Thodos Dance Chicago: New Dances 2011 | Live review
Among the years that I’ve watched Thodos Dance Chicago’s annual choreographic workshop, —about half of its 11 so far—none have been as broad in concept and in style as this summer’s. Nine company members and guest choreographer Rebecca Lemme have turned out works that are angry, exuberant, concise and confusing. Some were clearly inspired by current trends; others reference distinct pockets of bygone time, as did the company’s , The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
, this is no surprise, given that YouTube and opened access to dance history that no prior generation of choreographers has had.
The most curious and chameleonic Thodos dancer continues to be Jessica Miller Tomlinson, who creates an entire movement universe from scratch for almost every dance she makes. Where most choreographers tinker with and refine their formulas, Tomlinson wears eras and schools like separates.
Her latest, In Tongues, is an homage to David Byrne for five men and bossy, petite Megan Buckley that’s frequently funny and, praise be, subtle. The mess it makes of the stage occasions a wordless epilogue and the witty recall of a maid character briefly seen in the beginning. Vintage Talking Heads songs including “Psycho Killer” and “Take Me to the River” get minced and stitched together a little too roughly, undermining the obvious affection she has for them, but as a sketch, it’s terrific. Brian Hare and guest dancer Michael Gross in particular nail their deadpan deliveries.
Michael McDonald, a new apprentice with the company last season, is the lengthy program’s exciting new voice. His work’s title may not promise much (Clouded Discovery) but its content does, with a wide-angle understanding of composition, well-coached and -conceived movement vocabulary, and fine performances from seven dancers, especially Tomlinson and . McDonald’s program note states that the piece is inspired by recurring circumstances; its walking rhythms, set to “Four Bedrooms” by Lutz Glandien and Peder’s “Timetakesthetimetimetakes,” deliver its shaded moods calmly and directly, without overselling them.
Which is what most of the rest of these artists could stand to develop. In Exurgence, collaborators Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock present their strongest concept and material yet, but relentlessly vectored toward a flat note of tortured sexiness. Hare’s tre-/ter-/tri, for seven women, is cold and odd; Jacqueline Stewart’s The Art of Ice Cream is a cut above but conflicted and opaque.
Wade Schaaf’s manic closer, Shostakovich Piano Concerto, is the most ambitious offering. Choreographed in a kitchen-sink style of neoclassical ballet and gestural quirks , with fiendishly difficult solos like what Val Caniparoli did to some dancers in the late ’90s, it’s a driving, pure-dance exercise like those regularly premiered and quickly forgotten at large ballet companies around the world. It’s not the kind of work to which these dancers are suited; it’s a bit like watching Star Wars Uncut.
Three lighting designers—Julie Ballard, Jacob Snodgrass and Nathan Tomlinson—work wonders and great variety out of the grid at the.
As always, Thodos augments its ranks for “New Dances,” with folks off contract from other companies, and freelancers seeking stage time and experience, making it a coming-together for the community as well. Panelists who advised the choreographers in process includeddirector Glenn Edgerton, longtime Mad Shak collaborator Kristina Fluty, and local choreographers Winifred Haun and Anna Sapozhnikov.