WBEZ | Auditorium Theatre http://www.wbez.org/tags/auditorium-theatre Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Building skyscrapers on Chicago's swampy soil http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a> which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>From his office tower in downtown Chicago, Mike Vendel has no reason to doubt the structural stability of the buildings where he and hundreds of thousands of others spend their workdays. Looking back on the Loop from the shores of Lake Michigan, though, it&rsquo;s a different story.</p><p>&ldquo;Outside enjoying the lakefront, beaches, parks,&rdquo; says Vendel, &ldquo;you see the sand and you see these huge skyscrapers in the skyline and you think: How do they stay stable in that structure?&rdquo;</p><p>He asked Curious City how it all came to be:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What special techniques or extra work is required to construct massive buildings on swampland around Chicago?</em></p><p>He&rsquo;s right to wonder. Steadying skyscrapers in Chicago (and, come to think of it, many cities around the world) is still a staggering feat of structural engineering. If architects and engineers don&rsquo;t do it right, the results could be catastrophic: They could end up with a lopsided building or, worse, a fatal collapse.</p><p>As we found out, in the past 150 plus years, architects have struggled to tame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil, with varying degrees of success. In fact, the city&#39;s very identity as a hotbed for architecture and geotechnical engineering might be a product of what reporters once deemed &ldquo;the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">From swamp to city</span></p><p>Offering just a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/993.html" target="_blank">short portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin</a>, the area that would become downtown Chicago was a natural choice for the city&rsquo;s settlers &mdash; and a naturally swampy setting. Ray Wiggers, a geologist with Oakton Community College, says Chicago&rsquo;s bedrock is buried beneath silt, mud and clay.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had been here, for example, in 1820 when Chicago was still a very small settlement, what you would have found first of all was a soil profile that was mostly wetland soil. It would be <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267930/Histosol" target="_blank">something we&rsquo;d call a histosol</a> &mdash; it&rsquo;s very peat-rich, very rich in organic matter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Very swampy, marshy.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_MANUSCRIPTS/illinois/cookIL2012/Cook_IL.pdf" target="_blank"><em>View the USDA&#39;s Soil Survey of Cook County for&nbsp;a detailed look at Chicago-area soil</em></a></p><p>The soil was so slick that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064" target="_blank">in 1856, Chicago lifted itself up to 14 feet off the ground</a> to keep from sinking and sliding around in the mosquito-infested marshland.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s soil started as sediment drifting around in Lake Chicago &mdash; an ice-age precursor to Lake Michigan. That material settled to the bottom, leaving present-day denizens a thick layer of squishy soil.</p><p>&ldquo;If you can imagine your front yard and the little muddy spot you have after it&rsquo;s rained for a while,&rdquo; says Wiggers, &ldquo;that sediment is really, really saturated and it&rsquo;s very oozy. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper in that.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB chicago in 1820.jpg" style="height: 478px; width: 620px;" title="(Image courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>By contrast New York City &mdash; whose architects and engineers pioneered the skyscraper along with Chicago&rsquo;s during the late 19th century &mdash; had nearly perfect soil conditions for anchoring tall buildings. Despite being surrounded by water, Manhattan has readily available bedrock.</p><p>The rock outcroppings jutting out of the earth in Central Park are visible proof that New York&rsquo;s bedrock, Manhattan schist, comes all the way up to the surface in some places. Chicago&rsquo;s equivalent, a rock called dolomite, can be as deep as 85 feet underground.</p><p>&ldquo;And yet here in Chicago we persevered through all the muck, literally, and built [skyscrapers] here,&rdquo; Wiggers says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16106coll1/id/170/rec/25" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20soil%20map%20crop.jpg" style="height: 274px; width: 620px;" title="Generalized soil map of the region of Chicago, 1927. Click to explore a large version of this map. (Image courtesy DePaul University archives)" /></a></div><p>Reporters in the late 19th century described Chicago&rsquo;s soil as &ldquo;a great jelly-cake&rdquo; with a &ldquo;semi-fluid&rdquo; layer like &ldquo;molasses.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s a bit from an 1891 article in the New York Times &mdash; back when the word skyscraper was so new that reporters had to put it in quotes:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;What shall it profit Chicago to have taken the prairies and the wheat fields and the distant lairs of wolves and bears in its municipal embrace if the proud palaces in the haunts of its Board of Trade must sink in a smother of slimy ooze? Who shall restrain the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake? Who can say when it will be released, to be mixed with the sluggish sewage of the river, and then to fill the streets and pour in at the windows while the thin upper crust sinks to its ultimate resting place on the lower clay?