The most entertaining dances seem to come from Giordano Dance Chicago. Last night, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Harris Theater, and the troupe was determined to spark something wild in the audience. Athletic dancers get me every time. When I see performers attacking like athletes, I think, “Yes, get it!” The program couldn’t have spelled anything different—even contrasts like Autumn Eckman’s touching solo from the late Gus Giordano, to the feisty finish of the full ensemble.
The night begins with Le Grand Futur Is Here! by Mia Michaels of So You Think You Can Dance fame. Her program headshot is so outrageously over the top, it can’t help but draw attention: her tongue sticking out, her mascara-heavy eyes squinting like some crazed vampire from the Twilight saga. Thank God it’s not a reflection of the piece, a futuristic suburbia dream that GDC performs with aplomb. The male dancers dangle the women over their shoulders, moving like lost souls in purgatory. The energy picks up and the gyrations begin, most notably when one sequence begins with a rope prop.
Eckman follows with Wings, a solo by Gus Giordano. The piece is short, but touching. Set to a cappella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Joan Baez, the rather melancholy ballad is a nice accent to the flowery white costume and the fluid choreography. And Eckman's legs—wow! They seem to inch higher with each ascending note.
The world premiere of Eckman’s G-Force is like watching science in motion. Two quartets move in perpetual action, like a physics project brought to life. Here, again, we see the athleticism of GDC. In costumes that resemble something from a sci-fi flick, the technique is solid and the choreography is constant. It re-enforces the idea that G-Force is, in fact, “the force of acceleration on a body in motion,” as it says in the program.
Sabroso from Del Dominguez and Laura Flores concludes the first half of the performance. The cast assembles to perform a sweet, but not necessarily substantive fusion of ballroom, flamenco and jazz. It’s fun, lively and gets a good roar from the crowd with its “join us” vibe, though it’s less engaging than the other pieces in the program.
Mark Swanhart’s second half opening number Sidecar is a bit bubbly, but it has its charms. A pedestrian gets lost in his own fantasy, chasing a girl while everything and everybody can’t help but get in the way. The women wear striped socks and doll-like skirts. The men wear overalls, jeans and suspenders, like characters from a fable. A long ladder falls from overhead, which is remeniscient of a Jack and the Beanstalk-type story, about a boy who ventures into someone else’s fantasy and isn’t necessarily the most welcome.
Gravity follows—a duet from GDC ensemble member Lindsey Leduc. The piece alludes to young romance, almost sappy to a degree, but can be delightfully engaging. The choreography is quite seamless, despite its gushy theme, utilizing the full scope of the stage to bring these two lovebirds together.
And finally, Jolt, with choreography from Eckman and concept/staging by Nan Giordano, closes the night and proves to be an overwhelming crowd pleaser. The percussive beats of pots and pans, spoons and cups throb in the background, while the GDC troupe bumps and grinds in a STOMP-like rhythm. The energy infuses the theater, and with the exception of some cartoonish line routines across the stage that extend into the wings, the piece picks up and finishes like a clenched fist ready to take a swing. When the curtain falls and the evening ends, there are a lot of grateful, happily satisfied customers.
The final performance of Giordano Dance Chicago’s 2012 Fall Engagement happens tonight at 8pm at the Harris Theater.
Yesterday, it was 75 degrees and sunny. Climate change? Global warming? Could be, depending on who you’re inclined to believe. That’s the central inspiration for Carrie Hanson’s Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead, now playing through Saturday at the Dance Center of Columbia College.
Amidst compressed set pieces of Rubik’s Cube-like boxes (an allusion, maybe, to clusters of recyclables or trash) a spotlight shines on a school desk, while two dancers fancifully—like impressionable children—fuss with one another. The sweet prodding of the couple clashes against cheeky intercuts of bubbly tunes, while the rest of the cast assembles to perform Hanson’s whimsical yet grounded base of modern phrasing. The dancers—kinetic movers, as described by Hanson—shift between bits of performance art and choreography, using spoken language, movement and a smidgen of theater to portray the contentious divide over a rather bitter debate.
