ARC Reception Area Rendering courtesy of Chicago Human Rhythm Project

Rendering of the reception area at the American Rhythm Center in downtown Chicago’s Fine Arts Building. Image courtesy of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project.

Last spring, it went by the Collaborative Space for Sustainable Development and involved six performing-arts organizations. Per a public announcement today, it’s called the American Rhythm Center, includes nine organizations and has a confirmed home: the Fine Arts Building.

Built for car and wagon manufacturer Studebaker in 1885, the richly detailed landmark stands adjacent to the Auditorium Theatre, facing Grant Park on Chicago’s South Michigan Avenue. Lead partner the Chicago Human Rhythm Project says it’s raised about half of $2.5 million for the ARC’s initial, multiphased capital campaign. The facility will first see foot traffic by the end of CHRP’s 22nd annual “Rhythm World” festival, July 23 through August 5; a grand opening with the founding partners will follow in September.

Those partners are, in addition to CHRP, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, Giordano Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Ping Pong Productions, River North Dance Chicago and Kalapriya, Center for Indian Performing Arts. Phase one of the project builds out and renovates a lobby, dressing rooms and administrative offices, plus three studios ranging in size from 750 to 1,500 square feet. During subsequent construction phases, the ARC plans to add more administrative room and spaces for programs, plus a black-box theater for performances. The architect is JGMA and Ujamaa Construction, Inc. is the general contractor.

In a joint interview by phone on July 5, CHRP founder-director Lane Alexander and new executive director Frank Sonntag explained the thinking behind this model for supporting performing-arts management and education in collaboration, and how it found a home in the Fine Arts Building.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:21::2012

Linkage | June 6–20, 2012

Tobi Tobias reviewed on June 7 two of this year’s graduation performances at the School of American Ballet. Also that day, Judith Mackrell reviewed the considerably darker and more adult Viktor by Pina Bausch, which opened a monthlong celebration of Bausch’s choreography in London. A special edition of The Guardian’s excellent MoveTube series focused on Bausch the previous day.

For something still more adult — or maybe less — read this great profile of male strippers by Francesca Steele for The Independent, occasioned by Steven Soderbergh’s new film, Magic Mike. Wanna hear a bunch of gay comedians dish on the film? Here you go.

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It’s May 23 and it’s got to be one of the hottest days of the year so far. I’m on foot, on campus at Northeastern Illinois University. And I’m lost, trying to find a low-rise building adjacent to Bohemian National Cemetery. I think I spot it, then I’m certain: Its front door bears the logo of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater.

Ensemble Español 2012 Flamenco Passion 3

Guest artist Claudia Pizarro performs with Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. Photo: Courtesy of Ensemble Español

In the performing company and school’s half of the building — shared with NEIU’s maintenance staff, carpenters and electricians — there are two practice studios and open office space. A hallway dividing the low-rise down its center is lined on Ensemble Español’s side with ten tall, wooden doors.

Irma Suarez Ruíz, associate artistic director, and Jorge Pérez, administrative director, open the first pair of these doors for me, to reveal a huge closet filled with brightly colored costumes and props. There are racks of full skirts, trimmed and ruffled to the utmost; and a plastic bin labeled Embrujada (“bewitched” or “haunted”) Shoes. There are collapsible fans, lots of them, bin after bin of show fans; short vests and gossamer blouses, jewel-toned velvet gowns, and accessories galore: sashes, shawls, belts, headpieces and hats. I notice more high-heeled shoes of various types, both for men and for women. Still toasty from my walk from the bus stop, I can’t keep my eyes off the fans, even though there’s so much more to take in.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:15::2012

Lucky Plush Productions: Punk Yankees | Conversation

In October 2009, I called the premiere of Punk Yankees “an invitation to a conversation.” The evening-length work by Chicago-based Lucky Plush Productions recently returned for two days, June 8 and 9, at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. If memory serves — a notion the piece interrogates directly — Punk Yankees wasn’t altered much from its original iteration. But its general thrust remained the same and it’s more a conversation-starter than ever. (Full disclosure: I performed with Lucky Plush before Punk Yankees was created.)

