Waking up to a blanket of white reminds me of those years growing up in McHenry County, when more than one Halloween was spent going door to door and explaining the costumes under our hats, puffy coats and boots. The realization that fall is fleeting is one we face every year, but in the arts scene, November means fall—whatever the weather.
There’s far more than any one person can see, in a month that is especially rife with collaboration and experimentation. My dance card is already full—say hi if you’re coming to Studio5 on Friday, Evanston’s cozy spot for intimate music and dance, where I’m excited to see once-Chicagoan Annie Arnoult—director of the great, though now gone, Striding Lion Performance Group—bring her new work “Pantopticon”. Performed by her Houston-based company Open Dance Project, “Pantopticon” imagines a big brother, dystopian future in which people try to forge connections with each other, when connectivity is forbidden.
The following weekend is teeming with premieres, with new works from Rena Butler and Kyle Abraham for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Harris Theater, Hema Rajagopalan’s return to performing in her latest piece, “Inai,” for Natya Dance Theatre at the Dance Center, and, after years of development, the putting together of Lucky Plush Productions’ “Rink Life” at Steppenwolf’s 1700 black box adjacent to the venue’s bar and coffee shop.
The beginning of the month is understandably packed, and, for this writer, the spirit of collaboration is a loose theme that connects the month’s offerings. Rajagopalan has gathered an extraordinary team of artists representing different disciplines, with India’s Astad Deboo as her choreographic equal; life-sized, lifeless performers designed by Indian puppeteers accompanying Natya’s dancers; and an intercontinental array of musicians including druphad singers from Northern India, Carnatic vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan from Southern India, and George Brooks, an American jazz saxophonist.
A few other collaborations of note: The Joel Hall Dancers accompany jazz vocalist Jesse Charbonier at the Logan Center Nov. 1, trying on his silky smooth style in conjunction with the release of Charbonier’s first studio recording, “Introducing Jesse Charbonier”. The Seldoms will preview sections of artistic director Carrie Hanson’s latest climate-inspired work, “Floe”, which premieres next spring in Chicago. For the company’s Nov. 7 appearance at the Poetry Foundation, playwright Seth Bockley, will share excerpts of the script he’s developing for “Floe”, and Chicago poet Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué offers selections from “Losing Miami”, his requiem to Miami as it gradually succumbs to climate change and rising sea levels. And Molly Shanahan offers her latest for Mad Shak Nov. 1 and 2, an exploration of movement minutiae created in collaboration with somatic healer Candice Wu called “Ex/Body: Wake, dam, steel”.
But remember, Thanksgiving is late this year, and I’d be remiss not to mention a few important happenings toward the end of the month. The culmination of Anna Martine Whitehead’s Chicago Dancemakers Forum project takes place Nov. 22-24 at the Green Line Performing Arts Center, a sweet new spot on the outskirts of the University of Chicago campus. Called “Notes on Territory,” Whitehead takes a broad approach to her movement research, which in this case considers the roles architecture and perceptions of ownership play on marginalized peoples’ pursuits toward liberation. Nov. 21-24, RE|Dance Group gives the last of its 10th anniversary performances with “What the Moon Pulls” at the Filament Theatre. It’s a rarer choreographic contribution from RE|Dance co-founder Lucy Riner, who used moon phases and the individual Zodiac calendars of each company member to create a new movement score. And last but certainly not least, we welcome Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australia’s eminent indigenous dance company, for their Chicago debut at the Harris Theater. In addition to the Nov. 22 and 23 performances, the Harris is partnering with the Field Museum for a panel discussion on Nov. 19 featuring Bangarra artistic director Stephen Page and company member Elma Kris in conversation with the Field’s curator of Pacific anthropology, John Terrell.
Additional November events are listed below: