A heroic season close: Liz Gerring Dance Company

A heroic season close: Liz Gerring Dance Company

To close our 2016-17 performance season, the Dance Center is excited and honored to bring yet another new choreographic voice to Chicago audiences: Liz Gerring Dance Company of New York City. Throughout the season we have offered four companies—Tere O’Connor Dance, Ballet de Lorraine, Malpaso Dance Company, and now Liz Gerring’s troupe—that were previously unseen in a full evening presentation on a Chicago stage. This dive into new voices and artistry has refreshed us in countless ways, and lays the rail for more as we anticipate the 2017-2018 season.

20150729_horizon_res_2497Tonight, we welcome the ensemble and Liz’s 2015 work Horizon. Collaborating with composer Michael J. Schumacher, visual/lighting designer Robert Wierzel and costume designer Liz Prince, Gerring contemplates, in this work, a theme of density. Performed in a tightly-framed architectural environment of bright and changing light, the seven dancers take us into a journey of layered dance phrasing and multiplicity of action that is highly inventive and at the same time harkens back to the spatial concerns and rule-breaking of Merce Cunningham and the more formalist early post-modern choreographers. Gerring’s choreography requires extensively trained dancers who can turn on a dime and dance together in one phrase and independently the next, always in seamless transition. It is challenging for the dancers and invites the audience to plunge right in and stick with the activity itself.

 

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Watch the creators bring “Horizon” to life

Gerring analyzes situations steely-eyed and moves quickly to deploy her forces. Her invigorating new piece “Horizon,” which the Liz Gerring Dance Company unveiled at Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater last week, is a dance for heroes. —NJArts.net

Abstract dance, or dancing as subject, offers no story narrative to follow and no external LizGerring-re-hr-020“meaning” to figure out or apply to the experience of watching. On the other hand, and in the words of choreographer Margaret Jenkins, we believe that “movement can be its own narrative.” With the work of Liz Gerring, we have the opportunity to track the movement narrative on all of its direct and winding paths, capture the fractured moments, follow the dancing together and dancing apart, and experience the choreographic journey in whatever ways resonate fully for each of us. Is this like traversing a crowded airport on a Friday afternoon, or watching a soccer game, or walking with a friend through an open field….or perhaps all of the above, at various points?

 

Kinesthet20150729_horizon_res-2057ic watching invites us to open our imaginations to new ways of experiencing dance, and to applications that are far more freeing than “just” following a story. Of course, too, you can make up a story or series of stories about what is happening as you watch. On the other hand, there is pleasure enough, sometimes, in simply seeing remarkable dancers on the stage, doing beautiful and surprising things. This we will have in abundance tonight.

We thank Liz and the dancers for bringing their work to us in Chicago. And we wish all of you, our patrons and members of the Dance Center family, a happy hiatus until we see you again when we open our Fall, 2017 season in September. Meanwhile, dance on and dance happy, everybody.

Bonnie Brooks
Director and Lead Curator
Dance Presenting Series


Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 7.45.19 AMLiz Gerring Dance Company • Horizon
April 6, 7 and 8, 2017 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets

 

 

Banner: Claire Westby, Molly Griffin, Brandon Collwes in Horizon. Photo: Miguel Anaya
Above: Liz Gerring dancers in
Horizon. Photo: Miguel Anaya; Claire Westby in Horizon. Photo: Thaddeus Rombauer. Brandon Collwes and Claire Westby in Horizon. Photo: Thaddeus Rombauer

Stepping into Chicago: Malpaso Dance

Stepping into Chicago: Malpaso Dance

The Dance Center is thrilled to present the premiere Chicago appearance of Cuba’s groundbreaking contemporary dance troupe, Malpaso Dance Company. Founded in 2012, Malpaso’s story is one of vision, talent, luck, and perseverance. When now-resident choreographer Osnel Delgado decided, with his colleagues Daileidys Carrazana and Fernando Saéz, to launch a dance company in Havana, they were advised it would be “un malpaso” – a misstep. With the artistic cussedness that drives creative people to do what cannot be done, the trio proceeded anyway and appropriated the warning as a moniker for their new company.

