All posts tagged: Dance

Counter Balance: Dance, Community, and Legacy

Integrated dance may be a new concept for some, but the fierce team behind Counter Balance: The Power of Integrated Dance have been bringing this powerful type of performance to Chicago audiences for years. Co-artistic directors Ginger Lane and Stephanie Clemens, along with Access Living, Bodies of Work, and MOMENTA, presented this 9th annual showcase of physically integrated works by choreographers and dancers with and without disabilities in early September.   The audience, which included families with children, disability community members, and dance enthusiasts, were treated to eleven pieces in two acts. Local choreographers included Ginger Lane, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Anita Fillmore Kenney, Kris Lenzo, Sarah Najera, and the internationally known Alice Sheppard. I had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Najera who not only choreographed the particularly lovely “Duet in C Major,” but also recently took the helm as Executive Director of MOMENTA. As the resident performing arts company of the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, MOMENTA has been working with dancers and choreographers with disabilities since 2003. In speaking about …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead in Conversation

Candai Calmon is a dance artist and educator based in Salvador, Brazil. Candai has obtained an artistic education in Brazil and Uruguay, with a concentration on contemporary dance and Afro-referential, decolonial, and feminist practices. She holds a Bachelor’s in Gender and Diversity Studies and a Master’s in Dance from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. In her current practice, she creates workshops and immersive artistic experiences based on dance and improvisation with Black women in the quilombos [1] of Bahia. Anna Martine Whitehead is a multidisciplinary artist and dancer based in Chicago. Their work and research address a Black, queer relationship to time, as well as the prison industrial complex and the experience of incarceration. Anna Martine Whitehead has held residencies at 3Arts, Headlands, High Concept Labs, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. They have also written for a number of publications and lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead are two dance artists working through Black, queer, and female experiences. Both are part of …

Review: Reclaiming the Crown, The Footwork King’s Battle with Money Bail

It was spring 2016 and Devoureaux Wolf was on the rise. Also known as “King Detro, Chicago’s footwork king,” Wolf’s dancing career was taking off: he’d won numerous dance competitions, hosted a dance show on Wala Cam TV, and had just started his own program, Dance N Out, that aimed to steer youth on the West Side off the street and onto the dance floor. He never expected getting a ride home from a friend’s brother would radically alter his life’s course. But that’s exactly what happened. The car was pulled over and Wolf was quickly dragged out by Chicago police officers, who then arrested him and charged him with assaulting them. Though the driver had the foresight to film the encounter to disprove the police’s account, simply being charged landed Wolf in Cook County Jail with a $3,000 bond that he could not afford. Over the next three and a half months, Wolf would nearly lose his apartment, his hosting job, and his connection to his community. On top of that, Wolf’s uncle passed …

Featured image: Maggie Robinson and Allison Sokolowski performing in “I Am” at the Chicago Danztheatre Auditorium, as part of the Body Passages culminating event. Maggie balances with one foot, knee, and hand on the floor, as Allison stands on Maggie’s lower back. The performers hold each other’s left hands and look at each other. Both are barefoot and wear white t-shirts and jeans. Behind them is a well-lit stage, with a string of colorful paper suspended across it. Still from a video by John Borowski.

Body Passages: Culminating Collaborations

This is the fourth and final article in a series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first, second, and third pieces can be found here). These articles provide brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is an artist residency and performance series curated and produced by Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). Trigger warning: The performance “Blood Memory,” discussed below, contains references to sexual assault, including in childhood. During a culminating event featuring groups’ final performances, the Body Passages artists offered the audience sugar cereal, sparkling cider, and glowsticks; invited us to dance with them and record ourselves reading their poetic curations; and asked us to travel back in time with them to New Year’s Eve 1998. Especially appropriate given Body Passages’ collaborative focus and …

REVIEW: Tere O’Connor’s Long Run

Part of the difficulty in writing about dance lies in its position along a continuum from literalness to abstraction. The gestures of everyday life might be visibly exaggerated to aid transmitting a story to its audience, or else they might constitute a departure from this story altogether — stripped of its necessary context, the meanings of a given movement proliferate without end. It is such proliferation that fascinates choreographer Tere O’Connor, whose program notes for Long Run suggest that the means for its interpretation are “subsumed into layers of the work and de-emphasized”. Furthermore, when such interpretation does occur (as it must, in an exchange between the dancers and their audience), it should always be provisional: a “fluid and forever open-ended” assignment of possible meanings, to be radically altered as each movement is performed anew. But after dancer Jin Ju Song-Begin performs a brief solo, the piece starts with a group dance to some of the most rhythmic music in the entire score (all composed by O’Connor himself), and for a moment our informed impulse …

