- The Latest
- Breaking Stereotypes
- Rant & Rave
- Dance As Activism
- Dancers Trending
- Viral Videos
- The Dancer's Toolkit
- Health & Body
- Dance Training
- Career Advice
- Style & Beauty
- Dance Auditions
- Guides & Resources
- Performance Calendar
- College Guide
- Dance Magazine Awards
- Meet The Editors
- Contact Us
- Advertise/Media Kit
What's New in the Windy City? 3 Big Takeaways from Elevate Chicago Dance
Having spent most of the past 15 years in Chicago, I can confidently say that Elevate Chicago Dance was the most comprehensive celebration of the city's dance scene this century. A dozen events packed 10 venues for three full days, featuring the work of more than 150 performers, representing nearly 40 locally-based dance artists and organizations. Nearly all were recipients of Lab Artist Awards from Chicago Dancemakers Forum, or had been selected to participate in a Regional Dance Development Initiative that CDF and the New England Foundation for the Arts launched in partnership in 2015.
It was an occasion to recognize how vibrant and diverse Chicago's contemporary dance community is today, spurred in large part by CDF's Lab Artist Program, which awards to up to six dancemakers $15,000 each and will mark its 15th anniversary later this year. (Choreographers can apply now through February 6.)
While avid dance fans were likely familiar with at least some of the works presented during Elevate—most of them being current repertory or in-progress, as opposed to premieres—certain things only came into focus once I had an opportunity to take in the bigger picture all at once.
1. Trendwatch: No Trends
More than ever, Chicago dance artists resist the urge to follow each others' leads. Sure, the ensembles ATOM-r and The Humans are both working with video projections, but you'd be hard-pressed to name even one way in which they're using them in the same manner. NIC Kay and Zephyr Dance both presented site-specific pieces, but while Kay used movement to transform indoor and outdoor spaces from the body outward, Zephyr's dancers explored limitations imposed upon them by architect David Sundry's installation. Ginger Krebs, also an accomplished visual artist working in multiple media, creates and builds props and costume pieces to more specifically illustrate her choreographic ideas; Onye Ozuzu's current project begins in many ways within objects and tools, which in turn generate and inform her movement material.
ATOM-r in Kjell Theøry at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts with, from left, Justin Deschamps, Judd Morrissey, and Christopher Knowlton. Photo © Grace DuVal.
2. No Single Center of Gravity
Those who, like me, sought to experience as much of Elevate as they could spent a lot of time traveling from place to place, in one of the biggest cities in the country. Elevate's producers intentionally avoided bestowing "hub status" on any one venue or institution, in order to underscore the geographic spread of places where dance happens in Chicago, and to highlight the many ways in which the works reflect and live within different communities and neighborhoods.
Elevate's first day included performances at the South Shore Cultural Center, a majestic Chicago Park District fieldhouse closer to Indiana than to downtown; studio showings the following morning were at Loyola Park, equally far north of the Loop. In between, on the West Side, we visited Defibrillator Performance Gallery (dfbrl8r) and Links Hall, in addition to events at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative and High Concept Labs—two strong examples of the adaptive reuse craze that's a key driver of this city's building boom.
Christopher Knowlton, foreground, and Matthew McMunn at High Concept Labs with, seated at left, Hugh Sato and Ryan Ingebritsen. Photo by Zachary Whittenburg.
3. Versatility in Vogue
One of the great pleasures of Elevate Chicago Dance was seeing busy freelance artists reappear throughout the festival, in works by multiple choreographers. Since these pieces more often than not had very little in common (see point number one), Elevate served as a useful reminder of how versatile Chicago's dancers are—and need to be.
In Mycelial: Street Parliament from Erica Mott Productions, Christopher Knowlton was the responsive avatar of digital information being processed live; in ATOM-r's Kjell Theøry the night before, he was extravagantly costumed in a bicorne hat, spinning dervishly with a giant hoop. Nejla Yatkin returned for Mycelial: Street Parliament after showing her own solo, What Dreams May Come, and videos from her many collaborations overseas. Zachary Nicol performed two works back-to-back, fighting for glory while wearing an acid-green sash in Krebs' Soft Parade, then switching gears to execute tasks and structured improvisations in Joanna Furnans' Genuine Fake. (Nicol also appeared onscreen in The Startled Faction, a new film by Catherine Sullivan.)