&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>That clay actually became the key to some early engineering solutions for tall, heavy buildings. Before then, they fine-tuned a method to float their massive buildings on layers of jelly-like clay called the desiccated crust. But as anyone who has stumbled through the lobby of the Auditorium Building has experienced, early engineers didn&rsquo;t always get it exactly right.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">An early experiment</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Library%20of%20Congress%2C%20Prints%20%26%20Photographs%20Division%2C%20HABS%2C%20Reproduction%20number%20HABS%20ILL%2C16-CHIG%2C39--1.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 620px;" title="The Auditorium Building in 1963, which floats in the soil on a layer of clay instead of bedrock.(Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints &amp; Photographs Division, HABS, Reproduction number HABS ILL,16-CHIG,39--1)" /></div><p>The 1889 Auditorium Building is well-known for the important role it played in establishing the artistic and cultural identity of a young, booming city. Roosevelt University now owns the building at the corner of East Congress Parkway and North Michigan Avenue.</p><p>The multi-use building, designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, included an exquisite performance space with stunning acoustics and ornamentation. But the building also sheds light on how these late 19th century architects wrestled with designing increasingly taller and heavier buildings on Chicago&rsquo;s waterlogged clay.</p><p>If you&rsquo;ve ever visited the Auditorium Building or Theatre, you may have noticed that the floors are not quite even. And if you&rsquo;ve come in the Auditorium entrance off the Congress Parkway, located under the building&rsquo;s 17-story tower, you may have noticed that you walk <em>down</em> about four steps to buy your ticket and enter the lobby.</p><p>Those four steps were not part of Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s original plans &mdash; they were added because that&rsquo;s how far the building has sunk into the earth since it was constructed in 1889. The building weighs more than 110,000 tons.</p><p>All new buildings sink a bit at first &mdash; a fact architects and engineers have tried to account for since they began building big enough to notice. But the Auditorium sunk more than 18 inches in the first year after it opened, leaving it with uneven floors that can make visitors feel drunk as they navigate. The technical term for this is &ldquo;differential settlement,&rdquo; which means that the different parts of the building &mdash; depending on how heavy they are and how much the soil can bear &mdash; settle to different depths.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB Auditorium_bldg_(foundations)_HABS.jpg" style="height: 322px; width: 620px;" title="Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the Auditorium Building's base. (Source: Library of Congress, HABS, National Park Service)" /></div></div><p>In the basement of the Auditorium, there&rsquo;s a large crack on the concrete floor that runs parallel to the exterior wall. While the whole building has settled, this is where it&rsquo;s obvious that the heavier exterior stone walls have sunk almost a foot more than the interior structure, which was made from a lighter iron and steel skeleton.</p><p>The 1880s and 1890s saw several Chicago buildings that used a hybrid structural system of stone and brick on the exterior with iron and steel on the interior. But because architects knew that a continuous foundation around the building&rsquo;s perimeter would likely sink at different rates and to different depths, Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the building&rsquo;s base. These piers under the building resemble giant pyramids measuring more than 12 feet tall. They acted like the legs of a chair, redistributing the heaviest parts of the building&rsquo;s uneven footprint over a larger area. But these giant pyramids &mdash; made with layers of wooden timbers, crisscrossing steel embedded in concrete, and blocks of stone &mdash; took up valuable basement space.</p><p>Adler conducted extensive tests of the Auditorium footings, loading them with heavy pig iron to simulate the weight of the building and then measuring how much they sank into the earth. But this is an imperfect science. He based his calculations on exterior walls of brick, not the heavier granite and limestone that would eventually be used. It also became clear that the 17-story tower simply weighed more than the 10-story building surrounding it. And the weight of the exterior stone walls was much greater than the lighter skeleton frame of steel and iron used on the interior.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20monadnock%20present%20Eric%20Allix%20Rogers%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 423px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="The Monadnock Building, built in 1891, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. (Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">A later experiment: The Monadnock Building</span></p><p>As skyscrapers in the late 19th century grew taller, architects and engineers experimented with ways of preventing buildings from sinking too far into the clay, or settling unevenly.