WBEZ | Chicago Dance Crash http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-dance-crash Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Don't-Miss List: Putting on 'The Ritz', 'Winter Fire' and 'Man Boobs' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/dont-miss-list-putting-ritz-winter-fire-and-man-boobs-96425 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-16/manboobs.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/the ritz.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 254px; height: 300px; " title="'The Ritz' at Circle Theatre">Solo performers have a hard time finding outlets for their work; African-American solo performers have a doubly hard time. This is the theory behind <a href="http://MPAACT.org/">MPAACT's <strong>Solo Jam</strong> series</a>, a late-night showcase of performance pieces at the Greenhouse in Lincoln Park. Every Friday and Saturday through March 10, a different artist will present a piece of his/her own devising. A preview of the work showed a wide range of styles and themes: I was particularly taken with next weekend's pairing, Osiris Khepera's <em>The Fag-tionary</em> and Jonathan Kitt's <em>Superman, Black Man, Me! A Stage Essay</em>, but there doesn't seem to be a bad one in the bunch. The shows begin at 11 p.m. (after MPAACT's mainstage production <em>Sweet Home</em>; a ticket to that will get you a discount to the Solo Jam); tickets $12 for a single show or $20 for the weekend.</p><p>And if you think the world of solo performance is daunting for actors of color, consider the nearly monochromatic world of sketch comedy.&nbsp; Taco Flavored Eggrolls storms those alabaster barricades with the irresistably-named <strong><em>It Takes Juan To Know Wong (a colored commentary)</em></strong>, which begins an 8-week run at the <a href="http://www.propthtr.org/">PROP THTR</a>&nbsp;Friday. 10:30 every Friday through April 6 at 3502 N. Elston Avenue; tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors (though really, what senior stays up that late?)</p><p>Or, if you're in the mood for an actual comic play, check out <a href="http://www.circle-theatre.org/">Circle Theater's newly-opened production of <strong><em>The Ritz</em></strong></a>, a very early farce by Terrence McNally. (Early enough that the words "gay bathhouse" had no over- or undertones.) Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3; tickets $24-$28 with various discounts; performances at 1010 West Madison Street in Oak Park.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/trey mcintyre.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px; " title="(Photo courtesy of Preservation Hall Jazz Band)"></p><p>Fat Tuesday is right around the corner—and so is New Orleans on Friday night, when the <a href="http://www.cso.org/"><strong>Trey McIntyre Project</strong> dances to the swinging Preservation Hall Jazz Band</a> at Symphony Center. Don’t expect cheek-to-cheek, though. In McIntyre’s macabre <em>Ma Maison</em>, the dancers cavort in skull masks. And as Lewis Segal of the LA Times describes <em>The Sweeter End</em>, it’s a “high-speed amalgam of ballet steps, gymnastic feats, ballroom fragments and eruptions of snake-hips undulation.”</p><p>The <a href="http://www.auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/pages/home/performances-events/performances.php?event_id=353">Joffrey Ballet heats up with “<strong>Winter Fire</strong>,”</a> a program of three works by contemporary names-you-can-drop: William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, and Wayne McGregor—who’s moved seamlessly from modern dance into the classical world as resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet. On video, McGregor’s spiky <em>Infra</em>—a U.S. premiere for the Joffrey—looks spectacular: technically challenging, tech-savvy, and moving to boot. This weekend and next, plus next Thursday, at the Auditorium.</p><p>Chicago Dance Crash reinstates its KTF (“Keeper of the Floor”) dance battles with a <a href="http://www.maynestage.com/Dance-Crash-Feb.aspx">post-Valentine’s show, “<strong>Love Is a (Dance) Battlefield</strong>,”</a> reportedly dedicated to “the hopelessly single, recent dumpees, and generally jaded demographic.” Friday at 8 PM at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-16/manboobs.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 386px; " title=""></p><p>Since the demise of the original Bailiwick Repertory Theater in 2009, director David Zak has re-emerged as head of Pride Films and Plays, a Chicago-based organization&nbsp;that reaches nation-wide to find and develop writing for screen and stage on LGBT subjects. Some of the works are serious and some are not. I’m not certain about the current project, J. Julian Christopher’s self-described “dark comedy” entitled <a href="http://www.pridefilmsandplays.com/manboobs.html"><strong><em>Man Boobs</em></strong></a>. Well, now, I’ll bet THAT got your attention! I’m fairly certain <em>Man Boobs</em> isn’t a medical drama about gynecomastia, but may be about love, body image and acceptance both by oneself and others. Previously produced in New York, Los Angeles, Montreal and Australia, <em>Man Boobs</em> launches Pride Films and Plays’ 2012 season, running through March 10 at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville.</p><p>Porchlight Music Theatre has not built its reputation by spinning gold from dross, but currently is attempting just that with the regional premiere of <a href="http://porchlightmusictheatre.org/a-catered-affair/"><strong><em>A Catered Affair</em></strong></a>, a failed 2008 Broadway musical based on the 1956 film (script by Gore Vidal) and the 1955 live TV drama (by Paddy Chayefsky) before that. Set in the 1950’s Bronx, it concerns a lower-middle-class family planning a lavish wedding for their only daughter. <em>A Catered Affair</em> is composer John Bucchino’s first Broadway show, but features a book by multiple Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, who created a role for himself, that of the bride’s gay uncle. The Broadway reviews called it restrained and almost like a chamber musical, which may work well in Porchlight’s intimate production at Stage 773 in Wrigleyville. The artistic team of Nick Bowling (director) and Douglas Peck (musical director) is impeccable. <em>A Catered Affair</em> runs through April 1.</p></p> Thu, 16 Feb 2012 15:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-15/dont-miss-list-putting-ritz-winter-fire-and-man-boobs-96425 The Don't-Miss List: Shows to see with your Valentine http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-09/dont-miss-list-shows-see-your-valentine-96230 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-09/dating walter dante.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-09/dating walter dante.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 212px; height: 300px;" title="">It's hard to imagine a comedy based on the Drew Peterson case, but playwright Jon Steinhagen is on a roll: this will be the third of his plays to go up in the past six months. (He's also a superb actor, having given the definitive performance of Big Daddy in Raven Theatre's <em>Cat on a Hot Tin Roof</em> a year ago. Life, and the distribution of talent, is unfair.) Steinhagen returns to <a href="http://raventheatre.com/?q=2011-12-season">Raven </a>wearing his playwright's hat for the world premiere of <strong><em>Dating Walter Dante</em></strong>, opening Sunday Feb. 12th at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 for opening night, $30 for the rest of the run, with student and senior discounts available. Raven is on Clark just south of Devon, which is North Andersonville, West Edgewater or Southeast Rogers Park, depending on your mood.&nbsp;<br> <br> But if you don't want to mark Valentine's Day with a comedy about wife-slaughter, consider going out Monday night instead, when <strong>E. Faye Butler</strong> appears at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park to sing "My Funny Valentine." This is part of the park's <a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing/events/dca_tourism/cabaret_with_a_view_presents_e__faye_butler.html">Cabaret With A View series</a>, in which audience members get to sit on the enclosed pavilion stage for a single-night concert by one of Chicago's great performers. One would be hard-pressed to find a better performer than Butler, who played the title roles in<em> Caroline or Change</em> at Court and <em>Ella</em> [Fitzgerald] at Northlight and is currently on the Northlight stage in its musical Black Pearl. Tickets to the Millennium Park concert are $25 (if you want to sit at a table and have a couple of drinks) or $15 (if you're happy to perch in the choir loft). Hear it with someone you love.&nbsp;</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-09/Culture Shock Chicago.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 225px; height: 300px;" title="Culture Shock Chicago"><em>Reader&nbsp;</em>critic Justin Hayford has a little-known sideline: cabaret singer of obscure “hits.” That’s a far cry from the performance art he once did, including a piece that involved nudity, cascading flour, and speculation on how to write a dance review. For <a href="http://www.davenportspianobar.com/">“<strong>Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood</strong>” Sunday at Davenport’s</a>, Hayford will sing songs from <em>Sesame Street&nbsp;</em>and <em>Mr. Rogers</em>, accompanying himself on piano and providing his usual amusing, informative patter between tunes. The evening benefits the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, where he works.