Chicago Shows Up at Spring to Dance

Last night at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center did not suck.

Though not solely responsible for the brilliant performances last night, Chicago certainly showed up and demonstrated its versatility and technical panache.  To spare readers an in-depth exposé of each piece in an evening that was (between two shows) three hours long, here are the tidbits I wrote in my program about each of the Chicago-based companies:

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Chicago Dance Crash: Samurai hip-hop gymnastics.  I finally see a reason for dancers to not quit tumbling after age 6, and this is it.

Momenta: Though it took too long to get there, the ending image was poignant and worth the wait.  Kris Lenzo dances out of his wheelchair and manipulates this thing that he’s typically so dependent on.  That excites me.

Natya Dance Theatre: When you can’t see the eyes of the dancers, Bharata Natyam becomes long and redundant, but this was beautiful, tightly rehearsed, and a lovely addition to a festival that doesn’t often feature cultural dances.

The Joffrey Ballet: I think this new contract thing where the dancers rehearse more hours is working out well… who are these people and what has happened to the Joffrey?!? They are clearly in a renaissance, and this particular dance was showy, but unpretentious…Tricks that made the audience gasp flowed seamlessly into simple, beautiful moments. And, how come ballet dancers don’t wear tights anymore?

Thodos Dance Chicago: The best choreography I’ve ever seen from Melissa Thodos, and the best lighting I’ve ever seen from Nathan Tomlinson.  Though Subtle Passages could benefit from one or two more rehearsals, I challenged dancer John Cartwright on his Facebook page to amaze me, and (unexpectedly) they did.

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But it didn’t just stop with Chicago blood.  Kansas City Ballet, Margaret Jenkins, and Houston Metropolitan Dance Company were equally brilliant, and the St. Louis companies certainly held their own.  It seems weird and cheesy to write a review that effusively fawns all over a dance performance, but when it’s good, it’s good.It occurred to me at the end of the evening that I had to come to St. Louis to see the best of Chicago dance in the same building, on the same night.  Though it might not be realistic, or even feasible, to use a model like Spring to Dance at home, we are so oversaturated with conflicting dance performances that audience members have to pick and choose who they want to see.  Then again, wasn’t that originally the point of Dance Chicago?
Instead of all of us driving five hours south, how do we create a place where the best of the best can all share a stage at home?

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.

6 thoughts on “Chicago Shows Up at Spring to Dance

  1. If you held the Festival in Chicago then dancer John Cartwright wouldn’t come dazzle the st. louisans! Don’t take him from us!

    1. I wouldn’t dare 🙂 Just wish we could think of a way to do something as successful as Spring to Dance at home!

    1. Hi Josephine. Thanks for reading. This review was published Saturday morning during the festival, so Dance Works and Ensemble Espanol had not yet performed. I was sharing coverage with other writers and did not review Saturday’s excellent performance.

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