</p><p>Burnham and Root&rsquo;s 1891 Monadnock Building, which sits at the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Dearborn Street, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. Its dark brown brick walls measure six feet wide at the base.</p><p>The building&rsquo;s basement holds clues to how such a heavy building stands without its feet on solid bedrock. Owner Bill Donnell explains that the Monadnock is distinctive because it&rsquo;s one of the tallest buildings with walls that actually do the work of holding it up. During the 1890s, buildings needed to get taller, so architects started shifting away from load-bearing walls; instead, they opted for a sturdy skeleton of steel.</p><p>Construction crews at the time couldn&rsquo;t dig down 80 feet to find bedrock, so they floated the building on the clay.</p><p>They took steel railroad rails and layered them into pyramid-shaped footings that could distribute the building&rsquo;s weight over a larger area. Picture dozens of columns pressing through the basement floor with pyramid-shaped feet, made from railroad rails caked with concrete.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20grillage%20diagram.jpg" title="A diagram of standard grillage foundation of steel rails and concrete. " /></div><p>These so-called &lsquo;grillage&rsquo; foundations were used in several other Burnham and Root buildings throughout Chicago in the 1880s and 1890s, including the Rookery and the now-demolished Montauk Block and Great Northern Hotel. Burnham credits Peter B. Wight, who came to the city from New York after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, with helping to engineer the first one.</p><p>In fact, if we think back to our question about Chicago&rsquo;s swamp, this type of floating raft foundation actually makes a lot of sense. Imagine a tall tree growing in a water-filled swamp. Just like the Monadnock&rsquo;s foundations, the tree trunk flairs out wide at the base. With only a shallow root system, this is the tree&rsquo;s only way of buttressing itself in the mud.</p><p>The Monadnock is actually a hybrid; its northern and southern halves were completed a few years apart, and feature different structural systems. The north half of the Monadnock was the end of an era in structural design, showing the challenges of this type of floating-raft foundation and thick masonry walls.</p><p>A lot more than swampy soil factored into the desire for new structural systems around this time. As land values climbed, developers and clients required taller buildings to make building profitable. That meant architects and engineers needed to economize while also still strengthening the structure against gravity and wind. And if the walls of the building get thicker, the result is smaller rooms with less rentable space. Thicker walls also meant smaller windows. Long before the widespread use of strong electric lighting, natural daylight was a premium amenity that all tenants wanted.</p><p>Things changed a bit when the owners of the Monadnock Building expanded only a year and a half later. They commissioned architects Holabird &amp; Roche for the southern addition and rather than design another load-bearing brick building, the architects developed a lighter-weight steel skeleton frame building. Although it used a similar foundation, this steel skeleton frame brought benefits beyond simply weighing less; it had thinner walls, used less material and could be constructed faster.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/monadnock grid bentley2.jpg" title="The grillage foundation seen under the basement floor of the Monadnock Building shows how the architects and engineers tried to float the building on clay. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Just one year after the Monadnock&rsquo;s southern addition was built, another dramatically different type of foundation system, called caissons, was attempted for the first time in a Chicago skyscraper. At Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s Stock Exchange Building construction site, crews were finally able to drill down through all the clay and fill the holes with concrete, which anchored the building to the bedrock.</p><p>Caissons were basically subterranean chambers that could keep construction work dry even deep underground. They diminished the need to float the building on top of the squishy soil, which meant that architects and engineers could experiment with new types of structural systems above ground.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 4.08.43 PM_0.png" style="height: 637px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Surficial geology map of the Chicago region. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Reaching new heights</span></p><p>Architects in Chicago have dug enough foundations to know their way around the city&rsquo;s famously swampy soil. But in many cities geotechnical engineers are still searching for solid footing.</p><p>&ldquo;For cities that are established, it&#39;s more a question of refinement,&rdquo; says Bill Baker, a structural engineering partner at architecture firm Skidmore Owings &amp; Merrill. &ldquo;There are still cities where you&#39;re trying to figure it out. [In] Las Vegas you can&#39;t find the rock. There have been some buildings with very large settlements, so how do you deal with that? [In] Houston, believe it or not, you can&#39;t find the rock.