Vital Signs

January 31, 2014

Thodos Dance Chicago against Gang’s architecture. Photo by Katie Graves, Courtesy Thodos Dance.

Dance Jam

   Merce Cunningham, George Balanchine, Wayne McGregor—choreographers past and present have long collaborated with architects to add grandeur to their work. But Thodos Dance Chicago’s Melissa Thodos is taking that a step further, commissioning a set design that is integral to her dance’s concept. With University of Chicago physicists and local architect Jeanne Gang, her new piece explores “jamming”—when physical stress alters a substance’s density. “At its most basic,” says Thodos, “think of the solid to liquid-like change that happens when you take a vacuum-packed bag of coffee beans and cut it open.” To explore that idea, Gang’s sets will morph as the dancers manipulate them. Feb. 22 at the North Shore Center; March 8–9 at the Harris Theater. and




Bracing for Eyes and Ears

   For some, her work is a breath of fresh air. For others, her style clings too closely to Cunningham’s verticality and crisp shapes. Either way, Pam Tanowitz’s choreography, stark and geometric, fills the stage. Two premieres during her company’s first-ever performances at The Joyce Theater (Feb. 4–6) promise live music. FLUX Quartet will play Conlon Nancarrow string quartets in Heaven on One’s Head, and a John Zorn score played by Pauline Kim Harris will accompany Passagen. Best of all, Melissa Toogood, the sensual and athletic former Cunningham dancer, is one of Tanowitz’s eight performers.


Above: Dylan Crossman and Melissa Toogood. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy the Joyce.




A New Take on an Old Tale

   Fresh and full of theatrics, John Neumeier’s Liliom is a ballet with 21st-century touches: Its sets are fit for Broadway and its classical vocabulary is, at times, delightfully jazzy or pedestrian. The Hamburg Ballet production, based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play, follows moody heartbreaker Liliom and his devoted lover Julie, danced by international ballerina Alina Cojocaru, who originated the role. (Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, Feb. 7–9.) The company’s U.S. tour continues to San Francisco (Feb. 12–13) and Chicago (Feb. 19–20), performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Third Symphony by Gustav Mahler, respectively.


Above: Carsten Jung and Alina Cojocaru in Liliom. Photo by Holger Badekow, Courtesy Hamburg Ballet.




Packing In the Performances

   The fourth Dance Education Biennale offers a chance to conquer several must-see performances in one week, with ticket prices starting at under $15. Daytime roundtables allow pre-professionals and college students to chat with prominent dance professionals. By night, the Semperoper Ballett dances Stijn Celis’ modern day Romeo und Julia and mixed rep including David Dawson’s award-winning The Grey Area. Also on the boards: The Forsythe Company’s new fort-building frenzy, Sider. Feb. 15–23 at Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden.


Above: Semperoper Ballett will also perform Jirí Kylián’s
Bella Figura. Costin Radu, Courtesy Semperoper Ballett.




Bringing Brazil to NYC

   Fiercely physical, capoeira’s driving music and movement have caught the attention of dancers everywhere. The style is a mainstay of the muscular DanceBrazil, one of four companies in the Joyce’s three-week Brazil Festival. Also on the lineup: Sonia Destri Lie’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, sure to grab attention with its hybrid postmodern, hip hop and jazz; Focus Cia de Dança, which uses gestural choreography to great dramatic effect; and Mimulus, from which we can expect sensuality and humor. Feb. 26–March 16.


Left: DanceBrazil in Fé do Sertão. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Courtesy the Joyce.