Posted by: trailerpilot | 07:08::2009

Fresh Feats: Festival Fundition

Lane Alexander. Photo by Kristie Kahns.

Lane Alexander. Photo by Kristie Kahns.

Why, hello there! How about some dance news? The latest Windy City Times is out today at your local newsstand; pick one up or hit the break for my latest column.

Dancin’ Feats
by Zachary Whittenburg

Summer’s for festivals, and this month brings two huge, weeklong events to Chicago’s dance fans. Opening July 22 is a slew of performances programmed as part of the 2009 Jazz Dance World Congress. Produced here by Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs, the JDWC is to jazz dance what Cannes is to film buffs and just as international. Held in locations over its twenty-nine year history as diverse as Japan, Germany, Mexico and Costa Rica, it’s nevertheless foremost a Chicago tradition — this will be the seventh time it invites companies the world over to the Windy City.

The “Congress” part is designed to expose attendees as much as possible to the expertise of its guest faculty and panelists. Classes are held daily, discussions are hosted by teachers, dancers and administrators in the field and, new this year, auditions for well-regarded collegiate dance programs (at the University of Arizona, University at Buffalo, Hofstra University, and Point Park University and others) as well as performer positions at Royal Caribbean International will give attending dancers multiple opportunities to seek out the next phase of their careers.

Each evening, though, is a celebration of the form open to the public: Seven companies a night will present dances and, while the full rundown is too expansive to get into here, some highlights are a pair of world premieres by Japan’s Masashi Action Machine on Wednesday’s and Thursday’s programs, Mexico’s Cuerpo Etéreo Danza Contemporánea Friday, and the début of Sherry Zunker’s Mature Dance Project (a who’s who of brilliant Chicago artists in their thirty-teens) and Philadelphia’s Philadanco! Saturday. A choreography competition and the premiere of the documentary “Gus, an American Icon” on Wednesday round out the Festival’s incredible smorgasbord.

Tap dance and the percussive arts are celebrated and honored each year at Rhythm World which, like the JDWC, is comprised of opportunities both to learn and appreciate. July 27 is the kickoff of residencies, workshops and master classes by an impressive roster of tap virtuosos like Sam Weber, Derick Grant, Jakari Sherman, Chloe Arnold, Jason Samuels Smith, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Chicago Human Rhythm Project Director (and Rhythm World organizer) Lane Alexander. Classes are tiered for offerings for everyone from nine-year-old novices to working professionals. Sunday, August 2 at 6:30pm, a free concert will be held at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park featuring BAM!, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, Jus’ LisTeN, the South Shore Drill Team, Chicago Tap Theatre and Be the Groove. Monday there’s a free tap improvisation jam at the Cultural Center, Roosevelt University’s gorgeous Ganz Hall hosts a Tap Slam competition and Cutting Contest improvisation tournament Tuesday, and come Thursday and Saturday, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s theater will be home to two performances including many of the aforementioned Master Teachers, guest artists and tap ensembles.

—Jazz Dance World Festival is held at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Dr., July 22-25. For program and ticketing information, visit and

—Rhythm World is held at multiple locations in downtown Chicago from July 27-August 9. For more information, a schedule of events and tickets visit

Also this month:

—The final program of this spring’s Epiphany Dance Experiment is a focus on movement as performance art and features four intriguing practitioners of that approach: JulieAnn Graham, RTG Dance, Britt Posmer and Marissa Perel. At the Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland Ave., July 12 at 6:00pm. $12 at the door.

—The Space/Movement Project, recently one of three finalists at The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2009, will premiere their latest work Safety in Numbers over two weekends at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse. Tracking ideas about community through local genealogies of six choreographers (also dancers) and three additional performers, this collective of young dancemakers is one to watch. At 3035 N. Hoyne Ave. in Roscoe Village, performances are July 16-17 and 23-24 at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15 at; more information is at

—Thodos Dance Chicago presents new works each year by members of its company and a guest choreographer. Having seen all of it in progress — I’m serving on the program’s advisory panel — I can vouch for the accomplishment and incredible variety of its pieces. At the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., July 17 and 18 at 8:00pm and July 19 at 5:00pm. $25 tickets, less for students, seniors and children, and more information on the bill is at

—Atalee Judy of Breakbone DanceCo. is a recipient of this year’s prestigious Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Grant. Although much of her body of work has focused on social-political and feminist issues, Judy is investigating much different territory with her upcoming premiere Excavation of Remains. Born of a new collaborative approach, seven artists have originated an anthology of dances that reflect thoughts on death and near-death and, in some cases, process past true-life experiences with the end. Also at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, Excavation of Remains opens July 29 and runs Wednesday through Friday that and the following weekend, August 5-7, at 7:30. Tickets are $15, $10 on opening night, and are available at or by calling (773) 841-BONE. Visit


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