Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jacket Weather

It’s that awkward time of year again where some people are outside in flip-flops and a sweater (guilty as charged) and others are already cloaked in winter coats and scarves. I’m of the resistant crowd, I suppose. But if I start wearing a heavy coat already, how will I make it through the dead of winter? I figure that if I force my body to adjust now, I’ll be much less miserable and grumpy when January hits. Of course, all bets are off for February, because lack of sunshine and cabin fever make me grouchy.

BUT that’s a long way off! The leaves are starting to fall, and in the lobby at the office, little round ovals of yellow dot the marble floors each morning after the leaves have ridden in and fallen off of heels and boots. Speaking of leaves on shoes, isn’t this the most perfect time of year for taking walks? It always feels idyllic strolling down the sidewalk with gusts of yellow and orange swirling around you. I get a bit giddy about autumn. Especially right now, when we’re still in that luscious little window of the season before the evenings go dark quickly following daylight saving time. It’s funny how, in August, I can dread fall so much (because it means winter awaits), but once it’s here, I feel like I’m going back to school all over again (which I always loved).

I’m hoping to make it over to the Conservatory before the leaves are brown to take some pictures. I’ve never been, and I bet it would be a nice breather from the crazy schedule I've been keeping of late. Let's see...

Clef Notes Journal: Autumn Issue

Clef Notes has posted a sampling of its Autumn Issue online. I did a feature on Martha Graham for this issue, as well as a piece about the Laura Twirls Suicide Awareness Foundation Benefit Performance "Hope through Dance." You can check out the Martha Graham feature by clicking on the first page posted below:

Please take a moment to check out all of the great Autumn pieces posted on the Webpage. We're hard at work on articles for the Winter Issue!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Winter's Dramatic Prelude

Rarely is the changing of seasons as suddenly visible, and palpable, as it was today. At lunchtime, the temperatures were in the low 80s. Sometime during the afternoon, clouds began rolling in dramatically off the lake, cloaking much of the downtown in mist. When I walked out of the office a little before 6 pm, it was downright chilly, in the low 60s. We managed to eke out a couple of extra weeks of summer--and it was glorious. Fall has finally come, full blast.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's "Fall Series 2010"

(This piece originally appeared at

September 30, 2010--Hubbard Street Dance Chicago always surprises with their repertoire. Each of their performances is so different from the one prior, unified by the unwavering talent of the HSDC dancers. The company stretches the bounds of contemporary dance--which are expansive to begin with--consistently transforming movement in ways that can reach even the most reluctant performance-goer. Their performances present such a variety that there's sure to be something that impacts each segment of their audience.

HDSC's Fall Series, performed September 30-October 3 at Harris Theater, includes four pieces that not only exhibit this variety, but showcase the unfailing athleticism and grace of the dancers. The first piece, Alejandro Cerrudo's Blanco, leaves the viewer with a calm sense of satisfaction. An abstract work featuring four women--Laura Halm, Jesssica Tong, Meredith Dincolo, and Robyn Mineko Williams in the opening performance--the piece emphasizes extensions and liquid movement. Despite the demanding choreography, the movements seem gentle and organic, with limbs gliding like silk.

HSDC dancers Penny Saunders and Jesse Bechard in Arcangelo. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Cerrudo's Deep Down Dos, the second piece in the series, takes the audience into a deep cavern, with a sci-fi flavor. The score "Music for Underground Spaces," written by Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Mason Bates, felt a bit like An American in Paris meets the Matrix. The piece has the feel of an intense film score, with hints of Gershwin-esque playfulness. The choreography creates an impression of weightlessness, with dancers moving, at times, as though floating in space.

Only the third piece, Victor Quijada's PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS, leaves me baffled. The piece begins extremely strong. Many dances feature a kind of puppeteering, where one dancer seems to pose another one, but this piece showcases some of the best puppeteering I've ever seen. The opening scene, featuring four male dancers, is truly humorous, as each dancer poses another so skillfully that, at times, you almost believe that the dancers are oversized plastic action figures, rather than human beings. But the work tries to accomplish too much, and loses unity between all of the components. The piece is filled with moments of comedic brilliance, particularly in the ways it invades and breaks down the fourth wall, but it becomes disjointed and drags.

HSDC dancers Pablo Piantino and Penny Saunders in PHYSIKAL LINGUISTIKS. Jacqueline Burnett in background.Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

In their Fall Series, HSDC saves the best for last. The final piece, Nacho Duato's Arcangelo, features impressions of heaven and hell. Marked by its gorgeous visual composition, Duato's work features images created by uniquely posed legs, figures posed at rest on the stage, and work with a curtain. The piece is so skillful that even the use of the curtain onstage creates a disturbing illusion of decapitation. A standing ovation is certainly warranted after this piece.

Only two more performances remain in HSDC's Fall Series. Audiences can view the program Saturday, October 2 at 8 pm, or Sunday, October 3 at 3 pm. Both performances are at Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $25-94 and may be purchased online through HSDC's website, or by calling the Harris Theater box office at 312-334-7777.

A New Season Begins...

It's such a comfort to know that the end of every Chicago summer brings the beginning of the Chicago arts season. And for me, it's a thrilling time of year.

Clef Notes has been assigning me some very exciting stories lately, involving interviews with some of the biggest names in Chicago's dance world. This month marks the start of the new performance season, and my schedule is a whirlwind of programs to review, rehearsals to observe, and interviews to give for both the magazine and for Gapers Block. Needless to say, my freelance work has been very fulfilling, though a little overwhelming at times.

Last week, I spoke with Luna Negra Artistic Director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano for a piece I'm writing for the Winter Issue. Before we spoke, I took in the silent studio where we would meet, and snapped a few photographs on my phone. There's always something comforting about being in a quiet dance studio. The empty space just seems to beg for dance to fill it up, and I have to contain myself from indulging in a few tor jetes and leaps. It's just a room, with a piano, a portable dance floor, and a barre. Yet, no matter where I am, the studio still feels like home, and takes me racing back to some of the happiest moments of my childhood and teenage years...