Thodos Dance Chicago

November 13, 2009

Thodos Dance Chicago
November 13, 2009

North Shore Center For the Performing Arts

Skokie, IL

Reviewed by Lynn Colburn Shapiro

The men of Thodos in Ron De Jesús
Departurepoint. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Thodos. 


Thodos Dance Chicago’s mission to sustain a company of dancer/choreographers would ideally generate rich and varied repertory, but the most colorful works on the fall program came from outside company ranks.

In-your-face theatricality dominated the stand-out premiere, Fosse Trilogy, Ann Reinking’s revival of pieces that Fosse choreographed for television. Any aspiring choreographer could learn from his genius in manipulating simple gesture and isolations. Clear intention, honest impulse, and streamlined design characterize the subtle sophistication of Fosse’s aesthetic, danced convincingly by the ensemble.

In Brock Clawson’s breathy, balletic Nine (2008), wing-like arms suggest flight as dancers come to life from a fog-swept floor. Clawson alternates sauté arabesques, angular arm gestures, and floor work in a fresh but not quite carefree slice of young dancing.

Ron De Jesús’ men’s quintet, Departurepoint (2008), uses the power of male partnering for some neat tricks in a dark, dehumanized other-world. Amid marvelous leaps and lifts, the men, dressed in distracting black fishnet shirts, rotate through solos, duets, and arrangements of one-on-four and two-on-three, coming to an abrupt halt in a downstage line-up.


The three premieres by company dancers were chock-full of movement, little of which was distinctive enough to hold interest. While danced with technical strength and clean line, they had the sameness of a doomed population on auto pilot. Jessica Miller Tomlinson’s Architecture: Splintered and Cracked set a percussive ensemble against the undulating torso of a female soloist. Self-stabbing gestures, a dangling arm, and blank faces predominated. Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock’s Reflect evoked East Indian warrior rituals, with flexed wrists and second position stances. Awakening by Wade Schaaf, set to Philip Glass’ familiar Symphony No. 3, called up an Armageddon-like urgency. Rolling heads, hands clutching the chest, and desperate reaching painted a dark drama of longing and grief. In each piece, the recurrence of dancers breaking out of “dance” mode to run, hands fisted, elbows flexed, shoulders hunched, became a cliché, save for Thodos’ Driven (2009), where the running represented a type-A personality. Cupped hands cradling a fragile object and giving it away broke the relentless cannon of twirling, renversées, and combative punching that fueled the energy build. The piece culminated in a fatalistic non-ending with the dancers circling the stage in tour de basques, stag leaps, and, yes, fisted running as the curtain descended.

Thodos Dance Chicago is an able company of fine young dancers, but their mission will be most productively fulfilled through work that develops choreographic ideas more deeply and explores greater contrast in theme, style, and music.