What ensues is something subtle and deftly clever in its contrasts: nature versus nurture, present and future, and (the driving force of all things) money and power. A slow start ultimately builds to a sleek, smartly crafted commentary of culture gaps and conflicting ideals. This piece doesn’t exclusively speak about climate change, but about a culture of clashing viewpoints. What one person believes, the other is ready to refute with illogical, impulsive and downright silly harangues. A prop-heavy performance finds lots of irony and humor for a subject inevitably tied to rancorous politics.
But politics doesn’t define the piece, and here is where Hanson separates herself from the status quo; she amasses tons of information and dissects it from every vantage point, but avoids being predictable. Exit Disclaimer is not a lecture on the pitfalls of climate change, or whether it’s simply the natural course of things; instead, there’s a sly suggestion that we’re all part of the same demise. In the beginning of the piece, the dancers wear pedestrian clothing—a naïve girl in a skirt, a little boy wearing a NASA t-shirt. After a brief pause, the dancers change into all white, suggesting that they’ve matured; their identities are linked to one another. Finally, the last phrase of unison pits them together. The group breathes as a single unit, inhaling and exhaling. A Darth Vader-like straining sound oozes in the background. Just before the set goes dark, the dancers take a last gasp for air, but, as with members of the audience, the lights cut out before anyone has a chance to exhale.
Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead continues at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago Friday and Saturday at 8pm.
The Kiss Kiss Coquettes have been rompin’ and ravin’ at the Greenhouse Theater Center over the past few weeks, as part of the Kiss Kiss Cabaret's annual Halloween-themed "Peek-A-Boo!" variety show. As a special to On Pointe, we enlisted a few cast and crew members to give us some back-story on the group's newest number, Grim Grinning Ghosts, and shed some light on what it’s like in the provocative world of burlesque. Hopefully it gets you in the Halloween spirit.
Mike Birbiglia is good at his job. Aside from a couple cringe-inducing moments like a drunk-driving accident from hell and a carnival ride gone horribly awry, there's nothing he recalls in the courtship of the woman who is now his wife that differs too terribly from anyone else's dating life. But the devil is in the details and any of us should be so lucky as to spin the kinds of tantalizing and hilarious yarns that a seasoned rancoteur like Birbiglia did last night at the Victory Gardens in his new solo show My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, which plays through Monday.
Bonnie Metzgar plans to step down as artistic director of About Face Theatre following the 2012–13 season, the theater's board of directors announced today.
Metzgar took the reins of the LGBTQ-focused About Face in 2008, after founding artistic director Eric Rosen departed for Kansas City Rep. In her tenure, Metzgar has strengthened About Face's ties within Chicago through coproductions with companies like Chicago Dramatists and American Theater Company, expanded the company's core of artistic associates and helped shepherd the theater through.
"I was trying to do some really specific things at About Face, including leading everybody through a transparent process of creating a vision for the next three to five years as a collective," Metzgar said in an interview today. With that process complete, the timing seemed right for a transition, she said. Metzgar, who came to About Face from Brown University and previously worked at New York's Public Theater, says she has no plans yet beyond June but would intends to remain in Chicago (her partner, Rebecca Rugg, is on the artistic staff at Steppenwolf).
About Face's board will launch a nationwide search for Metzgar's successor, though she thinks "there's probably someone really great in Chicago who could step up and take leadership."
Before the end of her tenure next summer, Metzgar will direct the final, to-be-announced show of the season at Victory Gardens's Richard Christiansen Theater. The season also includes the premiere of the holiday musical We Three Lizas, by Scott Bradley and Alan Schmuckler, opening next month at the Steppenwolf Garage, and a remount of About Face Youth Theatre's What's the T?
In a separate announcement today, Victory Gardens Theater said that Jan Kallish will step down as its executive director at the end of November.