Lucky Plush Productions 2012 PUNK YANKEES photo Dan Merlo

Lucky Plush Productions in Punk Yankees. Photo: Dan Merlo

The most significant difference was that the revival’s cast was smaller (six dancers, versus eight) and, overall, stronger. Which isn’t to say that the premiere was handicapped by weak performances. But the addition of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago alumni Francisco Aviña and Benjamin Wardell, for example, lent precision tools to the work’s excavations: What is originality in choreography? Where is the line between artistic interpretation and alteration? Who “owns” a movement, its creator, or the dancer who executes it? Both? Neither? Thorny questions all, to which there are no definitive answers.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:08::2012

Luna Negra Dance Theater: “Luna Nueva” | Review

Luna Negra Dance Theater defines its “Luna Nueva” programming venture as a focus on choreographers “whose movement, style and artistic voice extend beyond the conventional aesthetics of dance.”

Luna Negra Dance Theater 2012 EN BUSCA DE photo Nathan Keay

Luna Negra Dance Theater in En busca de by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano. From left: Eduardo Zuñiga, Mónica Cervantes, Joseph Kudra and Christopher Bordenave. Photo: Nathan Keay / © MCA Chicago

“Conventional” is among the most subjective words out there, so I’ll cut Luna some slack. But to go by its inaugural, through June 10 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, “Luna Nueva” is probably better considered as the company extended beyond its own aesthetic conventions: conspicuously bionic dancers, quicksilver dispassion and high-concept, design-conscious environs.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:06::2012

Linkage | May 14–June 5, 2012

Let’s get meta to kick off this long-overdue Linkage post, shall we? Here’s You’ve Cott Mail’s linkblast from May 14 and Sarah Breselor’s Weekly Review from the next day for Harper’s. Here’s a YCM roundup of recent art-as-protest moments and these are some thoughts from Beth Kanter on Good Curation versus Bad Curation.

There are some interesting points, I suppose, made in “The End of Performance Art as We Know It,” Thomas Micchelli’s takedown of the OMA-designed Marina Abramović Institute planned for Hudson, New York. On the other hand: Can’t Abramović do what she wants with her own damned institute? How does one building, not even built, spell The End of It All for an entire art form? It doesn’t, and it can’t, so simmer down, Micchelli.

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Beginning with the rescheduled Imperial Silence: Una Ópera Muerta — originally slated for the spring season now ending — the Museum of Contemporary Art presents an impressive array of contemporary music and performance between this September and next June. Probable dancerly highlights include the returns of Compagnie Marie Chouinard and Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company; a cocommission by the MCA Stage of Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People; a choreography by artist Martin Creed for members of the Joffrey Ballet’s Academy of Dance; and second helpings of ventures launched this spring by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Luna Negra Dance Theater.

Compagnie Marie Chouinard Henri Michaux Movements photo Sylvie-Ann Paré

Gérard Reyes, Mariusz Ostrowski, James Viveiros, Lucy May, Lucie Mongrain, Leon Kupferschmid and Carol Prieur of Compagnie Marie Chouinard in Henri Michaux: Mouvements. Photo: Sylvie-Ann Paré

The MCA also recently announced its Teen Creative Agency, a two-year program for creatives ages 15 to 19. Applications are being accepted for the fall, when current TCA participants continue honing their skills at contextualizing and interpreting art.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:05::2012

Chicago Human Rhythm Project hires Frank Sonntag

As of June 4, Frank Sonntag is executive director at Chicago Human Rhythm Project. In a statement released this morning, Lane Alexander, artistic director of the tap- and percussive-dance presenting organization, calls Sonntag a “heavy hitter who can lead CHRP during a time of extraordinary opportunity.”