</p><p>Can’t dance, but want to feel as if you and your sweetie have been wowing the crowd on the dance floor? Live vicariously at <a href="http://www.chicagodancecrash.com/">Chicago Dance Crash’s “<strong>Duets for My Valentine</strong>” Saturday</a> at the Athenaeum: 90 minutes of stars like CDC itself, hip-hoppy Culture Shock, traditional Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-07/mark-yonally-wants-give-tap-dancing-its-due-94674">Chicago Tap Theatre</a>, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-11-09/james-morrow-explodes-four-mad-humours-93883">James Morrow</a>. An alternative: <a href="http://www.harristheaterchicago.org/events/2011-2012-season/river-north-spring-p">River North at the Harris</a> Friday through Sunday in “Love Is…” They’ve got the smooth moves down.</p><p>The Dance Center presents <a href="http://www.colum.edu/dance_center/performances/margaretjenkinsdancecompany/index.php">Margaret Jenkins’s media-rich <strong><em>Light Moves</em></strong></a>, described in the <em>San Francisco Chronicle&nbsp;</em>as a “meditative, kaleidoscopic mix of human and digital” thanks to Naomie Kremer’s abstracted animations of her own paintings. A panel discussion, “Woman-Made Performance,” precedes the Saturday show.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-09/kill me.jpg" style="margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 216px; height: 300px;" title="">A young stud blows into a steamy southern town and meets a passionate older woman married to a dying, dried up prune of a man. There’s a nymphomaniac in it, too, for comic relief. This only could be the scenario for one of Tennessee Williams’s most lurid dramas, <a href="http://shatteredglobe.org/current_production.html"><strong><em>Orpheus Descending</em></strong></a>. As the title’s classical reference suggests, the young man (Valentine) is a musician, or at least a wannabe, and the southern town is his descent into Hell. Williams reworked this 1957 play from his failed 1940 play, <em>Battle of Angels</em>, and rewrote it again for the movies as <em>The Fugitive Kind</em>. This rare staging comes from Shattered Globe Theatre Company (or Shattered Globe 2.0 as they call themselves now) with the skillful Julieanne Ehre as director. <em>Orpheus Descending</em> is playing at Stage 773 through March 11.</p><p>There’s no question that various horrors make their way to local theater stages in the course of any given year, but Chicago has only one theater troupe specifically dedicated to horror as a dramatic genre, and that’s <a href="http://www.wildclawtheatre.com/">Wildclaw Theatre</a>, now offering the world premiere of <strong><em>Kill Me</em></strong> by company member Scott T. Barsotti. It’s about a woman who wakes from a coma convinced she now is immortal . . . and she doesn’t want to be. Eternal life in the here-and-now ain’t her cup o’ tea. Wildclaw promises a lyrical horror story and a multi-dimensional tale in <em>Kill Me</em>, playing at the Athenaeum Theatre Studio One through March 18.</p></p> Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-09/dont-miss-list-shows-see-your-valentine-96230 Critics theater picks; early Halloween, Chicago Dance Crash(es), and 'Brand' yourself http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-09-28/critics-theater-picks-early-halloween-chicago-dance-crashes-and-bra <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-29/dancecrash.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><u><strong>Kelly Kleiman</strong></u></p><p>If the essence of Halloween is violence and terror (rather than candy, as I firmly believe), the Chicago theater community is getting into the ghoulish swing a bit early this year.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-28/riffraff.jpg" style="margin: 10px; float: left; width: 203px; height: 300px;" title=""><a href="http://maryarrchie.com/now.html">Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company just opened <strong><em>Riff Raff</em></strong></a><em> </em>by the actor Laurence Fishburne, about a drug deal gone bad. If the description fails to spook you, check out the blood-spattered poster. But don't wait til Fright Night: the play only runs through October 30, Thursdays-Sundays at Angel Island on WEST Sheridan Road. $18-$22, with student and senior discounts available.</p><p>If what you want is Halloween pure and simple, and with a local twist, try <a href="http://www.screamsinthepark.com/HOME.html"><strong>Screams in the Park</strong> at Rosemont,</a> a haunted house which claims to have reconstructed the lair of serial killer H.H. Holmes (<em><a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/devilinthewhitecity/home.html">The Devil in the White City</a></em>) in a suburban parking lot. It opens tomorrow (Friday) and runs through October 31 (natch), Tuesdays-Sundays. $20, or $30 if you want to skip the line and go straight to having your heart stopped. Not recommended for children under 13.