Chicago Dance Crash (CDC) kicked off its 13th season with an ambitious rep program for the group’s debut performance at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago (DC) this weekend. This interdisciplinary group of dancerly misfits shouldn’t look good together, but somehow they accomplish a cohesion and polish that many other companies of their size and stature can’t. A delightfully refined Crash took full advantage of the big stage and intimate house at the Dance Center in a concert that rose to the challenge for this group’s most prestigious venue to date.
Having more stage space to play with allowed the dancers to stretch their legs (figuratively and literally), and this was never more apparent than with Jessica Deahr’s big and powerful closer The Generator. The excerpt from TRON was previously seen last year at the Biograph, and the impact of this piece at the DC was exponentially better. Despite running the gamut of concert dance genres and emotions (true to CDC form), presenting six group pieces, five out of six dressed in all black, with largely the same cast members, rendered the evening a little “same same” at times. The format of all group numbers was wanting for a duet or a solo, and forced a bunch of pauses – each pause taking a little gusto out of the audience.
Nevertheless, Crash is unafraid of giving us a concert filled with everything from big, flashy flips in a structured improv directed by senior company member Daniel Gibson to the subtle touches of Nicholas Leichter’s quartet Undertow. Leichter originally staged the work fifteen years ago on the now defunct In the Company of Men, and CDC smartly re-imagined the work for its four leading ladies. Lizzie MacKenzie Pontarelli’s Shame was pulled out of a 2013 evening length work featuring the stoic Kaitlin Webster amongst a lovely ensemble of men. As the two more contemporary works on the program, Undertow and Shame showed a delightfully refined restraint not always evident in a CDC concert.
Paul Christiano’s premiere of Savior Self is an intriguing new collaboration with hip hop choreographer Richard Ashworth. Reminiscent of Christiano’s 2010 ADHDivas, the quirky movement vocabulary is driven by a cornucopia of sound effects – in this case, all related to technology. Dancer David Ingram is the central character, a dark figure who weaves through the other dancers with traditional pop ‘n lock weaving accented by flashy LED gloves.* The dance, like Christiano, is complex and thoughtful, with an all out rabble-rouser of hard hitting hip hop and tumbling at the end.
Perhaps most remarkable about Chicago Dance Crash is its ability to manage an image that is consistently cool, yet unabashedly committed to taking risks and reaching outside its comfort zone. It seems that CDC is the little company that could – and with 13 years under its belt, and now an engagement at the Dance Center in the bag, it remains to be seen where Crash can go from here.
*actual comment overheard in the bathroom: “I’ve never been to a Crash show that didn’t have some sort of light up costume.”