Shelter is a word often combined with needy nouns like homeless, animal and battered women. So why does the Chicago Moving Company, a 33-year-old modern-dance troupe now housed in the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, have a program called Dance Shelter? “We need to shelter the dancers because they are too poor to afford their own spaces,” says Nana Shineflug, CMC’s guiding light, artistic director and founder. “We have this wonderful space, and we want it to be used by people.”
While large troupes such as Hubbard Street send out press releases that tout the latest corporate and individual additions to their donor base, “Most of the 278 dance companies in this town are still part of an underground,” Shineflug says. “We don’t have economic visibility. We perform at funky venues for $12, $15 a ticket, which is what our audiences can bear. No one ever comes out ahead from a dance concert.”
Shineflug says there’s no one in Chicago who wants to promote midlevel dance companies. “We don’t have support from the major press. Somehow straight theater does better in this town,” she adds.
However, making money and having a lot of public recognition are not really part of Shineflug’s agenda, anyway. “I’m not trying to entertain people,” she says. “I grow the way I want to grow.” She’s taught and choreographed in China, Brazil, India and Israel, but claims “it’s just not high-profile stuff.”
“Fame is just not what it is about,” Shineflug says. “I wanted to build a loving community for myself.” Dance Shelter provides rehearsal space and a performance opportunity for a small group of choreographers who form part of Shineflug’s circle—namely, dancer-choreographers Rachel Bunting, Cindy Brandle and Atalee Judy. “They are artists that do honest work for themselves and keep growing—people we already know who are contributing to the space,” Shineflug says.
Shineflug’s values about the power of individual expression are reflected in her new piece, The Women, which is performed as part of the Dance Shelter concert going on this weekend. “It opens with a long phrase that each of the three dancers does in her own particular way,” she says. “I find that very interesting. I love them for their differences.”—Asimina Chremos
For more on CMC, visit www.chicagomovingcompany.org.