Body Passages: Lani T. Montreal and Maxine Patronik on Developing “Blood Memory”

This is the third article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first and second are online). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. In September, I spoke with writer Lani T. Montreal and dancer/choreographer Maxine Patronik about their collaborative process; their resulting piece, “Blood Memory,” about trauma and bodily memory; and their thoughts about artists’ responsibility when presenting work with sensitive themes. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Lani and Maxine’s final creation – along with those by other Body Passages groups – were performed at a culminating event at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium on October 12 and 13. Marya Spont-Lemus: It was so cool to get to observe you today at work on “Blood Memory,” your piece-in-progress for Body Passages. So thank you! Before we get into discussing that collaborative piece and your process, I’d love …

Lakshmi Ramgopal’s “A Half-Light Chorus”

As I’m nestled between the drapes of lush green fronds in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I become aware of the ambient sounds. I hear the steady trickle of nearby water and the bird calls that fill the space. As I wait for the afternoon performance to start, the bird calls begin to demand a bit more of my attention. I hear what sounds like a whistle and then what sounds like a human call. Then, clicking, brief pauses, more clicking, and suddenly a layer of bird calls that begin to sound more and more human as the moments pass, all followed by what I’m sure is a human sound. Click. Pause. Bird call? Chirp. No, definitely a human call. Wail. Human call. Pause. As I become more aware of the presence of the piece, Lakshmi Ramgopal and her ensemble, clad in all white, take their places for the final performance for this installation. This environmental soundscape, which feels simultaneously personal and celestial, is Lakshmi Ramgopal’s installation “A Half Light Chorus” at the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Leather Archives and Museum

The Chicago Archives + Artists Project (CA+AP) is an initiative that highlights Chicago archives and special collections that give space to voices on the margins of history. Led by Chicago-based writers and artists, the project explores archives across the city via online features, a series of public programs and new commissioned artwork by Chicago artists. For 2018, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has funded a series of pilot projects pairing three artists with three archives around the city: Media Burn + Ivan Lozano, the Leather Archives & Museum + Aay Preston-Myint, and the Newberry Library’s Chicago Protest Collection + H. Melt. This series of articles will profile these featured archives and artists over the course of their collaboration, exploring the vital role of the archive in preserving and interpreting the stories of our city as well as the ways in which they can be a resource for creatives in the community. The CA+AP Festival will take place at Read/Write Library on July 13-14. For this installment, we sat down with Mel Leverich, the archivist …

Body Passages: Exploring Visual Art with Poets Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken

This is the second article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first is here). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. On an afternoon in early May, I showed up to watch an “open rehearsal” at the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance studio only to find myself a participant. This opportunity became even more exciting when the people I was there to see—Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken, two delightful and effervescent poets who were in residence through Body Passages—invited me to join them as they sought inspiration and inputs in the galleries. We spent an hour together exploring the Cultural Center’s first-floor exhibitions, as the pair shared their observations and perspectives about visual artworks, made connections to their own lives and practices, and generated ideas for a joint creative project—an interdisciplinary, in progress work, prompted by their participation in Body Passages. A …

Featured image: This is a photograph of a group of people in a dance studio, sitting in a circle of chairs. Some people have their backs to the camera, and other people are shown straight-on or in profile. The two chairs nearest the camera are unoccupied, creating a window to the speaker, a man holding a microphone. Photograph by Hannah Siegfried.

Body Passages: Poets and Dancers Discuss Collaborative Processes In Progress

This is the first article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center. This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is the brainchild of co-founders Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). This innovative, interdisciplinary partnership brings together artists of various forms—poets and dancers, ostensibly, but many with practices extending beyond those bounds—over the course of 10 months to create original, collaborative work engaging language and movement. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 14 broadly diverse artists at different points in their artistic growth, who are together interrogating this year’s theme—“Activation”—and developing new work in response. Following December auditions, their process formally began in January when selected poets and dancers were assigned into groups and will officially conclude in October with final …

Review: Bebe Miller Company at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago

In a Rhythm begins with storytelling, a storytelling which gradually darkens into theater: Bebe Miller steps out onto the stage with her dancers, and begins a short narrative about hearing an audiobook of a David Foster Wallace story. As she continues talking, the lights dim and the bodies around her begin to move – a pleasing, calm split to the viewer’s attention. After all, the David Foster Wallace story, as Miller informs us, “is not a part of this dance.” Soon a single piano note chimes in, and the narrative is subsumed by the familiar structures of concert dance. But they are not so familiar here. Miller is explicitly interested in the choreographic potentials of syntax: in her words, “how we collide with meaning through the juxtaposed dynamics of action and context, in time and space.” Her work, however, doesn’t merely follow through with this curiosity – it explodes it with a rare breed of infectious joy and sharpness. In this world, the casual release-based grace of postmodern movement is immediately followed by jagged, awkward weight sharing; …

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight. Photo: Robbie Sweeny.

“Radical Hospitality”:
Relaxed Performances on the MCA Stage

Chair or floor cushion? I decided to make myself comfortable in a chair on the corner of the stage—in the midst of the action, but removed enough to observe much of what was happening at the edges of the space. This performance of Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis’ The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was certainly relaxed. Escorted to stage level, the audience was invited to sit directly on the stage in clusters of chairs and cushions, and prompted to make themselves at home, even remove their heavy winter boots if they were so inclined. After explaining what to expect, Cunningham and Curtis—acclaimed international theatre and dance artists—set into motion a “collage of dance, song, and text.” For roughly 100 minutes, the audience was treated to a show pendulating between humorous yet poignant moments and more classical performance segments of dance and song. (You can see a clip here). Though classical might be the wrong word, as Cunningham and Curtis’ work itself questions what we consider classic or traditional, playing with romantic ideals, gender …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Interview with Roell Schmidt

This interview took place as part of an initiative occasioned by the first Chicago Archives + Artists Festival, held at the Chicago Cultural Center in May 2017. The festival kicked off a series of in-depth artist interviews, including this one with Roell Schmidt of Links Hall, which will be contributed to the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. This series of interviews was conducted with a group of artists, curators, instigators, and organizers who we believe are essential to the history of Chicago art. The interview with Roell was conducted by Annie Morse, a curator and Senior Lecturer in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago, and is excerpted below. In addition to this smaller group of Sixty-interviewed artists, a call was put out to ALL the city’s artists: #GetArchived! The core of the free festival was a pop-up archive processing center staffed by Sixty Inches From Center and volunteers. Many partners lent their time, resources, and high-res scanners(!) to this endeavor, including LATITUDE, the Visualist, and Read/Write Library. Sixty Inches From Center is excited to be continuing …

Dancing in Public: Chicago Park District’s Resident Companies

Urbs in Horto: the official motto of the city of Chicago. This translates from Latin to “City in a Garden,” yet the construction of public green spaces around Chicago has a fraught, often troubled history. From its origins in the late nineteenth century, exhuming as corpses from plots on the North Side, the Chicago Park District emerged as a consolidated entity in 1934 and today proudly announces its status as “the largest municipal park manager in the nation.” As the Chicago Park District expanded, so did the city’s need for comprehensive, accessible arts programming. Though these needs existed prior to such expansion, the process of opening new public spaces threw them into a sharper relief. Landscape architects, like the Olmsted brothers who were commissioned to provide some recreational relief for the city’s overcrowded conditions, envisioned a new set of parks providing social and cultural services in addition to open green space. Parks might not merely be designated areas for fitness and recreation, they could also become an important facet of the Chicago’s cultural landscape. As it …

Interpreting Faye Driscoll’s “Play”: The Art of Audio Description and ASL Interpretation

None of the typical rules of a play apply here. Then again, when you come to a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you aren’t really expecting typical, are you? Play is the second performance in a series called Thank You For Coming, created by Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer, Faye Driscoll. This performance “uses the ritual of storytelling to explore our reliance on stories to relate to one another and form identities as individuals and citizens.” What begins as a communal audience-participation on stage quickly delves into a parody of an absurd theater act. Employing multiple meanings of the term “play,” the cast performs a drama but an allowance for improvisation leaves room for the actors to engage in the more fanciful version of “play” as well. Play is also atypical in its breaking of the fourth wall. Not only does a sound engineer remain on stage, occasionally being called into the action, but Driscoll herself joins the cast. At times she is grabbing props or directing the actors, as if it were a rehearsal …

Movement Matters: J’Sun Howard

Movement Matters investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability and more. For this installment, we sit down with movement artist, curator, poet and Queer Blq Futur narratologist J’Sun Howard to discuss the influences of geography, the role of joy in combating disillusionment and the importance of placekeeping and other practices in the life and work of Chicago’s black and brown artists.   Michael Workman: You don’t hail originally from Chicago, correct? J’Sun Howard: No, I’m originally from Chattanooga, TN. I came here in 2001 to go to school at Columbia College. Here, I started out on the West Side. Then to Lakeview, which was fun, crazy, and full of self-discovery. Uptown was chill and where I began to feel more grounded. I went back to Lakeview after that, and by twenty-three I was done with the bar/club scene. South West Side in the ‘hood, around the Homan Square area was next, I would …