Erica Mott Productions, Mycelial: Street Parliament with, from left, Matthew McMunn, Nejla Yatkin, Michelle Broecker, and Christopher Knowlton. Photo by Zachary Whittenburg.
For a detailed rundown of each event, and further conclusions, click here to read a Summary Journal of Elevate Chicago Dance online at chicagodancemakers.org.
Sarah Haarmann stands out without trying to. There is a precision and lack of affectation in her dancing that is very Merce Cunningham. Her movement quality is sharp and clear; her stage presence utterly focused. It's no wonder she caught Mark Morris' eye. Even though she still considers herself "very much the new girl" at Mark Morris Dance Group (she became a full-time member in August 2017), in a recent performance of Layla and Majnun, Haarmann seemed completely in her element.
Company: Mark Morris Dance Group
Hometown: Macungie, Pennsylvania
Training: Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts and Marymount Manhattan College
In 2012, freelance contemporary dancer Adrianne Chu made a major career change: She decided to try out for A Chorus Line. "Even though I didn't get the job, I felt like I was meant to do this," says Chu. So she started going to at least one musical theater audition every weekday, treating each as a learning experience. After several years of building up her resumé, Chu's practice paid off: She booked a starring role as Wendy in the first national tour of Finding Neverland.
Approaching auditions as learning opportunities, especially when you're trying to break into a different style or are new to the profession, can sharpen your skills while helping you avoid burnout. It also builds confidence for the auditions that matter most.
For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.
Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.
According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."
It's easy to feel whiplashed thinking about everything Emma Portner has achieved in such a short amount of time. Last fall, the 23-year-old was the youngest woman ever to choreograph a West End production (it was based on Meat Loaf's greatest hits). This was, of course, after she already choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's viral hit "Life is Worth Living," and before she charmed major media outlets when she secretly married actress Ellen Page. Now, she's L.A. Dance Project's first-ever artist in residence, and she's working on a commission for Toronto's Fall for Dance North Festival.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
Last month, the International Association of Blacks in Dance's third annual ballet audition for women of color was expanded to include a separate audition for men.
The brainchild of Joan Myers Brown (founder of both Philadanco and IABD), the women's audition was created to specifically address the lack of black females in ballet. However, the success and attention that audition drew made the men feel left out, so IABD decided to give the men equal time this year.
Pina Bausch's unique form of German Tanztheater is known for raising questions. Amid water and soil, barstools and balloons, the late choreographer's work contains a distinct tinge of mystery and confrontation. Today, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's dancers use questions as fuel for creativity. The company's most recent project introduced a new group of performers to the stage: local high school ninth-graders from the Gesamtschule Barmen in Wuppertal, Germany, in an original work-in-progress performance called Veränderung (Change).
Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.
She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.
But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?
I love being transgender. It's an important part of the story of why I choreograph. Although I loved dance from a very young age, I grew up never seeing a single person like me in dance. So how could I imagine a future for myself there?
The enormous barriers I had to overcome weren't internal: I didn't struggle with feelings of dysphoria, and I wasn't locked down by shame.
The dance community is heartbroken to learn that 14-year-olds Jaime Guttenberg and Cara Loughran were among the 17 people killed during the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.
Guttenberg was a talented competition dancer at Dance Theatre in Coconut Creek, FL, according to a report from Sun Sentinel. Dance Theatre owner Michelle McGrath Gerlick shared the below message on her Facebook page, encouraging dancers across the country to wear orange ribbons this weekend in honor of Guttenberg, whose favorite color was orange.
A statement released yesterday by New York City Ballet and School of American Ballet reported that an independent investigation was unable to corroborate allegations of harassment and abuse against former ballet master in chief Peter Martins, according to The New York Times. This marks the end of a two-month inquiry jointly launched by the two organizations in December following an anonymous letter detailing instances of harassment and violence.
The statement also included new policies for both the company and school to create safer, more respectful environments for the dancers, including hiring an independent vendor to handle employee complaints anonymously. These changes are being made despite the independent investigation, handled by outside counsel Barbara Hoey, purportedly finding no evidence of abuse.