As winter winds to a close, it becomes easy to get stuck in the daily grind. Shower, shot of coffee, work, dinner, sleep, repeat. As the days get longer and our coats get a little less fluffy, why not use that extra little jolt of springtime energy to see dance? Our city is bursting at the seams with opportunities to experience performances of all kinds this month, as we ramp up toward Chicago Dance Month in April.
Here are a few of the things I’m excited about.
Somehow, Chicago hasn’t tired of watching the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Auditorium, even after the 50 consecutive years they've toured to the golden-arched theater. There are plenty of fans who make Ailey pilgrimages year after year, but if the habit petered out for you, this might be a year to pick it up again. On March 4-8, you'll have your pick of three programs, all teeming with dances not yet seen by Chicago audiences, and addressing contemporary themes.
There is a lot coming up for ballet fans. American Ballet Theatre, now celebrating its 80th season, returns to the Auditorium Theatre, part of a deal with the venue that secures Chicago appearances of this great company for the next few years. Shown on March 19-22, it’s a simple program compared to the outrageous and wacky “Whipped Cream” from last year: “La Bayadere,” Antony Tudor’s gorgeous “Lilac Garden” and “Deuce Coupe,” by Twyla Tharp.
In a way, it pays homage to the best of 20th century ballet. Though “Deuce Coupe” wasn’t set on ABT until last year, Tharp’s 1973 hit, accompanied by Beach Boys tunes, was originally for the Joffrey Ballet (and premiered at the Auditorium, coincidentally, though the Joffrey was still based in New York at the time). “Jardin aux Lilas” (Lilac Garden) saw its American premiere in 1940 as part of ABT’s very first season. And “La Bayadere,” an 1877 bygone of Marius Petipa’s catalog that somehow keeps reappearing, is best when excerpted to include only the Kingdom of the Shades scene, as will be done here. ABT will bring its 1980 staging, fashioned by prima ballerina Natalia Makarova. Hot deals are available for what I think will be an exquisite program.
Winning Works (March 20-22) is one of my favorite events of the year, and requires advance planning if you want to get a seat. The talented Joffrey Trainees and Studio Company are put to the test with brand new works by diverse choreographers, in a close-up setting at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The platform has become a springboard for several choreographic careers, including those of Chicagoans Stephanie Martinez and Luis Vazquez, plus a long list of international up-and-comers. Works by Chanel DaSilva, Tsai Hsi Hung, Pablo Sánchez and Durante Verzola are on this program.
If ballet and contemporary dance aren’t really your thing, there’s still plenty to fill your dance card.
A few salon-style performances on the horizon include Mandala, Chicago Tap Theatre and Clinard Dance’s Flamenco Quartet Project, the latter at Evanston's Space on March 9. Dancer Wendy Clinard has lately spent much of her artistic energy on the Quartet Project, which honors the deep and diverse cultural influences of Flamenco with three extraordinary musicians: violinist Steve Gibons, percussionist Jose Moreno and Marija Temo, a vocalist and guitar player. Here, the dynamic shifts to honor each discipline and instrument equally, rather than positioning a flamenco dancer with her “band” as accompaniment. The results have been rich and rewarding, making this Monday event worth the trip North.
Chicago Tap Theatre’s Sweet Tap Chicago has also moved north, relocating from City Winery for two shows on March 8 at Mayne Stage. It’s a tapping tribute to Chicago, with Taylor Mallory and JC Brooks, plus Chicago Tap’s tappers and in-house band riffing on tunes by the Smashing Pumpkins, Chaka Khan and Curtis Mayfield and more.
Mandala South Asian Performing Arts’s “Pranaya,” on March 8 only in the Logan Center’s gorgeous penthouse, uses the classical Indian dances bharatanatyam and odissi to depict mythological love stories.
And though it’s not fair to call the Chicago Dance Crash “Keeper of the Floor” dance battles salons, per se, KTF is a very fun time. Improvised hip hop and the comedy stylings of emcee Mattrick Swayze are only the beginning. In this installment, late night at the Den Theatre on March 28, the whole thing is loosely themed around childhood toys. If, as advertised, that includes everything from “Barbies to Super Soakers,” it might not be a bad idea to pack a poncho.
Additional March dance events are listed below: