Posted by: trailerpilot | 10:13::2009

Loose ends.


In lieu of time I don’t have to follow-up in detail on shows I’ve previewed over the past few weeks, here’s a grab-bag of impressions and memorable moments of the fall season thus far:

Miami City Ballet’s Chicago debut was, overall, deserving of the fawning praise it received from the Tribune and Sun-Times. “Symphony in Three Movements,” first on the bill, wasn’t trumped by anything that followed but was alone worth the price of admission. Bart Cook and Maria Calegari’s staging thrust all the important information into the foreground and all six soloists embodied their roles clearly and confidently. My most snobbish and nit-picking side comes out when watching Balanchine abstracts, and still nothing about MCB’s interpretation of one of my favorites touched a nerve. The pas de deux, danced by Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg and Carlos Miguel Guerra, and first movement especially won me over with their purity of delivery and disciplined service of the ballet’s intricate spatial and musical geometries. In the second act, “Valse Fantaisie 1953” fared better than did the Black Swan grand pas, whose Mary Carmen Catoya failed to suggest the duet’s narrative crux. The swift withdrawal of Odile’s hand from Siegfried’s kiss should freeze blood in the vein — Catoya merely pulled it away with no more attention than was paid to her glissades précipités. Rolando Sarabia, however, was powerful and tastefully-restrained in the best Cuban tradition. As for “In the Upper Room,” I’m — sorry — not in the camp that believes Twyla Tharp to be a genius. The “bomb squad” duo was danced to perfection and the energy was kept high enough to keep me engaged, but Tharp’s kitchen-sink vocabulary and forced casualness have always kept me from being swept off my feet the way a piece of that length wagers I will. Still, I hadn’t seen world-class ballet dancing in a long time — I hope Villella is already planning MCB’s next Chicago visit.

Last Friday, The Seldoms held a brief, site-specific triple bill inside the main gallery at the Loyola University Museum of Art. Paige Cunningham’s duet “Inside the House of Simon,” danced by Philip Elson and Amanda McAlister and inspired by the paintings of Simon Gouverneur, ran Merce (no relation) Cunningham’s compositional procedures and forms through a poetic, acceleratory engine to an original score by Jason Geistweidt and the IAM team at Columbia College. McAlister and Elson also created original works, “Numeral Dualities” and “Wen,” respectively, that were a bit more green but considered and open. I appreciated Christina Gonzalez-Gillett and Bruce Ortiz’ centrifugal use of the room in “Dualities” — however expansive, they shared a low-frequency hostility that made the gallery feel like a cell. Diametrically opposite was Elson’s piece, which had three dancers (Damon Green, Cara Sabin and Trevor Szuba-Schneider) running, diving and carving up the space as though it were an Alpine meadow. Afterward, the audience leapt into a huge spread of tempera paints and paper and weapons-grade cocktails from a Violet Hour skeleton crew — it was a great event.

The previous Friday, during Links Hall’s 30-hour 30th anniversary celebration, I was able to swing by Jyl Fehrenkamp’s special late-night Poonie’s Cabaret. Darrell Jones premiered Bootsy, a lover spurned in a ski mask, blonde fall and combat shitkickers whose gut-wrenching solo put my heart in my throat. Tila Von Twirl classed through a burlesque routine historically-accurate enough to make me feel like I was on the set of Mad Men, Suzy Grant gave a James Brown-inspired drag king number a fierce twist ending, and Jessica Hudson read verbatim from her Judy Blume-branded grade-school diary until I damn near pissed my pants.

After interviewing her for Flavorwire, Nora Chipaumire’s gukuruhundi at the MCA was far more abstract and suggestive than the aggressive political statement I was expecting. Still, the sensory journey she and Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited guide the audience through speaks clearly enough. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how major a narrative role the lighting design plays in this work: loaded with tech cues, gukuruhundi uses bulbs as everything from prison doors to assault rifles to an African dawn. Projected animations created for the piece, by Joelle Dietrick and Romain Tardy, were transfixing.

October 4 I attended Epiphany Dance Experiment’s evening dedicated to the interplay between dance and sound; “Alegrias” and “Notes From a Bottle,” performed by dancer Wendy Clinard and musicians Las Guitarras de España, was a diptych of flamenco-inspired solos that both looked and sounded gorgeous in the cavernous space and on its resonant wooden floor. Synapse Arts Collective brought an excerpt from Stridulate, which I loved, that included two new performers (Charlie Univerz and Angela Watkins) in a roaming, migratory score, Cindy Brandle Dance Company performed the kind quintet it contributed to this year’s Other Dance Festival and Heather Hartley, in collaboration with Basil Abbott, Sherry Antonini, Casey Murtaugh, Helen Lee and Erica Mott premiered “O My Innocents,” a transporting, ritualisitic piece that began as a procession and spread out into a delta of penance and ablution.

I can’t really be objective about Luna Negra Dance Theater, who I saw perform Saturday — I’m a regular teacher of its company class — but they looked great last Saturday at the Harris on a triple bill marking their tenth anniversary. I was especially grateful to see Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Nube Blanco” again — nothing of this most recent performance made me feel like taking back any of the gushing praise I slathered upon its world premiere last March.

Finally, this past Sunday I caught up with an old friend at Pam Ann’s Harris show. Caroline Reid’s other character Lily is hardly funny and the show was an indulgent two hours with no intermission, but the first, ad-libbed half was hysterical and her ceaseless stoking of Southwest Airlines’ employees’ presumed inferiority complex (“Do you ever dream of flying over water? Do you own a passport? What’s that place you fly out of here, your hub — it’s a shed in a car park, isn’t it?”) had the largely-industry audience — and the two of us — in stitches.



  1. […] gave myself a pat on the back for surviving the first four days of this month, but the action just won’t let up (in the best way). I’ve already told you a thing or […]

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