Movement Matters: Nic Kay

Movement Matters investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy, and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability, and more. For this installment, we sit down with movement artist and thinker Nic Kay to discuss growing up in the Bronx, depression, the intellectual forbears who inform their work’s foundations, and the active, moral urgency of fundamentally infusing the black body into our notions of performativity. Please note that Kay will reprise their performance of Lil BLK at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse from March 16th to 18th as a part of the fourth annual OnEdge program by The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Michael Workman: How did you make your way to Chicago? You’re originally from… Nic Kay: I was born in The Bronx. Though I grew up in between The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, which was REAL. Not easy. Not romantic. Just simply very R A W. New York City is unforgiving, especially unforgiving if you or your parental guardians are working paycheck to …

Movement Matters: Mary Wu

Movement Matters is a column that investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability and more. For this installment, we sit down with dancer, collaboration and performance artist Mary Wu to discuss her at times alarming audience interactions, the ethics of art-making and new aesthetics of the body arising out of the disability arts movement. Michael Workman: Thanks for taking some time to sit down with me discuss your work. Mary Wu: I haven’t made my own work in a long time, I have to say. I want to make work that I feel like I need to make. It was years ago that I made a solo work now, I showed it at Research Project, this very small work-in-progress showing curated by friends. It was very much making art for art’s sake based on years of solo practice for myself. I wanted to have something to show and then I did it and …

Weekly Picks: March 31 – April 6

  While a new Sixty Inches from Center is in the making, please enjoy our weekly calendar, a list of visual art related events happening in Chicago. Events are chosen based on the information that is put in front of us. If you would like to take advantage of having your event listed on our website please send a press release to reuben.westmaas@sixtyinchesfromcenter.org Monday || March 31 Do Not Submit: A Storytelling Open Mic 7:30 to 10 p.m.; sign-up starts at 7 p.m. Powell’s Bookstore 2850 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60657 Free If you have been wanting to dip a toe into storytelling without facing a sold-out Moth Slam audience, this is the place to experiment.  If you are an experienced writer/performer looking to hone your live lit skills, this is the place to put the work in.  Not interested in telling?  Come experience the process, and see how the polished stories on stage tomorrow are being shaped, tested and reworked today. Tuesday || April 1 Two Cookie Minimum Reading Series Celebrates Chicago’s Polish Writers 9 …

Weekly Picks March 17-23

While a new Sixty Inches from Center is in the making, please enjoy our weekly calendar, a list of visual art related events happening in Chicago. Events are chosen based on the information that is put in front of us. If you would like to take advantage of having your event listed on our website please send a press release to reuben.westmaas@sixtyinchesfromcenter.org   MONDAY || March 17 Acquiescings + Hauntings at Poonie’s Cabaret 7:30pm – 9:00pm Links Hall 3111 N Western Ave Chicago, IL 60618 $5 A coalition of dancers, musicians, and visual artists join Poonie’s Cabaret for a thoughtful exploration of loss and mourning. Loss isn’t just an absence–it’s a burden, something those left behind carry with them. And it it doesn’t have to be the loss of a person. When something deeply cherished disappears, it creates a negative space to be navigated. It’s that negative space that inspires this performance, which stars such performers as Mister Junior, a fixture of the city’s boylesque scene, and hip hop artist Terri “Lyric” Green, who won the 2013 Unsigned Only …

Geoffrey Todd Smith and Josh Mannis at Western Exhibitions

Western Exhibitions opened two corresponding exhibits this month– Looker, a collection of Geoffrey Todd Smith’s intricate geometric paintings, and Fashion, a hypnotic video installation by Josh Mannis. Smith painstakingly works acrylic, gouache, and ink into colorful optical candy reminiscent of spirograph drawings and beadwork. Whimsical titles like Indecent Docent and The Flirtation Station provide the abstract works with an extra layer of intrigue. Some of the works sport neutral color schemes like cream and camel flirting with repetitions of black. The more color-saturated pieces are seldom consistently bright, but instead feature unexpected accents of subdued shades. The most captivating are the compositions with meticulous gel pen linework over  elliptical patterns, like the red-and-purple-schemed Gentlemen Crawler (Detail shown above. Image courtesy of Western Exhibitions).   Josh Mannis’s Fashion inhabits the second exhibit space deeper within the gallery. The domineering work features a dancer in a tracksuit and an altered Bob Gates mask cutting loose with no holds barred to catchy, scratchy house music. His plethora of party-appropriate dance skills is multiplied and layered in bouts of …