Welcome Ellen Chenoweth, Interim Director.

unnamed We are pleased to announce the appointment of Ellen Chenoweth as Interim Director of the Dance Presenting Series.

The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago announces the appointment of Ellen Chenoweth as Interim Director of its Dance Presenting Series (DPS), effective September 11, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Chenoweth assumes responsibilities previously held by Bonnie Brooks, who departed May 31, 2017. During the coming year, the Dance Center will launch a national search for a permanent director.

The Dance Presenting Series showcases contemporary dance artists of regional, national and international significance, offering Columbia students opportunities to learn from world-renowned performers and understand the rigors of the discipline. As director, Chenoweth will oversee all aspects of the DPS—implementation of the 2017–18 season, curation of the 2018–19 season in consultation with Dance Department Chair and Interim Theatre Department Chair Peter Carpenter, personnel management, finance and administration, partnership with internal and external constituents, fundraising, marketing, education, audience development and public advocacy. She also will collaborate on developing curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students.

Said Carpenter, “Ellen thoroughly impressed the Dance Center team. She has a substantial background in arts management that reaches across curation, development, marketing and financial management. Her experience in—and passion for—finding innovative ways to connect audiences to dance will be invaluable to the Dance Center in the coming year.”

Chenoweth is currently director of development and communications for Pig Iron Theatre Company. She previously worked as a freelance arts administrator with choreographers in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. She was a program development consultant for the American Dance Institute (ADI) for two years, helping evaluate and document its residency program, the ADI Incubator. During four years at the Dance Exchange, she was instrumental in its transition when Founder Liz Lerman left the company, serving as managing director for two years following the transition. She began her career in arts administration at the Kennedy Center, where she worked with iconic artists such as Suzanne Farrell and Katherine Dunham through the Education Department’s Performance Plus program. Chenoweth holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Rice University and a master’s degree in dance from Texas Woman’s University. She completed a graduate certificate at Wesleyan University’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, where she focused on Philadelphia performance history. Chenoweth is also the executive director for thINKingDANCE, an online dance journal based in Philadelphia.

“I am thrilled to join the Dance Center, with its rich legacy and the unique opportunities it offers by integrating a professional dance series into a first-class educational institution,” commented Chenoweth. “I look forward to getting involved in the Chicago dance community as well as partnering with the faculty, staff and students at Columbia College Chicago. We have a thrilling season ahead, and I anticipate meeting fans and friends of the Dance Center with great excitement in the coming weeks.”

Read more about the upcoming Dance Presenting Series…

Photo courtesy of Ellen Chenoweth.


We bid farewell to Bonnie.


Bonnie Brooks Announces Departure from Dance Center

CHICAGO—Bonnie Brooks, Presenting Series Director and Lead Curator for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and Columbia College Chicago Dance Department Associate Professor, has announced her departure, effective May 31, 2017.

Brooks concludes 18 years of leadership with the Dance Center and the College, serving as Dance Department Chair and Series co-curator from 1999 to 2011. She was appointed Lead Curator of the Presenting Series in January 2015 and Presenting Series Director in August of that year. During that time, Brooks worked closely with Dance Center staff to strengthen international relationships and broaden outreach to academic and public audiences. Prior to joining Columbia College Chicago, she served as president and executive director of Dance/USA, the country’s principal service organization for dance, from 1990 to 1998. Her activities with the Chicago dance community have included serving as a board member of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park when it opened in 2003 and Audience Architects from 2012 through 2014 and, with colleagues from Links Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, co-founding the Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

“Bonnie’s contributions to the Dance Center are as substantial as they are wide-ranging,” said Chair of Dance Peter Carpenter. “From serving as department chair to being a thought leader as a tenured faculty member to leading the Presenting Series, she has left an indelible mark on this organization; we look forward to seeing her continued contributions to the field in the months and years ahead.”

The Dance Center is seeking an interim director for the 2017–18 Presenting Series, announced earlier this month. The 44th season, which opens in September, features the Chicago debut of choreographer Cynthia Oliver’s COCo. Dance Theatre; the return of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and companies led by American choreographers Reggie Wilson, Doug Varone and Bebe Miller; and Chicago companies including Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak and the choreographers participating in Elevate Chicago Dance. Subscriptions go on sale June 5 and single tickets go on sale July 5 at colum.edu/dancecenterpresents.

The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago is the city’s leading presenter of contemporary dance, showcasing artists of regional, national and international significance. The Dance Center has been named “Chicago’s Best Dance Theatre” by Chicago magazine, “Best Dance Venue” by the Chicago Reader and Chicago’s top dance venue in 2014 by Newcity, and Time Out Chicago cited it as “…consistently offering one of Chicago’s strongest lineups of contemporary and experimental touring dance companies.” Programs at the Dance Center are supported, in part, by the Alphawood Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at Prince, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Irving Harris Foundation, Arts Midwest Touring Fund and the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks to Friends of the Dance Center for their generous contributions to the Dance Center’s work.

Banner: Bonnie Brooks. Photo: Katie Graves

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.


Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 7.48.43 AM
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.

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.

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.

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

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

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


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.

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.

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.



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.

portrait_Duo Solo_Elise FitteDuval6

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

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