&nbsp;</p><p>Finally, if you need some solace after all these things going bump in the night, you might consider <a href="http://www.atcweb.org/bxo/nowplay.php">American Theatre Company's <strong><em>The Amish Project</em></strong></a><em>.</em> What could be more peaceful? But don't be fooled: this is the Chicago premiere of a play about a schoolyard massacre and its sequelae and--to quote the press release--about "the limits of forgiveness." I guess. Through October 23 at ATC; tickets $10-$40.</p><p><u><strong>Laura Molzahn</strong></u></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-28/dancecrash.jpg" style="width: 448px; height: 500px;" title="Bubble Chest Bump with Jessica Deahr, Mary Tarpley "></p><p>Who could resist a show called “Immediate Gratification”?<strong> <a href="http://chicagodancecrash.com/">Chicago Dance Crash</a></strong> is billing it as “the self-proclaimed TV dinner of dance productions,” dedicated entirely to those with short attention spans. Guest choreographer Harrison McEldowney contributes an ode to, uh, self-love. And Paul Christiano both directs and choreographed several of the works, including <em>ADHDivas</em>, <em>Tyranny of the Geek</em>, and <em>101 Cures for Boredom</em>, which manages to incorporate Nerf guns and bubble wrap. Check out <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/dance/14937853/preview-chicago-dance-crash-immediate-gratification">Zac Whittenberg’s excellent <em>TimeOut </em>preview</a> of the show, which runs Friday and Saturday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.</p><p><a href="http://www.lunanegra.org/">Luna Negra Dance Theater celebrates <strong><em>mujeres</em></strong></a> in a program of three works choreographed or inspired by women. Guest choreographer Asun Noales, head of Spain’s <a href="http://www.otradanza.es/">Otra Danza</a>, contributes the new <em>Juana</em>, based on the story of Juana la Loca (“Joanna the Mad”), a 16th-century Spanish queen whose “madness” may have been a matter of political convenience to her enemies. A new piece by Luna Negra artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, <em>Not Everything</em>, was inspired by the work of photographer Graciela Iturbide, and former company member Michelle Manzanales reprises her dance based on four Frida Kahlo self-portraits, <em>Paloma Querida&nbsp;</em>(“Beloved Dove”). Saturday only at the Harris.</p><p><u><strong>Jonathan Abarbanel</strong></u></p><p>On October 8, 1871, the City of Chicago went up in flames in a holocaust that burned for three days and went down in the history books. (Never mind that an even worse fire, with a greater loss of life, was burning at the same time up in Wisconsin.) You can spend the precise 140th anniversary of that event watching <a href="http://www.lookingglasstheatre.org/content/box_office/the_great_fire"><em><strong>The Great Fire</strong></em></a> at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Pumping Station, one of the few buildings to survive the fire.<em> The Great Fire</em>, written and directed by John Musial, opens this weekend and runs through Nov. 20. Lookingglass is devoting its entire 24th season to history, mostly Chicago history and disastrous Chicago history at that!</p><p>Before he began to write socially-radical realistic dramas in the 1870's, such as <em>A Doll House</em>, Henrik Ibsen was writing heroic tragedies in verse and epic plays of Norwegian history. One example, his seldom-seen <a href="http://redtapetheatre.org/on-stage/"><strong><em>Brand</em></strong></a>, is receiving a rare production by Red Tape Theatre Company at St. Peter's Church (621 W. Belmont). Appropriate to the venue, <em>Brand </em>concerns a moralistic minister who's certain belief in a God of Vengeance rather than a God of Love costs him everything. <em>Brand </em>continues through Oct. 29. Another sprawling early Ibsen drama, the folkloric and picaresque <em>Peer Gynt</em>, will be staged Nov. 15-Dec. 18 by Polarity Ensemble Theatre at the City's Storefront Theater.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/A6kqP3Zvpuc" width="560" frameborder="0" height="315"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-09-28/critics-theater-picks-early-halloween-chicago-dance-crashes-and-bra The reluctant hero: Dan Waller in 'The Pitmen Painters' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-09-28/reluctant-hero-dan-waller-pitmen-painters-92513 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-28/pitmen painters_Eric Futran.