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Malpaso dancers in “Despedida.” Photo: David Garten

Since then, Malpaso has emerged as an exciting new international repertory dance ensemble, presenting work by cutting edge choreographers including Delgado, Ron K. Brown, Trey McIntyre, and Aszure Barton. The company has made a commitment to collaboration in their approach to commissioning, bringing together contemporary visual artists, composers, choreographers and dancers for the creation of new work in the tradition of the Ballets Russes or the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Saéz observes, “Collaborations are the best way of transcending your own assumptions.”

 

Carrying forward such an ambitious commitment to new work is particularly challenging in Cuba, where resources are sparse. Malpaso has benefitted, therefore, from touring opportunities and production support from North American backers and commissioners such as Joyce Theater Productions in New York City, and Dance Cleveland.

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Malpaso dancers in “24 Hours and a Dog.” Photo: Robert Leon

On this tour alone, they are performing in venues at Duke University, Austin, TX, Atlanta and Philadelphia, and at Brooklyn Academy of Music. This “infrastructure collaboration” is an important feature of international cultural exchange and is critical to our ability to conduct dialogue between artists and audiences in cross-cultural settings.

 

On stage, we will see a recent work by Delgado, 24 Hours and A Dog, as well as Malpaso’s
2016 commission by Barton, one of North America’s most original living female choreographers, Indomitable Waltz. The dancers featured in both works are trained intensively in Cuban contemporary dance practice, which draws on contraction-and-release, Afro-Cuban movement, and exceptional Cuban ballet training. The style and “attack” of these dancers will likely yank us all to our feet at the curtain calls.

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Malpaso dancers in “Indomitable Waltz.” Photo: Judy Ondrey

Anything but a misstep, Malpaso brings us tonight into the excitement of what dance can give – exceptional and highly skilled performers, gifted and provocative choreographers and collaborators, and journeys into new creative worlds. We welcome them to the Windy City!

– Bonnie Brooks
Director and Lead Curator,
Dance Presenting Series


MalpasoPlayMalpaso Dance Company of Havana • Featuring Indomitable Waltz by Aszure Barton
March 9, 10 and 11, 2017 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets

Artist Notes: Tere O’Connor

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Tere O’Connor. Photo: Natalie Fiol

Throughout my choreographic career I have been motivated by the question: “What can dance do?” Outside of mime, its inability to treat subject matter or story with any exactitude raised questions for me. Many viewers seem to crave subject matter to steady themselves in the free flowing waters of a choreographic sensibility. But working in dance and immersing myself first hand in its material for decades, I’ve discovered that traits such as inference, essence, quality, reference, complexity, layering and rhythm create another kind of meaning in dance more than imagery or stated themes.

Adopting this collection of traits as my poetic scaffolding, I long ago ceded any desire for the expression of specific ideas to the ambiguous contours of the choreographic mind. My dances are constellations of colliding ideas whose interaction propels the choreography. They imitate consciousness by placing language in a less prominent role, and setting the tangible and the absurd in close proximity, allowing the imagination to become the ocean upon which our certitudes float.

In the two works we will present, different degrees of abstraction are at play. I wish there was a better word than abstraction. I want a word that conveys the sense of contemplative space dance offers us where multiple, indeterminate elements mingle and interact, creating a constellation of ideas unbothered by cohesiveness. Making dances and coming to experience them offers us a moment to gather and connect with a different focus from the pragmatic, cogent one that rules most of our waking hours.

