Choreographers work within a whole host of styles. But many are focusing on mixing up dance genres. In some local cases a mix of ballroom, ethnic and post-modern approaches are creating altogether new dance forms. Dance critic Lucia Mauro told Eight Forty-Eight how.
Gone are the days when dancers can limit themselves to, say, ballet, modern or jazz dance. That’s because choreographers are exposed to a range of dance genres – from social to urban styles. And this cross-fertilization is evident in two upcoming performances.
Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group brings to Chicago the local premiere of a full-length collaborative piece, titled The Good Dance – dakar/brooklyn. It posits Wilson’s experiences as an African-American choreographer working in Brooklyn against those of Congolese dance maker Andreya Ouamba. Both share histories that involve a profound attachment to bodies of water. For Wilson, it’s the Mississippi Delta from which his family migrated. For Ouamba, it’s the Congo River.
The ever-fluctuating set piece includes close to 400 half-filled plastic water bottles. The dancers balance the bottles on their heads, frequently shifting their bodies to reach a state of equilibrium. The bottles also symbolize rushing currents, obstacles for the dancers and, later, a makeshift bridge. Water, as a whole, traditionally represents a life-giving source. The bottles are also a poetic way of harnessing that source.
But the real crux of The Good Dance is how it shows side by side the way dancers with formal post-modern training adapt to more natural, or improvised rhythms – and vice versa. At its core, the work features one woman moving to the beat of her own body through loose arm swings, hip motions and turns. Next to her a trained dancer clearly formalizes these movements into something more stylized. Yet both show a similar virtuosity: the first exhibits a comforting oneness with her inner vibrations; the other crafts stunning shapes with her torso and limbs.
For its spring show, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago incorporates Latin ballroom rhythms into its performance. Latin dance partners Del Dominguez and Laura Flores of Chicago’s Mixed Motion Art ballroom dance studio stepped out of their traditional social performance style to the concert-dance format. Five couples comprise their ensemble work, titled Sabroso, or Delicious in Spanish. Instead of telling a specific story, the high-energy five-part work attempts to capture the spirit of each rhythm. So it opens with a group cha-cha that feels like a free-for-all street party, with its share of lightning footwork. A couple dances a suggestive but refined bolero, with traditional lifts, and a mambo section includes some freer jazz stylings. But instead of only partnering each other, the dancers open up the space and perform impressive solo kicks and swivels facing the audience.
Both Reggie Wilson and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago expand the dance vocabulary while stretching their dancers’ versatility.
Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago performs Friday and Saturday at the Harris Theater. Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group will be on stage from March 31-April 2 at the Dance Center of Columbia College.