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker knows this problem well. In 1957 architects Walter Netsch and Bruce Graham used steel pilings to anchor Chicago&rsquo;s Inland Steel Building to dolomite bedrock buried deep beneath the Loop &mdash; the first time after almost seven decades of skyscraper construction that design teams and engineers had accomplished such a feat.</p><p>Though most of the digging and surveying underground is done remotely these days, Baker recalls looking up from 70 feet beneath the AT&amp;T Corporate Center, which opened in 1989.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re looking up at a little patch of light, which is the sky, and it of course has an earthy smell,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Somewhere along the way someone discovered there&rsquo;s a tendency to be methane down there, and so we don&rsquo;t go down them any more. We put cameras down there. But I kind of miss going down &hellip; to the bottom of the world there.&rdquo;</p><p>He says even though new technology makes it easier to find solid bedrock beneath 100 feet of wet clay, it doesn&rsquo;t always make sense to drill that deep. Modern engineers still use the same general principle Burnham &amp; Root employed when they floated the foundations of the Monadnock Building on an even flimsier layer of soil known as desiccated crust: They just spread the load. Only, today, they prefer a compacted layer of clay found deeper than the crust, called hardpan.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://archive.org/stream/historyconstruct00nich#page/n0/mode/thumb" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20hardpan%20and%20other%20soil%20tests%20copy.png" style="height: 466px; width: 620px;" title="Hardpan, a soil layer above bedrock, is commonly used to anchor skyscrapers today. (Source: The history, construction and design of caisson foundations in Chicago, 1913) " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons we don&#39;t always sit on the rock is it&#39;s very expensive. Because once you poke through that hardpan you&#39;re fighting against water that&#39;s under pressure,&rdquo; Baker says. &ldquo;That last few feet is very expensive, which is why if at all possible you sit on the hardpan.&rdquo;</p><p>And Baker says Chicago&rsquo;s legacy as an innovation center for geotechnical engineering is very much alive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you were an architect you had to show that you were not just a ballerina, you had to show you could actually speak to the technology,&rdquo; says Baker. &ldquo;One of the things about Chicago is that it was always an architectural engineering town. &hellip; A lot of the serious architects out there are very, very savvy when it comes to technology.&rdquo;</p><p>While Chicago may have been dealt an unlucky geological hand, 19th century Chicagoans did find something useful to do with all the mucky clay: The city became the center of the nation&rsquo;s terra cotta industry. Architects used terra cotta, which is simply baked clay, to <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/#buildingmaterials" target="_blank">help fireproof buildings after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871</a>.</p><p>So it might just be that Chicago&rsquo;s sloshy soil helped solidify the foundations of modern tall building design, engineering and construction.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20vendel.jpg" style="height: 232px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Mike Vendel)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Mike Vendel, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Mike Vendel, a computer programmer for Accenture, grew up in Chicago&rsquo;s West Lawn neighborhood and now lives in Edgewater. He says he first wondered about Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil when volunteering in parks along the North Side lakefront. Looking south one day from Montrose Beach, Vendel noticed that Chicago&rsquo;s mighty skyscrapers were basically sitting on the same soggy footing he was.</p><p>&ldquo;I see these giant buildings on the horizon. And then I look down at the sandy soil I&#39;m standing on and I think, how do those massive and immense buildings stay stable in a soil like this?&rdquo; he wrote at the start of our reporting.</p><p>He wondered about the geology of our region and how early settlers overcame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy conditions to lay the foundations of a 20th century skyscraper boom.</p><p>&ldquo;Any architect probably knows how massive buildings can remain stable in any type of soil,&rdquo; he wrote. &ldquo;But to me, it&rsquo;s a mystery and fairly amazing.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and is the Midwest Editor of <a href="http://www.archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><em>Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 Daily Rehearsal: Chicago gets a 'Big Fish' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/daily-rehearsal-chicago-gets-big-fish-102231 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/big fish.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- <a href="http://www.citylifesupplement.org">The City Life Supplement</a> </strong></span></span>is doing another season, this time at the Holiday Club, opening September 29 at the Holiday Club. The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-02-24/weekender-afro-beats-civil-rights-opera-and-pee-wee-herman-96655">monthly performances</a> will continue at Transistor Chicago.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Some staffing changes at Auditorium Theatre</strong></span></span>; Colleen Flanigan is leaving Chicago Opera Theater to join as Chief Marketing Officer. Christina Bourné is in as Director of Education.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- The stage version of<em> Big Fish</em>,</strong></span></span> that movie with&nbsp;Ewan McGregor, will open at the Oriental Theater in April, starring Norbert Leo Butz, <a href="http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/big-fish-musical-to-open-in-chicago/">reports the <em>New York Times</em></a>.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/M3YVTgTl-F0" width="560"></iframe></p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 12:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-09/daily-rehearsal-chicago-gets-big-fish-102231 Local groups urge boycott of Israel's Batsheva Dance http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-28/local-groups-urge-boycott-israels-batsheva-dance-96790 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-28/Batsheva Dance Company.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-28/Batsheva Dance Company.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 421px;" title="Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company plans a two-day stint in Chicago in March. (Courtesy of Batsheva Dance Company) "></p><p>The Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago and the Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights are urging Chicagoans to just say no to <a href="http://www.batsheva.co.il/en/About.aspx">Batsheva Dance Company</a>, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. The troupe, headed by Ohad Naharin, began a Canadian/U.S. tour last week that includes two days in Chicago, March 17 and 18, at the Auditorium.</p><p>Three years ago, during another U.S. tour that included Chicago, protests were mounted in San Francisco and New York, and similar protests are reportedly planned for this tour. Last week, in <a href="http://adalahny.org/document/790/open-letter-north-american-organizations-batsheva-take-strong-unequivocal-stance-agains">an open letter to Batsheva</a>, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel asked the company to “take a stand against the Israeli government’s violations of Palestinian rights.”&nbsp; One of the signatories was the U.S. Palestinian Campaign for the Academic &amp; Cultural Boycott of Israel, which holds that no Israeli arts organization can claim independence from Israel’s policies on Palestine—particularly if an organization accepts money from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Batsheva does.</p><p>The attempt to “re-brand” Israel is a reality. In March 2009, after the Gaza War, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/world/middleeast/19israel.html">the <em>New York Times</em> quoted Arye Mekel</a>, the foreign ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs, as saying, “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”</p><p>Of course a boycott means nothing if you wouldn’t buy the product in the first place. But Batsheva and choreographer Naharin (well known here for the works he’s set on Hubbard Street) are international stars. They’re stars for a reason, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. But even if I hated a company, I’d think it had a right to create—and be seen—independently of the politics of the place it happens to call home.</p></p> Tue, 28 Feb 2012 14:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-28/local-groups-urge-boycott-israels-batsheva-dance-96790 Daily Rehearsal: Your new day-before-New-Year's plans http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-01/daily-rehearsal-your-new-day-new-years-plans-94507 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-01/hannibal.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-01/hannibal.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 180px; height: 270px; " title=""><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Don't have day-before-New-Year's plans?&nbsp;<a href="http://www.avclub.com/chicago/articles/hannibal-buress-at-the-lincoln-lodge-dec-30,64987"><em>The A.V. Club</em> points out</a> that Hannibal Buress </strong></span></span>will be at the Lincoln Lodge on December 30 for two performances, just in time to make it on all those "this was big in Chicago this year lists", &nbsp;or whatever people in the media do at the end of the year.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. <a href="http://www.chicagoshakes.com/main.taf?p=2,64"><em>Elizabeth Rex </em></a>opens next week at Chicago Shakes</strong></span></span>. The star of the production, Diane D’Aquila, reveals a bit about her background <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/stage/9157322-421/elizabeth-rex-a-regal-portrait-of-the-iconic-english-queen.html">to Hedy Weiss</a>, including the tidbit that&nbsp;she worked as a dresser early in her career, a job I find super fascinating, perhaps merely for it's very literal title. For those who watched the movies on our fair Virgin Queen, the costumes alone look worth the price of admission.