—Tere O’ Connor
Artistic Director, Tere O’Connor Dance


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Michael Ingle rests on Silas Reiner’s shoulder. Photo: Paula Court

Undersweet

In the contrast between the images of a dance and the invisible structures that reveal them over the duration of a work, we find one of the most functional metaphors dance offers. It is an articulation of a core paradox of human experience: the construction of a socially acceptable facade versus the full flowing and subterranean complexity of an internal life. In this work, I seek to amplify the particular fusion of façade and sexual desire in choreographic abstraction. We all hold an erotic layer at bay when behaving socially, yet it exerts a power on our actions. I have been driven by this consideration while working on this dance.

Undersweet was commissioned by LMCC and presented in progress as part of the River to River Festival 2014. It was developed during an LMCC artist residency in 2014 as part of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Dance Development program, made possible in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (lmcc.net).

The movement material for both of these works is created in close collaboration with the dancers. Their creative offerings are invaluable as are their wit, rigor, talent and generosity. I am so grateful to them.


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Eleanor Hulliahn. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Transcendental Daughter

This work is a venture into the poetic workings of dance. Exhausted by the proclamations and personal dogma of politicians, pundits and artists in this present political and cultural moment, I return to dance to deliver myself to a different plane of living and thinking. The title of this work does not describe a character in the dance but is rather a name for dance itself. Although I almost certainly over-romanticize it, I hold the mother/daughter relationship in high regard. We could use this healing presence. A daughter can laugh with us, trick us, enchant us, love us, hide from us, show us a full range of feelings and elevate us, via her lightness, from the dogma below.

Transcendental Daughter has been commissioned by The Joyce Theater’s Stephen and Cathy Weinroth Fund for New Work. The work is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funds were provided by the University of Illinois Research fund and the Harkness Foundation.


tereoconnor_salesblastvideoTere O’Connor Dance
Undersweet + Transcendental Daughter
November 3, 4 & 5, 2016 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets

 

Artist Statement: nora chipaumire

Artist Statement: nora chipaumire
Nora Chipaumire
nora chipaumire

When I discovered “concert dance” I hoped to use it to manifest the avant-garde. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the idea and expectation (perhaps self-inflicted) that an African artist should be responsible for Africa’s rich and complicated past, its ancient cultures and rituals, and also be embraced by audiences both at home and abroad. My work has since developed to acknowledge and affirm that an African body can be simultaneously avant-garde and a guardian of the ancient. The intersection of these modes of expression has helped me to create a dynamic and complex (physical) language. I am currently invested in language-building. My work is also expanding to include considerations from outside the performative form. Could the language of the body create economies? Could dance engage civic society?

Statement about portrait of myself as my father

Portrait: noun – 1. A verbal picture or description usually of a person; 2. A likeness of a person especially of the face, as a painting, drawing, photograph or dance.

Father: noun – a male parent who has raised a child or supplied the sperm through sexual intercourse or sperm bank.

God the father: noun – a title given to God in religions such as Christianity and Judaism (in part because he is viewed as having active interest in human affairs in the way a father would take interest in his children who are dependent on him).

My father, Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, was born in 1938 and died in 1980. I had no contact or connection with him or his family from the age of five. It has taken me almost 45 years to engage with the idea of a father and what his role in a family could be. In April 2014, I returned to my father’s village in search of a way to draw his portrait. I cannot say exactly what has spurred this curiosity, but suffice it to say that the research and trip have been challenging.

Perhaps this curiosity came from his absence. Perhaps this curiosity came from compassion for the black male. Is the black male a victim of history and culture? Could the black male African body be a way to comprehend traditions, colonialism, Christianity, liberation struggles, and the impact of these ideas on the African family? Is the sacrifice of the black male body/object necessary for civilization’s God, the modernity’s God, the global capital’s God? As Stravinsky/Nijinsky suggest in their monumental work The Rite of Spring, is the sacrifice of a human being limited to primitive societies? I believe that in Africa the sacrificial offering has been the black African male, and not the young female virgin. In portrait of myself as my father, I offer a new reading of the ritual of spring as the slaughter of African maleness to feed and regenerate the capital’s god.