Frank L Sonntag CHRP photo Stephanie Colgan

Chicago Human Rhythm Project executive director Frank Sonntag. Photo: Stephanie Colgan

This immediate agenda includes copresenting the U.S. debut of Chinese troupe Nanning Art Theatre’s Legend of the Sun June 12 and 13; producing the 22nd “Rhythm World” festival of tap classes and performances, plus panel discussions, July 23 through August 5; and gearing up for CHRP’s first engagement at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this December.

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Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:04::2012

Jessica Stockholder | Interview

At 9:30pm on June 1, artist Jessica Stockholder stands suspended six stories above East Adams Street in downtown Chicago, in the basket of a boom lift or “cherry-picker” crane.

Jessica Stockholder COLOR JAM 2012 photo 2 Kevin Shelton

Jessica Stockholder in her Color Jam (2012) at State and Adams Streets in downtown Chicago. Photo: Kevin Shelton, courtesy of Chicago Loop Alliance

To her right is the corner of a glass-block and concrete building at 137 South State Street — covered in an electric blue. To her left stands SOM’s 1962 Home Federal Building. The northwest corner of the latter’s Modernist glass-and-steel facade is swathed in bright, almost neon green, except for street-level windows and a red band above them that reads “Bank of America.”

Workers wearing reflective vests are lining the intersection at Adams and State Streets, near the exact center of Chicago’s Loop, with more than 76,000 square feet of adhesive vinyl for Stockholder’s Color Jam. Commissioned by Chicago Loop Alliance, the installation is reportedly the largest public artwork in the city’s history. Its official opening is June 5 and it remains on display through September 30.

Once Stockholder returns to Earth, she and I meet across the intersection. We chat beneath the awning at 202 South State Street, built in 1915 and designed by Holabird & Roche, later (and better) known as Holabird & Root. Red surrounds us.

Once the site was chosen and the concept decided, how many revisions were there, to where exactly these color fields meet, how high up the buildings they reach and what shapes they are?
I waited to tweak things and firm up what this would be until we worked things out with [vinyl manufacturer] Bloomingdale Signs, to understand what would be involved [in those decisions] and how much color we could use. The kinds of angles I could use were part of that process as well. It’s much harder to make [the shapes wider as they get taller]. That’s why there’s that white piece around the [southwest] corner: To make that angle of red, a white piece has to be there. So I waited until we were working with Gary [Schellerer, Bloomingdale President and CEO] to get specific, once I understood what would be possible. Read More…

Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:01::2012

River North Dance Chicago | Status update

The forecast for Tuesday, June 5 in Chicago is mostly sunny with a high of 70 degrees. At 6:30pm, River North Dance Chicago will perform, free of charge, at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. It’s the first of many dance events scheduled at the Frank Gehry–designed amphitheater this summer. Others include a live simulcast of the Paris Opéra Ballet performing Giselle (June 27, 7:30pm) at the Harris Theater — indoors, directly underneath the pavilion — and the now-annual “Celebration of Dance” blowout closer for the all-free Chicago Dancing Festival (August 25, 7:30pm).

River North Dance Chicago 2011 Chicago Dancing Festival photo Cheryl Mann

River North Dance Chicago performs Nine Person Precision Ball Passing (1980) by Charles Moulton, at the 2011 Chicago Dancing Festival in Millennium Park. Photo: Cheryl Mann

Tuesday won’t be the first time RNDC has appeared at the Pritzker; last summer’s “Celebration” featured the company in Charles Moulton’s Nine Person Precision Ball Passing (1980). That’s a difficult, intricate piece of choreography — but unusual in that each of its performers stays rooted in a single spot, on risers. I wrote in my review of that performance that RNDC handled the work “as if it were a walk in the park (although I look forward to watching these powerhouse dancers perform full-bodied again, rather than sit and trade balls as they have all week).”

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