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The 10 best dances of winter 2024

There’s no rest for the weary at Chicago dance, which is booming this winter. While two international big hits make their Chicago debuts, locals like Visceral Dance Chicago and Trinity Irish Dance Company are making big moves with ambitious new works. Justin Peck’s dance-tinged musical honors Prairie State, and this isn’t the only time Chicagoans can see the work of this supreme choreographer. New York City Ballet returns to the Harris Theater for a three-day long run (long for dance, at least); This is his first visit to the community since the launch of Harris’ presentation series nearly two decades ago.

While there’s plenty to admire in February and March, Chicago’s dance card extends into May. During these warmer months, look for goodies at Giordano Dance Chicago and South Chicago Dance Theatre, as well as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s annual pilgrimage to Chicago.

Here are the 10 best dance events this winter:

“Illinois”: Tony Award-winning director/choreographer Justin Peck, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer, is trying his hand at an original piece that has found crossover success with “Carousel” and the revival of “West Side Story.” Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 concept album honoring the Prairie State provides the musical foundation, so it makes sense that “Illinoise” would land here after its test run in New York last summer. A far cry from “Carousel,” it’s an easy choice for the winter dance calendar. Although it’s technically a musical, the cast is full of great dancers (including Peck’s friend from NYCB, Robbie Fairchild). Look for two former Chicagoans: Ahmad Simmons and Gaby Diaz, the latter of whom is a “So You Think You Can Dance” champion who danced briefly with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Jan. 28-Feb. 18, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, 800 E. Grand Ave.; tickets $45-$125 at 312-595-5600 and chicagoshakes.com

National Dance Company: Former American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet dancer Joaquín De Luz is just a few years away from his tenure leading Spain’s national dance company, which will make its debut in Chicago this winter. Du Luz, who guided the company during the pandemic, created “Passengers Within” with the hypnotic notes of Philip Glass. Theme? Society’s addiction to our iThings and disconnection from the IRL world. Sol León and Paul Lightfoot’s 1998 deep dive into mambo and Nacho Duato’s “White Darkness” round out the program; the second is a fervent, arresting elegy for Duato’s sister, created in 2001. Feb. 10, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive; tickets $40-$135 from 312-341-2300 and auditoriumtheatre.org

Joffrey Ballet: Andrew McNicol’s dazzling “Yonder Blue” returns for the first time since 2019 as part of “Studies in Blue,” Joffrey’s first mixed representation in over a year. Belgian choreographer Stina Quagebeur, known on this side of the pond for her dancing with the English National Ballet, makes her Joffrey debut with a work that explores the psychological aspects of addiction. And Joffrey adds the trio “Hummingbird” to former choreographer Liam Scarlett’s growing catalog of work. pas de deux Set to a fascinating Philip Glass soundtrack. Feb. 15-25, Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; tickets are $36-$179 and call 312-386-8905. joffrey.org

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: The company’s annual two-week residency at MCA is a highlight of the season; It is more important than ever with this year’s “Hope” program. “Dear Frankie,” Rennie Harris’s love note to her Chicago home, returns, as well as world premieres from resident choreographer Aszure Barton and Hubbard alumni Alice Klock and Florian Lochner. In a fun twist, Latin jazz expert Maria Torres creates a new ballroom-inspired number, showing once again that these dancers can do just about anything. Feb. 23-March 3, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; tickets are $15-$95 by calling 312-850-9744 and hubbardstreetdance.com

Black Elegance: The Kiwi contemporary dance troupe’s Chicago debut will feature selections that epitomize a cross-cultural aesthetic that blends Samoan and Maori forms. The result of this pairing is an athletic, uncompromising brutality infused with pinpoint precision that is simply not to be missed. March 1 (family matinee March 2) Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $20-$105 from 312-334-7777 and harristheaterchicago.org

Chelsea Hoy, associate artistic director and dancer with Trinity Irish Dance Company, at a rehearsal at Roosevelt University in Chicago in 2022.

Trinity Irish Dance Company: Chicago’s premier Irish dance troupe continues to push the boundaries of the form for their annual one-day-only house engagement. Choreographer Harrison McEldowney is known for his wit and whimsy, but not exactly for his Irish step dancing. McEldowney comes out of retirement with a cross-genre collaboration called “POV,” which uses GoPro cameras to bring the audience onstage with the dancers. The program includes favorites such as “Soles,” “Black Rose” and “Push,” as well as new vaudeville-style dance sequences by co-directors Mark Howard and Chelsea Hoy about the experiences of Irish immigrants in America. March 3 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.; tickets $25-$75 from 312-341-2300 and auditoriumtheatre.org

Jazz Continuum: New York-based choreographer LaTasha Barnes brings her acclaimed debut book on jazz dance and music to the Dance Center, which celebrates its 50th season of dance programming this year. Barnes’s “Jazz Continuum” is joyous, tracing the origins of contemporary jazz from black vernacular dance, lindy hop and swing to hip-hop and house, colliding and fusing them all with remarkable care and infectious enthusiasm. March 7-9, Columbia College Chicago Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave.; tickets will be available for $30 on January 22 at 312-369-8330 and dans.colum.edu

Nejla Y. Yatkin performs at Links Hall in March.

Nejla Yatkin: Today, many of Nejla Yatkin’s works involve a close unity with nature and the viewer. “Ouroboros” is no exception; Although this time it will be inside. Wait to get up from your chair; This dance theater piece uses hand-in-hand hoops to connect with ancient and current dance practices around the world. In doing so, Yatkin traces his nomadic ancestry and his wanderlust today. “Ouroboros” is defenseless for both Yatkin and us. But better than most, he has the ability to lower the viewer’s defenses and take us on a healing, spiritual journey. March 8-10, Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave.; tickets $16-$42 ny2dance.com

Instinctive Dance Chicago: This 10-year-old contemporary troupe recruited an almost entirely new cast of impeccable dancers last year; They are all extremely talented for the amazing mixed agency program ahead. What a treat to see them up close at Visceral’s new black box theater, where new works from director Nick Pupillo and former Forsythe Company member Roderick George will debut. An extra treat: the company premiere of Gustavo Ramirez Sansano’s mambo-inspired career retrospective “18+1.” Sansano’s work has not been seen enough in Chicago since his death. Luna Negra Dance Theater the belly went up; Luckily, this isn’t the last time Visceral tackles his unique creations this year. March 8-17, Ann Barzel Theatre, 3121 N. Rockwell St.; tickets $25-$60 from 773-772-1771 and visceraldance.com

New York City Ballet: Now in its 75th season, the ballet company founded by George Balanchine returns to Chicago for the first time since 2006. One program celebrates the foundations of NYCB with Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “The Four Temperaments” plus the extreme edge of Jerome Robbins’ classicism. With the Chopin-inspired “In the Night”. A second offering is firmly planted this century with works by Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Pam Tanowitz, and Kyle Abraham. March 21-23, Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $35-$180 from 312-334-7777 and harristheaterchicago.org

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.

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