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The boxing ring.

portrait… is less about my personal relationship (or the absence of it) with Webster Barnabas Chipaumire, than a portrait of a man who is nothing but a man of his time. I give him boxing gloves so that he can have a fighting chance. I have put him in a boxing ring to battle with himself, his shadow, his ancestors, the industrial gods and that merciless tyrant: progress. To be a black male may be challenging in the twenty-first century. To be a black, African father may be unattainable.

 


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nora chipaumire • portrait of myself as my father
October 20, 21 & 22, 2016 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets

Curator’s Notes: nora chipaumire’s ‘portrait’

Curator’s Notes: nora chipaumire’s ‘portrait’

nora chipaumire’s opening web page states, simply, “Born in Mutare, Zimbabwe and based in New York City, nora chipaumire challenges and embraces stereotypes of Africa and the black performing body.”

Next week we witness, in an unusual staging at the Dance Center, nora’s newest work, a portrait of myself as my father. In this work, chipaumire ferociously explores ideas of African masculinity as personified in her relationship with her estranged father. Through action involving play, combat, traditional and contemporary dance traditions, chipaumire and her fellow performers—Senegalese dancer Pape Ibrahima Ndiaye (also known as Kaolack) and Jamaican-born Shamar Watt—encounter and engage one another under harsh lights.nora-chipaumire-1-by-anna-lee-campbell-1620x1080

It is not a work for the faint-hearted or for those who want to keep their idea of dance and dancing in a pretty and lyrical frame. This work is confrontational, loaded and fierce to the eye, to the ear, to the heart. It reminds us that art does so many things in the world, including dare us to be exposed to the struggle that accompanies personal and cultural injustice, misrepresentation and stereotypical diminishments that rob individuals of dignity and true identity.

The title alone is provocative. Why is “father” crossed out? How does a woman engage with, or perhaps even recreate herself, as her (not?) father? What kind of relationship generates both visible and invisible tensions over race, gender and personal identity? What can we read into the exclusive use of lower case? These signals from the title invite us, the viewers, into an uncertain and off-kilter world.

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The costuming gives us more clues—boxing gloves, football pads, sacred West African gris-gris (talisman). So does the staging: a makeshift boxing ring. In this work chipaumire gives us many ways of reading the material. Whether you see it as real encounters between real people or as the imagistic, nightmarish struggle of one soul to be freed from the specter of a parent with whom she cannot ultimately connect, the work invites us to find new reserves of clear-eyed bravery in a context of struggle. In today’s world this is a potent invitation.

The way we have staged this work in the Dance Center theater is unusual—your seats are not assigned but rather are offered as general admission. Some seats in the theater are blocked off while seating on the stage beside the boxing ring are added. We encourage you to move around as the performance progresses. Get up, go to a different seat, stand and watch, sit somewhere new. The work invites you to examine it, from different angles and perspectives, and from altering points of view.

We are grateful to nora and her team for bringing this remarkable and challenging work to our space and our community. Courage.

– Bonnie Brooks
Director and Lead Curator, Dance Presenting Series


norac-play
nora chipaumire • portrait of myself as my father
October 20, 21 & 22, 2016 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets

Devastation and hope in Tadashi Endo’s solo work

After a sold out show and workshop series last year, Tadashi Endo is happy to be back in Chicago. On Saturday, September 17, he opens the Dance Center’s 2016-2017 season with his critically acclaimed Fukushima Mon Amour.

Endo, former student of one of the originators of butoh, Kazuo Ohno, is currently director of the Butoh-Center MAMU and the Butoh-Festivals MAMU, based in Göttingen, Vienna. As he describes his own work, Endo “uses the suggestive power of concentrated movement phrases to explore the closure of life’s cycles.” In Fukushima Mon Amour, Endo explores a cycle that, for many Japanese, is ongoing: that of recovery from immense devastation.

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Tsunami wave crashes onto a street in Miyako, Iwate prefecture. (Mainchi Shimbun/Reuters) View the gallery here.

