursday 15 and Friday 16, catch The Clinking, new from Julia Rae Antonick and Jonathan Meyer—we have a feeling that [node:14723439 link=their 2011;] [node:14923121 link=winning streak;] ain’t over yet.