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. In this week's Don't Miss List, Laura Molzahn <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-30/dont-miss-list-spice-it-muntu-dance-theatre-94458">suggests </a>you see </strong></span></span>Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago. At&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/muntu-dance-theatres-spice-it-up/Content?oid=5101709">the <em>Reader</em></a>, Molzahn gives us a look into why Muntu chose it's name, and what to expect from the show. The name of the group's new suite of dances ("Roff") actually means "a lot of different spices put together." So expect like a chutney or a chili or something of a dance.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Don Hall has<a href="http://donhall.blogspot.com/2011/12/a-la-carte-audience.html">&nbsp;thoughts</a> on the importance of subscription tickets</strong></span></span> to different theaters, via <a href="http://www.tcg.org/tools/facts/">a report</a> from the Theater Communications Group. To Hall, the loss of tickets sold through subscription models will really only be noticed by marquee theaters. For the small (and when I say small, I'm not talking about theaters with a $250,000 budget, I'm referring to theaters with far less than that to go from show to show) it means relatively nothing," writes Hall. "Show to show is how we do business in the first place."</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. Fascinated with the <a href="http://auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/">Auditorium Theatre</a>?</strong></span></span> Who's not! Did you know the movie <em>Public Enemies</em> with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp was filmed there (among others?) The theatre toots their own horn in <a href="http://auditoriumtheatre.blogspot.com/2011/11/mystique-helps-to-illuminate-our-past_21.html">this blog post</a>, but it is, in actuality, quite beautiful.</p><p>And for those who were worried the <em>Jersey Shore The Musical</em> is closing -- fear not! It's been extended through March 31.</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Thu, 01 Dec 2011 18:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-01/daily-rehearsal-your-new-day-new-years-plans-94507 Eiko & Koma, AXIS reimagine the dancing body http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/eiko-koma-axis-reimagine-dancing-body-93850 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/ek_3191_image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Editor's Note: Body and soul unite in two upcoming dance performances. Each encourages audiences to re-imagine the body in motion. <a href="http://www.luciamauro.com/" target="_blank">Lucia Mauro</a> shared her take with <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>:</p><p>In dance, the body is a given. After all, it’s the instrument through which artists ply their craft on stage. But some dancer-choreographers challenge viewers to look beyond the flesh and make new discoveries about relationships and their place in the grand scheme of things. Eiko and Koma are legendary figures in experimental dance that doubles as installation art. The Japanese-born husband and wife will perform a continuous duet, titled <em>Naked</em>, at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Turner Gallery. In it, the unclothed dancers move at a glacially slow pace inside a giant nest of twigs and feathers. Their exposed chalk-white bodies seem to figuratively dematerialize inside their natural environment—they fuse with the earth.</p><p>Now some may ask, “But is this dance?” And the answer is not so straightforward. Eiko and Koma were influenced by a post-World War II Japanese practice known as Butoh. This artistic movement, which also has been called a meditative approach to life, honors the journey of the body from birth to death and beyond. Often associated with the atomic bomb and white-powder makeup, Butoh utilizes the entire body, from eyes to fingertips. Eiko and Koma are considered more avant-garde dance artists, most interested in linking human beings to their natural surroundings. And despite their often naked performances, their bodies do not necessarily project sexuality. Rather, the sensual texture of their skin merges with crackling leaves and branches; throughout, their bodies seem to disappear.</p><p>On the opposite end of the spectrum, AXIS Dance Company does not advocate the gradual disappearance of the body. Instead, the artists of this longtime physically-integrated troupe place dancers in wheelchairs front and center. They are joined by able-bodied dancers; but everyone is an able-bodied dancer in this company. . For its Chicago engagement at the Auditorium Theatre, AXIS will perform choreographer Alex Ketley’s hard-edged <em>Vessel</em>. It consists of a stream of quartets and duets meant to evoke how human bodies can project memories, both assuring and painful.</p><p>The central duet in <em>Vessel</em> places a man and woman in an aggressive push and pull. His wheelchair seems to serve as a barrier for their fractured relationship. The woman soars into his lap, perches in a dangerous overhead lift, and tumbles across the floor. He resists, rotates and pitches forward in utter despair before picking himself up and continuing a less arresting tug of war. Just watching them interact is like being mesmerized by the continuous movement of a carousel. The action is fierce and non-stop. It’s also gentle and sublime—like &nbsp;gliding ice dancers entwined with graciously sculpted shapes in space.</p><p>Both Eiko and Koma and AXIS Dance Company challenge preconceptions about dance and expand the reach of the human body.</p><p><a href="http://www.eikoandkoma.org/" target="_blank">Eiko &amp; Koma’s</a> living installation <em>Naked</em> begins Tuesday at the <a href="http://www.turnercontemporary.org/" target="_blank">Museum of Contemporary Art’s Turner Gallery</a>.