Earthquake. Tsunami. Nuclear meltdown.
At 2:46 PM on Friday, March 11, 2001, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan. Less than an hour after the Great Tōhoku Earthquake hit the coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, a series of tsunami waves pummeled the coast. Thirty-foot walls of water tore through across the coast. Protective tsunami seawalls were destroyed. Streets and buildings flooded and collapsed. Entire towns were swept away. The earthquake and tsunami triggered warnings and alerts in 50 countries and territories around the world. The destructive power rippled across the Pacific, causing damage in America, Canada, and the Philippines, among other locations. Waves slammed into Antarctica, breaking off icebergs on this landmass more than 8,000 miles away from Japan. The infrasound rumble from the earthquake could be heard by satellite in space. The tsunami also instigated a nuclear incident at Fukushima Daiichi (“Number One”) plant in northern Japan. Flooding and water damage from the waves disabled plant controls, and Fukushima Daiichi experienced hydrogen explosions and eventual core meltdown. It was the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The Tōhoku earthquake was the biggest in Japan’s recorded history, and the fourth biggest quake in the recorded history of the planet. As later reported by NASA, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, and other scientific bodies, the earthquake pushed Honshu eight feet across the ocean, shifted the Earth on its axis, and shortened the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds.

More than 15,000 people lost their lives.

030816-japan-quake-tsunamiThe economic, political, and social costs of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown were enormous. Today, five years after the disaster, Japan continues to grapple with the aftermath, including thousands of aftershocks, ozone-destroying chemicals and gasses along with radioactive run-off, and nearly 60,000 displaced people still living as evacuees. Japan’s economy suffered, with the nation experiencing significant trade deficits. Hobbled by the nuclear incident and subsequent protests by citizens, the nuclear energy-reliant nation has been forced to increase its oil imports. Debris continues to wash up on shores around the world.

Yet despite the horror of the disaster and the subsequent struggles, Japan and her people remain resilient. As observed in a 2013 article from The Brookings Institute:

“The dignity, creativity, and orderly response of the Japanese population to this mega disaster is indeed the best measure of Japan’s potential. And just as a previous natural disaster, the Kobe earthquake of 1995, helped spur the NGO movement in Japan, March 11, 2011 has seen has seen the activation of scores of non-profit groups and the consolidation of a culture of volunteerism.”

Following any natural disaster, the process of reconstruction is inevitably complex, layered, difficult, and heartrending. Tadashi Endo’s butoh homage to the Japanese tragedy speaks to the strength of a nation.

This Saturday, in a one night only performance, Endo will honor the Fukushima disaster with a hauntingly intricate dance form. Through butoh, Endo dances the pain and tragedy experienced by Japan in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and resultant nuclear disaster—and the hope of reconstruction that carried the nation forward. As Endo reflects:

“Japan is a beautiful country. Japan is a fascinating country full of myths.
Japan is the only country that witnessed the atom bomb.
The catastrophe caused lots of terror and grief.
Grief created solidarity that turned people
into the extreme and sensitive Japanese that we know today.”

We hope you will join us for this one night only U.S. premiere, to honor the tragedies of the lives and the land that is Japan. Welcome back to Chicago, Tadashi Endo.


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Tadashi Endo | Fukushima Mon Amour
Saturday, September 17, 2016 • 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30/$24 for seniors. Purchase online, or call the box office at (312) 369-8330.

This production of Tadashi Endo’s Fukushima Mon Amour is co-produced by Sara Zalek and the Dance Center.

Creating more, with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

Creating more, with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

We are pleased to announce that in the 2016-2017 season, with the generous support of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, we’ll be welcoming more Chicago-based companies to our stage. This expansion helps us fulfill one of our core objectives: to offer Chicago’s small and mid-sized dance companies a state-of-the-art venue in which to develop and perform their work.

