For the first time since the start of the pandemic, I attended a live dance performance. I felt like a fish out of water as I was reacquainted to routine audience etiquette: cell phones off, choosing the correct seat and picking up a handheld brochure. Saturday at Mana Contemporary, approximately 15 special guests crossed their legs and leaned in to experience Mandala South Asian Performing Arts' latest concert, “With Rumi.” As I checked to be sure my face mask was secure, three shadows emerged.
Embarking on a career in dance is never easy. In these days of pandemic, class of 2020 college dance graduates find their original plans to enter the profession have all but derailed. Our changing times have forced four Chicago area rising professionals into finding innovative ways to keep in shape, shifting gears entirely or remaining in holding patterns. Challenges they face are great, but these former students look toward the future with determination and they aim to prepare for whatever it may bring.
With safety guidelines keeping theater doors largely shuttered this fall, the order of the day for Chicago’s dance companies is experimentation. While many have gone with wholly digital seasons, a few groups are testing new models for live performance through a combination of social distancing, outdoor performances and hybrid live and online options. According to our critics, here is a sampling of some of this season’s events to look out for:
As I reflect on the deeply immersive experience that was the Digital JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, I feel overwhelmed and moved. For two weeks, I had an opportunity to prioritize South African contemporary dance and its boundless voice. I was virtually acquainted with the work of Vincent Mantsoe and challenged by my memory of what I knew to be South African contemporary dance with Musa Hlatswayo’s “Abomhlaba(thi)”.
We're excited to host two FREE virtual events that will honor our two awardees, Joel Hall and Gail Kalver. Join us for a some-what deconstructed gala--drinks and storytelling on the 6th, honoring awardees and expressing gratitude to our community on the 27th:
Deeply 25: Beyond Dance...The Celebration Begins launches the celebration of the company’s 25th year with a virtual fundraiser that cinematically reflects on the company’s founding and inspiration, evolution to the present, and plans for the future under new leadership. Accessible via livestream and for a limited live audience observing pandemic restrictions, the evening includes video highlights, interviews, and COVID-19-compliant performances at the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave Chicago, IL).
Two years ago, I spent just shy of three weeks in Durban, South Africa. I’d been asked to co-facilitate a critical dance writing workshop in conjunction with the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Veteran dance critic Adrienne Sichel conceived this workshop series and festival publication, called Khuluma (meaning “to speak” in isiZulu), more than a decade ago, which in recent years is directed by dance and theatre scholar Clare Craighead. Our five young writers, all honours students in the Performance Studies department at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (which houses the JOMBA!
What started out as a selfish endeavor turned into something wonderful: an all-inclusive training space with a collection of some of Chicago’s finest dance teachers and affordable pricing. The Chicago Movement Collective (CMC) may have been born out of necessity but has the potential to redefine a crucial part of the city’s arts scene. “The idea started back in March when COVID-19 first hit and studios were closing down,” CMC founder Ethan Kirschbaum said. “I lost a lot of work. I wondered how I was going to make up those lost classes. Basically, how do I cover my own ass?”
Like many of my fellow interdisciplinary artist colleagues, I planned and plotted for 2020 to be my year of clarity. This year was supposed to be marked by my most frequent international travel schedule and most varied creative skill development agenda. By March however, COVID-19 had wiped those "confirmed" 2020 plans clean off my calendar (Takeaway: ALWAYS buy travel insurance!).