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‘Frankenstein’ and Akram Khan’s return


The city is soaking wet as I write this. Very soon, sleeveless tops will be pushed to the back of the drawer, while sweaters will be in the spotlight. And with these warm braids comes the expectation of an abundant art calendar.

There are many milestones. The Harris Music and Dance Theater turns 20 this year and has emerged from her teenage years as a striking example of its dual mission: supporting local artists and catering to Chicago audiences some of the best dance on offer from around the world. Columbia College Dance Center, the city’s only presenter dedicated solely to dance, is kicking off its 50th season, and the best tracks will air in 2024. And Chicago’s sassiest ensemble, Chicago Dance Crash, celebrates its 20th anniversary by welcoming new artistic creations. and executive directors will carry the hip hop and contemporary fusion company into its third decade. And former Joffrey Ballet dancer Erica Lynette Edwards rounds the corner in her first month as executive director of Giordano Dance Chicago, making a new addition to a growing list of Chicago companies with women in both directors’ chairs.

The tidal wave left leadership roles open at Links Hall, High Concept Labs, and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. previous directors They did not stay in these jobs for long. But the dance has reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The changing guard makes room for new voices to shape the arts, and for now, it doesn’t appear to be a sign of trouble ahead.

Of course, progress cannot happen without an adoring public. While these aren’t the only options, we hope our fall dance guide will pull back a layer of a rich art form and make you eager to see more.

1. Arpino’s Centennial Celebration: Nine ensembles from around the country – including Complexions, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theater and Ballet West – gather in Chicago to celebrate the 100th birthday of Joffrey Ballet co-founder and prolific choreographer Gerald Arpino. Joffrey has released a teaser with his performances from the past two seasons. “Birthday Variations” And “Saint-Saens Suite.” These and Arpino classics such as “Light Rain”, “Round of Angels” and “Trinity” will meet with the audience in two different programs. September 23-24, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive; tickets are $45-291 from 312-341-2300 and auditoriumtheatre.org

2. “Frankenstein” by Joffrey Ballet: Another challenging season The preparation of the ballet troupe begins with choreographer Liam Scarlett’s masterpiece in Modern Prometheus. Terrifying in every way, this gorgeous adaptation of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic premiered in 2016 but hasn’t been seen much on this side of the lake. This is the first of two new Scarlett works on display this season in Joffrey’s growing catalog of the late choreographer’s stunning ballets. October 12-22, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; tickets cost $36-196 by calling 312-386-8905 and joffrey.org

3. Mandala South Asian Performing Arts: Sometimes Mandala director Pranita Nayar still looks like that “I’m unwinding.” This could not possibly be truer than a new production celebrating the Hindu festival of light. “Diwali: Illumination” replaces the company’s more realistic narration of the Ramayana for a broad abstraction that speaks to all cultural traditions. Nayar guides a rich production choreographed by Nejla Yatkin, which blends contemporary dance forms from South Asia, North Africa and Black America. Fareed Haque’s original music is an extraordinary spectacle of genre-changing rhythmic exploration, combining jazz principles and a variety of global classical influences. October 12-13, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets are $13.50-85 from 312-334-7777 and harristheeaterchicago.org

4. Ballet 5:8: This suburban ensemble’s latest feature original ballet, “BareFace,” returns for a two-night run within the city limits. Choreographer Julianna Rubio Slager loves to tackle complex, ancient stories, often with a Christian message. In this case, the Roman legend of Cupid and Psyche forms the basis of his graceful and robust vocabulary. October 18-21, Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, 2936 N. Southport Ave.; tickets cost 10-62$ from 312-820-6250 and athenaeumcenter.org

Michelle Kranicke from Chicago's Zephyr Dance.

5. Zephyr Dance: Zephyr’s “S45” is in some ways a return to the company’s roots in Chicago’s 1990s modern dance scene. But director Michelle Kranicke isn’t looking back – although re-enacting Merce Cunningham’s 1956 “Suite for Five” seems like an exercise in nostalgia. No, an impressive ensemble of choreographers (Kranicke, Paige Cunningham-Caldarella, Darrell Jones, Roxane D’Orléans Juste and Kota Yamazaki) will later disassemble this piece and rebuild it with a 21st century mentality. All this while leaning towards Zephyr’s current obsession: how dance interacts with unconventional, immersive spaces. October 19-22, SITE/less, 1250 W. Augusta Blvd.; tickets $25 on sale September 6 zephyrdance.com

6. Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak: After a hiatus of several years, this respected veteran ensemble is presenting their first concert after a pandemic long hiatus, “Ex/body: Strike, Vibrate, Shatter”; this is painfully long for the thoughtful, idiosyncratic and deeply embodied aesthetic of this collective. As the dancers look inward, they question how trauma manifests in the body. The results are probably as gratifying for them as they are for us. October 21-22, Studio5, 1938 Dempster St., Evanston; tickets $37 ticketzisi.com

7. Giordano Dance Chicago: Jazz dance troupe opens fall season with crowd favorite “SHAKE,” using morning coffee as a starting point for a noisy, rhythmic pleasure. Inspired by film noir “Sneaky Pete” “Le Grand Futur is Here!” created by “So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Mia Michaels for the Jazz Dance World Congress in 1999. Like it’s making a comeback. Michael McStraw making a final cameo as “The Man” in “The Man That Got Away”; Former GDC’s powerhouse Ashley Downs returns for another round as her partner, as if she could be anyone else. October 27-28, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205. E. Randolph St.; tickets are between $20-90 312-334-7777 and harristheeaterchicago.org

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago guest choreographer Aszure Barton, right, with artistic director Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell in the dance troupe's Water Tower Place studio.

8. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: Hubbard Street with a season of abundance themed presents the first of many dishes from the resident artist Reassure Barton. Barton revives composer Caroline Shaw’s 2015 “Back to Patience” based on a masterful Chopin remix. Darrell Grand Moultrie “The Dilemma of a Journey” and Lar Lubovitch “Coltrane’s Favorite Things” complete the evening. November 2-5, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; Tickets for $15-110 will go on sale September 7 at 312-334-7777 and hubbardstreetdance.com

9. Rarely: Ten years ago, The Seldoms presented a repertory concert of small pieces called “Mix with Six” featuring in-house choreography. Another rare departure from artistic director Carrie Hanson’s deep dives into the evening, “3×3: 2023” features new dances by company members Deandra Alaba and Damon Green. Chosen from a pool of 55 nominees, guest artist Tina Diaz rounds off the bill with “Under My Mother Tree”, an ancestral identity excavation that explores literal and figurative family trees. November 4-5 at the Visceral Dance Center’s Ann Barzel Theatre, 3121 N. Rockwell; tickets are between $15-40 theseldoms.org

10. “The Jungle Book Redesigned” by Akram Khan: They say lightning cannot strike the same place twice, but until now Ekrem Khan Two for two at the Harris Theatre. The incomparable choreographer returns for a new retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic story, this time with his eponymous troupe. Miles away from Disney, Khan projects the story to a near future, where climate change triggers migration and nature recaptures city streets. November 9-11, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets cost $35-180 by calling 312-334-7777 and harristheeaterchicago.org

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.


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