5 Chicago Dancers to Observe in 2015

The 25 to Watch List put out each year by Dance Magazine is a coveted place for any dancer, and this year Chicago is extremely well represented with Emilie Leriche, Robyn Mineko Williams, and the whole of Visceral Dance Chicago called out for 2015. While it is impossible to disagree with these choices, I have a few Chicagoans I’m keeping my eyes on who just might have just narrowly missed “the list.”

Reaching into the throngs of the freelance dance community, behold! Here’s my “5 to Observe” list for your spring dance cards:

Ben Law and Jessica Marasa, photo by William Frederking

Ben Law: Sumptuous mover, gentle spirit, and all around nice guy Ben Law has been delighting us for several years, but has been popping up more frequently in festivals and freelance engagements. Particularly known for his keen improvisation skills, Law’s ongoing collaboration with Jessica Marasa appeared last year in Archipelago, a showcase of solos and duets produced by The Leopold Group, and again last summer in a project close to my heart: season four of PRODUCE. Most recently, Law performed in back-to-back performances at Links Hall with Kate Corby & Dancers and Mad Shak, reminding us just how beautiful it is to witness him move.

Joanna Furnans: A fairly recent transplant from Minneapolis, Joanna Furnans came out of the gates running with a compelling closer on the first night of Chicago Moving Company’s D-49 Festival. Though the influence of Minneapolitan Laurie Van Wieren is clear, Furnans has a distinctly crisp and clean movement quality, and air tight discipline in constructing a piece. Far from just a durational artist, Furnans is drawn toward queer themes, bucking stereotypes all over the place. Her new work “these men” is supported by the new Creative Time Sponsorship program at Links Hall

Maggie Koller: After about a decade dancing for The Dance COLEctive, Maggie Koller has plunged into the freelance dance world with a vengeance. A two year stint with Khecari includes stunning appearances in Julia Rae Antonick’s cresset: vibrant, rusting and, most recently, a month-long run of Jonathan Meyer’s Oubliette. Coincidentally, Koller is an alum of Beloit College with Ben Law, and I happened to catch a captivating little ditty they developed for a student concert produced by Beloit students. You probably didn’t see it… in fact, I’m sure you didn’t, but it was a match that felt pretty darn perfect. The physical demand of Khecari’s work has reminded us what a glorious mover Koller is, and her appointment as manager of The Space/Movement Project’s Outerspace Studios reminds us that she is a keen administrator as well.

Josh Anderson and Maggie Koller in Jonathan Meyer's 'Oubliette.' Photo by Ryan Borque
Josh Anderson and Maggie Koller in Jonathan Meyer’s ‘Oubliette.’ Photo by Ryan Borque

Josh Anderson: It’s no mystery that Josh Anderson is a captivating dancer, and indeed, he gave wonderful performances alongside Maggie Koller in Oubliette, and with Ben Law in Kate Corby’s Digging, presented in an evening produced by The Seldoms just last month. But 2014 opened audience members’ eyes to his choreographic panache as well. In the same evening of D-49 closed by Joanna Furnans, Anderson was the opener with his Levels of Acetylcholine. The part dance, part text, part goofy frat boy performance created in collaboration with Brian Rad made me laugh out loud, lots of times, and (to be honest) I really didn’t imagine Josh Anderson to be capable of humor. I stand corrected. As I wrote here in my review of D-49: “Anderson has found brilliance in the mundane, accentuated the ridiculousness of the ordinary, and in ten minutes, made me a big fan.”

Marc Macaranas: Duh. Marc Macaranas is part Lucky Plush, part freelancer, always incredible. Much more than a dancer, we’ve also come to know and love Macaranas as a beloved technique teacher and a chameleon capable of doing any style, in any company, any time. What’s not to love?!?

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.