As of this fall, we are expanding our Subsidized Theater Rental Program. The program, which began in the 2000-01 season, provides Chicago companies and artists with one week in the Dance Center theater to rehearse, technically prepare and perform. In addition to performance space and access to technical staff and equipment, we provide promotional support, box office and front-of-house services. The Subsidized Theater Rental Program offers a significantly reduced rental rate to talented and dedicated local companies that often do not have the budget to afford to present their work in a professional venue of the Dance Center’s scale and technical and staff resources.

With the support of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, we are now able to expand this program from two to three companies. This season, we are excited to present three celebrated Chicago companies: Lucky Plush Productions (September 29–October 1), The Seldoms (October 13–15) and Chicago Human Rhythm Project (February 23–25).

The expanded Subsidized Theater Rental Program is just one aspect of the Dance Center’s refreshed efforts to provide a platform for local companies. In the coming season, we will pilot a Production Residency program.

Performing arts organizations around the nation are grappling with many obstacles: money, time, space, and expertise are ever-present hurdles in bringing artistic visions to life. Many beloved Chicago companies and artists face the chronic challenge of limited access to modern, well-equipped facilities that provide substantive time for production planning, lighting and sound design, technical preparation and collaborative staging prior to opening night.

The additional support from The Driehaus Foundation gives the Dance Center the opportunity to help address these challenges. During the pilot program this season, we will work with The Seldoms in the development of company member Philip Elson’s new work, The Fifth. This ambitious multimedia work investigates the origins and captors of a reimagined cyberspace, now deemed the fifth domain of war, where people become weaponized, masked and used as virtual political objects.

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Philip Elson

“The commission of Philip Elson’s new work marks a first for The Seldoms, wherein we are investing significantly in an emerging choreographic voice from within the ensemble,” said Artistic Director Carrie Hanson. “We are making this commitment to express our confidence and interest in his art-making and honor his stellar contributions to my work during the past eight years. I am very excited for Philip to have the Dance Center’s extensive support for the production/design residency and the premiere presentation. This advance period in the theater with production equipment, technical staff and designers, as well as the time to experiment, problem-solve, imagine and test the integration of design elements, is too rare in our field, but advances the artwork immeasurably.”

The Seldoms production residency, which takes place August 1–5, will involve time in the theater for lighting, sound and video projection designers and other technical collaborators to access the Dance Center’s crew, space and equipment as they develop the staging for the work. The residency period also will include dancer rehearsals and a work-in-progress, constructive critique showing for a specially curated audience.

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Elson in The Fifth. View his choreography reels here. Photo: Kristi Kahns

“It’s not very often that a young, emerging artist finds a place that feels like home for their artistic practice,” said Elson. “Eight years ago I serendipitously found myself studying at the Dance Center while beginning to work with The Seldoms. These two institutions have consistently supported, challenged and advanced my artistic potential as my career begins to flourish on and off the stage. I’m incredibly honored to experience a first with these two organizations, a first-time evening-length commission by The Seldoms and a first-time local artist Production Residency at the Dance Center. We are forging new territory, further demonstrating our community’s ability to strengthen artists and their creative processes at all levels in their careers. I’m grateful that this milestone and pivotal experience is happening with the people and places that I can call my artistic home and close family.”

We are celebrating here at the Dance Center, and eager to begin the season. With the ongoing support of The Driehaus Foundation, we are able to make a significant impact and contribution to Chicago’s rich cultural field.

“The Driehaus Foundation’s commitment to cultural enrichment and the vitality of Chicago’s small and mid-sized dance companies aligns with the Dance Center’s dedication to the creation and presentation of contemporary dance works, dance education and community cultural development through the arts,” said Bonnie Brooks, director and lead curator of the Dance Presenting Series. “We are delighted to partner with them in expanding our Subsidized Theater Rental Program, and we are especially excited to apply special funding to test the waters for a new production residency program for Chicago-based dance artists.”


Watch these great programs unfold all season long. Bookmark our blog and check back for updates. To learn more about the 2016-2017 Season, visit the performance page.