Donald Byrd Propels DTH Into a New Place

Everybody wants DTH to regain its reputation as a Balanchine company that is versatile too. But I think they can become something more exciting than that. The last piece in Program B, Contested Space by Donald Byrd, laid bare a different kind of psychic space. Each dancer found a new, edgy self in a foreboding, roiling place. Da’Von Doane, lying on the floor, swiveled body parts you couldn’t name. A strong, rooted dancer, he looked completely different in these opening moves—almost reptilian. Alexandra Jacob’s hyperflexibility, deadpan expression, and brazen force as she twisted into and around Samuel Wilson, demanded attention. Each dancer kept their individuality throughout Byrd’s oddly awkward, harshly intimate duets. Sometimes a head seemed glued to a partner’s back, or an elbow got caught in the crook of a knee. Amon Tobin’s music clanged and swooshed and changed textures as the dancers shifted into each new section.

Bravo to Byrd for completely unsentimental, relentlessly inventive, continually engaging choreography! And Bravo to DTH’s dancers for fearlessly and fiercely confronting the challenge of Contested Space!

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J. Alice Jackson, Courtesy CHRP

Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World Finally Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

What happens when a dance festival is set to celebrate a landmark anniversary, but a global pandemic has other plans?

Chicago's Rhythm World, the oldest tap festival in the country, should have enjoyed its 30th iteration last summer. Disrupted by COVID-19, it was quickly reimagined for virtual spaces with a blend of recorded and livestreamed classes. So as not to let the pandemic rob the festival of its well-deserved fanfare, it was cleverly marketed as Rhythm World 29.5.

Fortunately, the festival returns in full force this year, officially marking three decades of rhythm-making with three weeks of events, July 26 to August 15. As usual, the festival will be filled with a variety of master classes, intensive courses and performances, as well as a teacher certification program and the Youth Tap Ensemble Conference. At the helm is Chicago native Jumaane Taylor, the newly appointed festival director, who has curated both the education and performance programs. Taylor, an accomplished choreographer, came to the festival first as a young student and later as part of its faculty.

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July 2021