A modern dance festival rocks into its sixth year.
The Other Dance Festival opens this weekend—and it’s the only place you can see 16 of the city’s top modern-dance artists, packed together into three weekends of artistically loaded lineups, opening Thursday 6 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse Theater.
Looking to showcase Chicago’s high-level modern dance in a conext of it’s own, Kay LaSota and Elizabeth Lentz of Chicago Moving Company founded the festival in 2002. They took on the oh-so-literal name to differentiate from existing festivals, such as Dance Chicago, which casts a wide net across dance genres with both amateur and professional dancers and choreographers.
This intimate, expertly curated festival opens its first week with host company CMC performing the athletic, comedic Quirk, choreographed by live-wire artistic director Nana Shineflug. “She’s kinda like the den mother of Chicago modern dance,” LaSota says. “It’s a really entertaining, odd, acrobatic trio, kind of reminiscent of the circus in its mood and style, or commedia dell’arte.” Set to music by 20-piece band Alarm Will Sound, “it’s a crowd-pleaser,” she says.
“Looove me the Quirk,” raves lighting designer Julie E. Ballard, who lit the piece for Estrogen Fest in March. As technical director (or “head bitch,” as she likes to say) for this year’s festival, Ballard has the unique perspective of seeing every ODF work in motion. “[Quirk] is this fun, fast dance that, if you blink, you’ve missed something,” she says.
ODF’s kickoff weekend also includes the cheerleading-influenced Let’s Go Love by Matthew Hollis, who was recently awarded a $15,000 Chicago Dancemakers Forum 2008 Lab Artist grant. Hollis’s past cheer-themed creations have left audiences laughing until tears streamed down their faces. “It’s fascinating and hysterically funny and moving,” LaSota says. Rounding out the program are Cindy Brandle Dance Company, the Seldoms, and a collaborative work between Mordine & Company Dance Theatre and Indian dance company Natya Dance Theater called Two Rivers.
In Week Two, repertory company Same Planet Different World performs Hearts on Fire by NYC-based choreographer Faye Driscoll, a quartet that makes use of aggressive, athletic movement. Also performing are TOC Dance editor Asimina Chremos, and Hedwig Dances. Rachel Bunting’s group the Humans will present an updated version of the trio Let’s kill our sadness with music by a post-punk Japanese girl band and a set that has 20 pounds of raw wool, made into a ceiling of clouds. “All of these elements combine with really strong work that is emotionally tinged to kind of, like, blow out your demons,” says LaSota. And the Dance Center at Columbia College’s Peter Carpenter will perform Last Cowboy Standing, a 2005 solo set to excerpts from Ronald Reagan’s speeches.
The festival’s closing week matches dynamic solos with excerpts from evening-length works that can be seen in full later in the year, such as Lucky Plush Productions’ sneak preview of Cinderbox 18, which premieres at the Museum of Contemporary Art in November.
Margie Cole, artistic director of the Dance COLEctive, goes solo performing Channel, crafted for her by Elli Kopp, formerly of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. “Margie is a very intense, powerful performer, and this piece takes advantage of that,” LaSota says. Adds Ballard, “You feel like you’re onstage with her, feeling what she’s feeling at that moment.” In addition to works by JulieAnn Graham and newer company Thread Meddle Outfit, Breakbone Dance Co. member Jyl Fehrenkamp is sure to please with her solo The Woman Who Had It All—chronicling the ideal woman’s drive to keep it together.
The Other Dance Festival runs through September 21 at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse.