Dance | 2011 in review
From perfect puppetry to landmarks enjoying new leases on life, the best dance in Chicago this year came from surprising sources.
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. .) Puppeteer Basil Twist and choreographer made magic with Wonderboy in February, and a late-night cabaret downstairs at the Chopin Theatre, “Madness in Miniature” ( ), 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 , Stupormarket. Les Enfants Terribles ( ) and Theater Un-Speak-Able ( ) laid smack down on consumerism and car culture, respectively. Faustin Linyekula ( ), Robert Moses, Andréya Ouamba and Reggie Wilson ( ) recalibrated our understanding of domestic and international relations. And Peter Carpenter’s Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times ( ) 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 reminded us of Martha Graham’s genius, and we saw 25 years of Merce Cunningham’s during . Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago , and Eiko & Koma ( ) opened their catalog for a summerlong retrospective ( ). The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s roots wowed us ( ), and Trisha Brown’s mastery of composition and form ( ) 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 triumphed and abroad. Thodos Dance Chicago . Striding Lion Performance Group emerged as , while Michelle L’amour 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 ain’t over yet.