Moving milestones: A plethora of dance performances grace Chicago stages this fall
Chicago is a magnet for world-class dance. Not only is the Windy City home to many famed troupes that have specialized in ballet, modern and folk dance traditions, Chicago is also a prized touring stop for internationally celebrated dance companies.
The Joffrey Ballet was founded in New York in 1956 by choreographers Robert Joffrey (1930-1988) and Gerald Arpino (1923-2008). The Joffrey moved to Chicago in 1995, with the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University serving as the company's first Windy City base.
So, it makes sense that the Auditorium Theatre would host an "Arpino Chicago Centennial Celebration" (Sept. 23-24). The two performances feature nine different Aprino works, as performed by seven different dance companies including the Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Eugene Ballet and Ballet West from Salt Lake City.
As for the Joffrey Ballet's regular season, now at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, there is a mix of repertory pieces and evening-length works.
"Frankenstein" (Oct. 12-22) appropriately makes its Chicago premiere during Halloween season, and it offers a new spin on Mary Shelly's iconic 1818 novel about a humanoid monster in pursuit of the doctor who created him. "Frankenstein" debuted in London in 2016, and was dreamed up by designer John Macfarlane (famed for his frightening past work like "Hansel and Gretel" and "Macbeth" for the Lyric Opera) and the late choreographer Liam Scarlett.
Another Liam Scarlett work makes its Chicago premiere in the repertory program "Studies in Blue" (Feb. 15-25). Scarlett's "Hummingbird," set to music of composer Philip Glass, shares the bill with a revival of the Joffrey-commissioned "Yonder Blue" by Andrew McNicol and a world premiere dance exploring addictions by Stina Quagebeur.
The Joffrey concludes its season with a revival of "Midsummer Night's Dream" (April 25-May 5), which made its Chicago debut in 2018. Choreographer Alexander Ekman's skips any Shakespearean storytelling and instead finds plenty of inspiration from Scandinavian summer solstice celebrations.
Diverse choreographers are also featured in the Joffrey Academy of Dance's annual "Winning Works" next spring at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. For details, visit joffrey.org.
Contemporary and jazz
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago continues it 46th anniversary season with modern repertory programs filled with premieres and revivals.
The company's Fall Series is "Of Peace" (Nov. 2-5) at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago. On the bill is "Dichotomy of a Journey" by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Lar Lubovitch's "Coltrane's Favorite Things" and the Chicago premiere of Aszure Barton's "return to patience."
The Spring Series is titled "Of Hope" and shifts to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Program A (Feb. 23-25) features a world premiere by Aszure Barton and returning works by Randy Duncan and Rennie Harris. Program B (Feb. 29-March 3) features world premieres by Maria Torres, Florian Lochner and Alice Klock plus "Dear Frankie" by Rennie Harris.
Hubbard Street's Summer Series is "Of Joy" (May 17-19), back at the Harris Theater. On the bill is "Impasse" by Johan Inger, "Show Pony" by Kyle Abraham and the returning winter world premieres by Torres and Barton. For details, visit hubbardstreetdance.com.
Giordano Dance Chicago, America's first company specializing in jazz dance, has home season performances at the Harris Theater with some starry choreographers. The fall shows (Oct. 27 and 28) feature works by Emmy Award-winner Mia Michaels, Autumn Eckman and Brock Clawson. The spring 2024 shows (April 5 and 6) feature a world premiere by "So You Think You Can Dance" choreographer Al Blackstone. For details, visit giordanodance.org.
Simone Stevens and Jack Henderson dance in "Coltrane's Favorite Things." Choreographer Lar Lubovitch's jazz-inspired dance is part of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's fall series concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago.
- Courtesy of Michelle Reid, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
A great way to see several smaller dance troupes is through locally produced dance festivals.
The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival (Sept. 29-30) plays the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago. Just a few of the local companies include Aerial Dance Chicago, Joel Hall Dancers and The Seldoms, plus visiting troupes from Florida, New York and Virginia. A full roster can be found at hccdf.com.
Chicago's Auditorium Theatre and the Harris Theater both offer subscription packages in dance, highlighting hometown or visiting troupes.
Some of the local companies performing on the Auditorium stage include: Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (Nov. 3), Trinity Irish Dance Company (March 3) and South Chicago Dance Theatre (April 27).
And over at the Harris Theater, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts' "Diwali: Illumination" (Oct. 12-13) and "Lost Women of Juárez" by Ballet 5:8 (April 20) both fly the flag for Chicago-area companies.
The Auditorium Theatre's Global Series hosts international and other North American dance companies. This season includes: New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet (Feb. 3), Spain's Compañía Nacional de Danza (Feb. 10), the famed modern dance troupe MOMIX (March 9) and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (April 17-21). Visit auditoriumtheatre.org.
Chicago's Harris Theater notably has "Jungle Book re-imagined" by London-based Akram Khan Company (Nov. 9-11) and "Black Grace" from New Zealand (March 1). The New York City Ballet also celebrates its 75th anniversary, which includes a tour to the Harris Theater with one program called "Masters at Work: Balanchine + Robbins" (March 21 and 23) and "21st Century Choreography" (March 22 and 23) featuring works by Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon, Pam Tanowitz and Kyle Abraham.
Visiting dance companies also tour to the suburbs. Elgin Community College hosts both Chicago-based Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater (Jan. 27) and Chicago Tap Theatre (Feb. 10).
The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine returns with the fairy tale story ballet "Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs" at both the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan (Nov. 17) and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie (Nov. 18).
Tchaikovsky's classic Christmas ballet "The Nutcracker" is ubiquitous each holiday season. Audiences can choose from a variety of touring and homegrown productions.
Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon ("MJ," "An American in Paris") famously re-imagined "The Nutcracker" for the Joffrey Ballet in 2016. Wheeldon's "Nutcracker" is relocated to Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition, and is back at the Lyric Opera House for its third season (Dec. 2-27).
The State Ballet Theatre of Ukraine's take on "The Nutcracker" (Nov. 24) is at Chicago's Harris Theater, while "Nutcracker! Magic of the Christmas Ballet" (Dec. 3) returns on tour to the Rosemont Theatre.
A more jazzy take on the Tchaikovsky classic comes to the Auditorium Theatre with "Sugar Hill: The Ellington/Strayhorn Nutcracker" (Dec. 19-30). It features Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's music and arrangements, while librettist Jessica Swan resets the tale in 1930s Manhattan to focus on a wealthy African-American family living in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem.
Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre also plays host to variations on this Christmas chestnut with Ballet 5:8 presenting "Beyond the Nutcracker" (Nov. 25 and 26) and A & A Ballet's "The Art Deco Nutcracker" (Dec. 2). The venue is also expected to host the return of Ballet Chicago's "The Nutcracker" in December, too.
Westmont-based Salt Creek Ballet tours its version of "The Nutcracker" to Hinsdale Central (Nov. 25-26), the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie (Dec. 1-2) and to the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn (Dec. 16-17). The College of DuPage performances feature live accompaniment from the resident ensemble of the New Philharmonic.
"The Naperville Nutcracker" (Dec. 7-10) by Elise Flagg Academy of Dance comes to North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall, while the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts is host to Schaumburg Dance Ensemble's 28th annual "Nutcracker" (Nov. 30-Dec. 10).
In Lake County, Dancenter North's "The Magic of the Nutcracker" (Dec. 21-22) plays the Genesee Theatre, while College of Lake County's James Lumber Center for the Arts in Grayslake is home to "Ruth Page's Nutcracker" (Dec. 16-17).