Chicago Dance Month Roundup

By Sid Smith
Chicago Dance Month is winding down and nearing its closing, but that doesn't mean the activity itself is waning--a flurry of events this weekend and next week assures this new April venture will go out with a bang, not a whimper.
Among the activities afoot are the Joffrey Ballet's revival of its sterling "Othello" through May 5; at the Auditorium Theatre; DanceWorks Chicago reuniting with the sonorous folk troupe Sons of the Never Wrong, this time for a joint outing April 27 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie; and performances by, among others, Alliance Dance Company, Perceptual Motion, Inc., the Najwa Dance Corps, the Rephrase Dance Collective and Inaside Chicago Dance.
Another provocative offering is the April 28 matinee celebrating World Dance Day at the Athenaeum Theatre, employing its Dance Chicago omnibus line-up for a concert including artists from the Chicago Dance Crash, the Joffrey, Same Planet Different World, the Hip Hop ConnXion, M.A.D.D. Rhythms and many more.
Meanwhile, in a venture that captures the spirit of a dance month, that starts at the beginning of things, as it were, and invites audiences into something akin to the dance womb, veteran area choreographer Winifred Haun is hosting an open rehearsal showing off three works-in-progress, one each by herself, Lizzie Leopold of the Leopold Group and Ayako Kato of Art Union Humanscape. The event takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the Lou Conte Studio of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, 1147 W. Jackson Blvd.
We asked Haun to elucidate and elaborate on the ideas behind an open rehearsal, and she generously agreed. Here's an edited version of her email:
"Why an open rehearsal?
This particular Open Rehearsal is a chance for me to put my newest work in front of an audience and hear what they think about it. I started a new work last fall and I have been slowly adding and changing things and working on it (and hoping its good!). And an Open Rehearsal is a way to review and edit my work and hear what other people think. I think other dance artists feel their work benefits from this "editing" process also, so I invited Lizzie Leopold and Ayako Kato show their newest work too. And Chicago Dance Month seemed to be a good time to do it.
"How is it different from a performance?
An Open Rehearsal is a performance, kind of. Its very informa,l and its a chance for audiences to see new work before all of the decisions about the dance have been made. In an Open Rehearsal setting, we don't have any of the technical elements that give dances their 'magic.' (There's no special lighting or costumes or make-up, etc.) You get to see dancers in their leotards (their nice ones, anyway), you get to see them sweat and you might even see a mistake or two. At an Open Rehearsal, audiences also have the opportunity to respond or comment on the new work, and for our Spring Open Rehearsal, we're trying out a new feedback method called 'Speedback.' It's related to speed-dating, if you know what that is. The Speedback is Lizzie's idea, and it'll be a great, easy, non-threatening way for people to let us know what they thought about the work. 
"What are the virtues and downsides?
The virtues for artists are that we get to put our work in front of an audience and try it out before committing to the premiere. We also get to see if what we are trying to accomplish is working. For audiences, the virtues are getting an inside look at the dance-making process, and hearing an artist talk in detail about the choices she's made in her work. Also, an audience member might say something to an artist that influences the final version of a dance (that's happened before.). Which is great for both of us!
"The downside for an artist is that we have surely not rehearsed the work enough, and so to put it out there is risky. For example, I just completed the new quartet section (of a larger group work) yesterday (Thursday). The dancers will look amazing anyway, because they are professionals, but another rehearsal or two would surely make the dancers and me more comfortable. The downside for audiences is that you may sit for an hour and not see anything you like because the work isn't finished and there's no magic!
"At the Open Rehearsal, we'll be showing my newest work (currently titled "Don't Linger") Lizzie's new work, "The Near Future" Ayako's newest solo, Untitled 3, and the Graham solo, "Lamentation." Fifteen dancers learned "Lamentation" this spring from Deb Goodman, a former dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, and we're going to show the solo with all 15 dancers. Which is kind of cool.
"I should mention that all of this work will premiere on Sept. 27 and 28 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Lizzie and I are co-producing an event "Vision, Faith & Desire: dancers inspired by Martha Graham," which will feature 3 former Martha Graham dancers and their choreography, plus "Lamentation," and the new works by Ayako, Lizzie and me (who have all studied Graham technique)."
Meanwhile, more immediately for tickets to Sunday's Open Rehearsal at the Lou Conte Studio, visit or purchase them at the door.