The 12th Dance Chicago features struggle, survival
November 8, 2006
Fred Solari, Dance Chicago's co-founder who died earlier this year, used to compare the festival to a food tasting. He helped create an entertaining buffet where audiences can sample the diverse flavors of the city's ever-growing dance scene -- from jazz and hip-hop to ballet and tap.
Under the artistic direction of co-founder John Schmitz, the 12th annual Dance Chicago's smorgasbord keeps getting more refined. It opened over the weekend and runs through Dec. 3 at the Athenaeum Theatre.
Because opening night presents companies from several dance genres, it has always had a showcase feel. This time, though the running time still exceeded two hours and the program did not feature any world premieres, the artists in general raised some fresh points of view, notably Eddy Ocampo, Randy Duncan and Dmitri Peskov. Each offered their latest explorations of human strife, struggle and survival.
For "Voces Inocentes" ("Innocent Voices"), choreographer Ocampo collaborated with co-artistic directors Wildredo Rivera and Joe Cerqua of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, to seriously address the reality of child soldiers in Latin America. The dancers entwine their bodies in shapes that depict despair and hope, with a mood that alternates between childlike joy and psychological alienation.
Still a work in progress, "Voces Inocentes" -- enhanced by Linda Buchanan's startling projections of children's drawings and photographs of little boys armed with rifles -- is on its way to becoming a profound addition to the Cerqua Rivera repertoire.
Independent choreographer Duncan's "Journey," featuring a tight, unified ensemble, graciously joins African-based and contemporary movement vocabularies. The dancers convey an extended sense of longing as they appear to make wide strides through toil and exhaustion over the course of a lifetime.
The most experimental piece, Peskov's "Saints and Sinners," performed by the newly named Frasz/Peskov Dance Company (formerly DanceLoop Chicago), managed to be both baffling and inspiring.
Though it lacks a clear purpose, the circuslike fantasy takes an intriguing theatrical approach to the concepts of good and evil with a nod to Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.
It begins with a Latin-inspired evocation of a brothel, observed by Peskov as an ill-defined otherworldly figure. The piece continues with quasi-evangelical fervor, culminating in three women in harnesses being elevated, where they execute a lopsided aerial nightmare. But "Saints and Sinners" threatens to mix too many metaphors. Peskov needs to rein in some of the self-conscious absurdity.
Other highlights included Altin Naska's still-developing "Agape," a confluence of jagged and rounded body geometry; the mathematically intricate footwork of Trinity II Irish Dancers; and Pro Latin competitors Jonathan Arellano and Christa South of Chicago Dance Latin & Ballroom School performing an exhilarating "La Malanga Brava" (even though its placement after the tragic "Voces Inocentes" felt frivolous).