Susan Felder’s Wasteland is a heartbreaking but hopeful new drama at Timeline Theatre about two American soldiers captured and imprisoned in northern Vietnam, but only one of the actors is seen by the audience. Behind the curtain, Steve Haggard is performing without the benefit of a set or audience, giving a remarkably deep performance with only his voice. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Haggard wasn’t involved with theater until he got benched on his high school baseball team, after which he quit and began working on stage crew. He auditioned for plays the following year, getting cast in lead roles and igniting a passion that took him to the Theatre School at DePaul University, where he graduated in 2002. He’s been working steadily ever since, and became an ensemble member at A Red Orchid in 2007, where he will be appearing later this season in Annie Baker’s The Aliens. Haggard speaks to us about Wasteland’s unique rehearsal process, what he’s doing behind the curtain, and how his mental image of Riley doesn’t actually look like him.
It’s hard to keep up with Lizzie Leopold. The Northwestern doctoral student and artistic director of the Leopold Group manages to balance academia with fine art, and everything in between. In her latest work, A Correct Likeness, playing at the DEFIBRILLATOR gallery Saturday 27 and Sunday 28, her dancers move among portrait photos of themselves. She chatted with us about the work’s intention, her field of study and why Dirty Dancing is a good source of balance in her multifaceted life.
The League of Chicago Theatres is teaming with Choose Chicago, the city's new official tourism entity, to spearhead a first annual Chicago Theater Week in February 2013. Much like Chicago Restaurant Week, which will mark its sixth year in February, the nascent Theater Week promotion is aimed at driving traffic to theaters at a typically slower time of year.
The plan was briefly outlined for League members at the League's annual meeting on Monday evening, in remarks by Melissa Hayes Cherry, Choose Chicago's newly appointed vice president for cultural tourism and neighborhoods, and League executive director Deb Clapp.
"It's similar in shape and tone to Restaurant Week—everyone participating at a specific price point, or probably two price points, [though] we haven't set that yet," Clapp said in a follow-up interview this afternoon. Like Restaurant Week's discounted prix fixe menus, participating theaters will set aside blocks of tickets at those chosen price points for every performance during Theater Week.
Choose Chicago's role will involve promoting the event as an attraction for both Chicago area residents and regional visitors, Clapp says; she anticipates tie-ins with restaurants, hotels and other businesses. Clapp also foresees a kickoff party similar to Restaurant Week's First Bites Bash. "Not that we're going to do everything exactly like Restaurant Week, but it seems to be a great model that's working really well for them," she says. "I think this could be spectacular."
Tony Award winner Deanna Dunagan will return to the Goodman Theatre's stage as part of the cast of Other Desert Cities, the theater announced today. Henry Wishcamper directs the Chicago premiere of Jon Robin Baitz's play, a finalist for this year's Pulitzer Prize.
Dunagan will play matriarch Polly Wyeth, with Chelcie Ross as her husband, Lyman. Tracy Michelle Arnold (Chicago Shakespeare's Private Lives and A Midsummer Night's Dream) makes her Goodman debut as daughter Brooke Wyeth, who's penned a tell-all memoir about her upstanding conservative family. John Hoogenakker will portray Trip Wyeth, with Linda Kimbrough as Polly's sardonic liberal sister, Silda Grauman. Other Desert Cities is scheduled to play the Goodman's Albert stage January 12–February 17.
Conventional, Carrie Hanson is not. The Seldoms artistic director and choreographer has tackled the most daunting of topics: In 2008’s Monument, she looked at the excess of “man-made monuments” like Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Landfill. In 2011, she debuted Stupormarket in response to the faltered economy. With Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead, a piece Hanson brings to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago Thursday 25 through Saturday 27, she takes on global warming and climate change. Hours before the second presidential debate, we talk about her inspirations, a Ted Kaczynski billboard campaign and who’s in line for 2016.