</p><p><a href="http://www.axisdance.org/" target="_blank">AXIS Dance Company</a> performs Nov. 19 and 20 at the <a href="http://auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/" target="_blank">Auditorium Theatre</a>.</p></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-08/eiko-koma-axis-reimagine-dancing-body-93850 Love is in the air and so is dance http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-11/love-air-and-so-dance-82162 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/ballet dancer.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Valentine&rsquo;s Day is just around the corner.&nbsp;So is spring.&nbsp;That means LOVE is in the air! That&rsquo;s especially true for two local dance companies.<a target="_blank" href="http://www.rivernorthchicago.com/"> River North Dance Chicago</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.joffrey.com/">The Joffrey Ballet</a> are celebrating the loving season with romantic moves &ndash; from the tango to the waltz. River North Dance Chicago performs &ldquo;Al Sur Del Sur&rdquo; today through Sunday at the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/">Harris Theater in Chicago</a>.<br /><br />The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its week and a half run of &ldquo;The Merry Widow&rdquo; Wednesday at the <a target="_blank" href="http://auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/">Auditorium Theatre</a>. WBEZ dance critic Lucia Mauro got caught up in the sensual swirl:<br /><br /> It just doesn&rsquo;t get more seductive than the tango. This intricate partnering dance that originated in the barrios of Buenos Aires truly embodies a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. Yet various tango spectacles that breeze through town tend to favor flashy moves, macho posturing and a chronological timeline of the dance&rsquo;s history. Not so for River North Dance Chicago, a local troupe that masterfully combines ballet, jazz, contemporary and social dace.<br /><br /><span>For the company&rsquo;s annual Valentine&rsquo;s engagement at the Harris Theater, artistic director Frank Chaves commissioned a suite of tangos by Argentinean tango superstars Sabrina and Ruben Veliz. The six-part dance, titled Al Sur Del Sur, tells the story of five couples and their tender and tumultuous relationships. The choreographers use movement as a vehicle to express these conflicting emotions. So the piece, as a whole, has a more believable and authentic feel than mere displays of showy kicks and spins.<br /><br /></span><span>At its core, the tango is shaped like a spiral that requires partners to navigate the push and pull of attraction. In one part of Al Sur Del Sur, an unbridled romantic duet blends the dance&rsquo;s characteristic slicing and dicing of the legs with more open lifts. This section segues into a tempestuous quartet. It brilliantly reveals sexual tension, jealousy and flirtatiousness through a sharp turn of the head, eyes locking in a freeze-frame flash of lust, aggressive dips, and a firm grabbing of a stiletto heel. There&rsquo;s even a loving duet for two women, who dance barefoot, and seem to be consoling each other. The piece culminates in a seemingly improvised milonga, or tango club setting, where all these characters come to escape from their daily problems.</span><br /><br /><span>The Joffrey Ballet&rsquo;s staging of The Merry Widow takes the waltz as its movement motif. But it&rsquo;s no less steamy. This Chicago premiere is a full-length staging by British choreographer Ronald Hynd of the ballet version of Franz Lehar&rsquo;s classic operetta. Originally created in 1975 for the Australian Ballet, The Merry Widow uses a lush and uncluttered musical adaptation of the Lehar score by John Lanchbery and Alan Abbott. The music&rsquo;s melodic expressiveness and the dance&rsquo;s conversational elegance clearly tell this beloved story set in a fictitious French principality at the turn of the century. There&rsquo;s also a famous can-can dance sequence and lots of fancy hats, epaulets and tight waistcoats.</span> Hanna, a poor-girl-turned-wealthy-heiress is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once rejected her: Count Danilo, now trying to save his country from bankruptcy. <br /><br />Complications naturally ensue. In addition, a scandalous subplot involves a clerk named Camille who is having an affair with a feisty young woman, Valencienne, who is married to an old baron. In one of the ballet&rsquo;s lustier scenes, Valencienne enters the busy Camille&rsquo;s office and teases him by snatching away the various pieces of paper he&rsquo;s reading. Unable to concentrate, Camille sweeps up his lover and drags her across his desk. The duet that follows vacillates between the coy and the uncontained as the woman trots like a horse while Camille kisses her hand, or resists his advances. In the end, the pair falls into each other&rsquo;s arms with abandon&hellip;only to be observed by a hidden spy.<br /><br />Both River North Dance Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet stoke the flames of passion through timeless stories and provocative movement. A perfect way to celebrate Valentine&rsquo;s Day.</p><p><em>DJ M. Sylvia Music Button: Jesse Rose, &quot;You Know It&quot;, Welcome to the Future 2010 (ID&amp;T)</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Feb 2011 15:08:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-11/love-air-and-so-dance-82162