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>“I’ve split my pants like five times. I’ve done four shows with rips on my butt!”</p><p>Through most of <em>The Pitmen Painters</em>, Dan Waller is entombed in a close-fitting suit, perhaps a metaphor for his character: the most reserved, and possibly the most talented, of the four Ashington Group miner/artists in Lee Hall’s 2007 play. <a href="http://www.timelinetheatre.com/">TimeLine’s production, directed by BJ Jones, lovingly etches the time and place</a>: a little mining town in Northumberland in the mid-30s. And with Waller’s help, no character is more movingly drawn than Oliver Kilbourn.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-27/dan waller.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 354px;" title=""></p><p>Waller, 39, says he shares some traits with Oliver. “A fear of the unknown, to a degree. And a fear of letting down our peers or friends, abandoning them—selling out. And we both don’t like the spotlight really, it’s kind of uncomfortable.”</p><p>So… why is Waller an <em>actor?</em> “I got in trouble as a kid, and my mom made me do it as an extracurricular after-school thing.” He did well in a competition in eighth grade. “Then in high school, when I got suspended and kicked off the baseball team, my mom wanted me to have a hobby.”</p><p>“I got suspended all the time,” Waller adds, “for either fighting or drinking.” Part of the problem may have been that, after ninth grade, he moved from Algona, Iowa (pop. 7,000), to the big city of Ames, where he attended public rather than Catholic school.</p><p>“I was kind of a troublemaker before that. In Catholic school there’s a lot of rules, but the fun-est part is breaking those rules. In high school, I didn’t know who I was. The jocks thought I was a drama queen—actually the word was ‘drama fag,’ what they called me. And the theater people didn’t know what to do with me, they thought I was a jock.”</p><p>Waller sorted things out and eventually got a bachelor’s in theater and film from the University of Washington in Seattle. He’s worked a fair amount on camera as well as onstage, but “I can’t say this is ever easy. Unless you play a character that only good things happen to, there’s a sense of pain you have to go through on a nightly basis. It feels like private moments. And when I think about it objectively, that people are watching this….”</p><p>In <em>Pitmen</em>, however, “I needed to tackle the obstacle of the Geordie dialect first,” Waller says. “[Dialect coach] Tanera Marshall—she did <em>Billy Elliot</em> [also penned by Hall]—says the Geordie dialect is the most difficult one there is. I worked my ass off on that, I’ll be honest. I immersed myself in people from Newcastle, every radio interview I could find online and movies and sessions with Tanera.”</p><p>“But if you did the <em>real</em> Geordie, no one could understand a frickin’ thing,” he says. “It would be impossible. The English from around there don’t even understand it. And there’s a further dialect called ‘pitmatic,’ that developed in the pits. The script also has pitmatic.”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-27/PitmenPainters_140.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px;" title="The cast of 'The Pitmen Painters'"></p><p>Waller says this is “a very personal play” for director Jones, who grew up in Cleveland and was once a card-carrying member of the miners’ union. “He can see the story through all the characters’ eyes, in particular Oliver”—the miner who travels the furthest into the deep, dark jungle...I mean, the arts world.</p><p>Waller, who says he tends to get blue-collar roles, has worked at various jobs since he was 14, first doing inserts and other tasks at the newspaper where his dad worked, then detasseling corn. “I also did construction,” he says. “Gas stations, a lot of restaurant stuff, managed restaurants, a cook, I was a waiter—I was a horrible waiter.”</p><p>But the scariest, most awful thing Waller did was to dance onstage. His wife teaches Irish dance, and he did voiceovers for <a href="http://chicagodancecrash.com/">Chicago Dance Crash</a>, notably in 2005's <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/chicago-dance-crash/Content?oid=919176"><em>Tribulation and the Demolition Squad</em>.</a> But he actually came out onstage in 2009, during CDC’s <em>The Drawing Board</em>.</p><p>“I hope you didn’t see that!” he says. I didn’t. “I had to do a portion of <em>Thriller,</em> yah, and I did the voiceover for Vincent Price. I had never been more nervous in my life, to the point where it gave me hives. I wanted to do it because I wanted to conquer it. I never conquered it, though, I was still scared as s**t. But now I can say that I did it.”</p></p> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-09-28/reluctant-hero-dan-waller-pitmen-painters-92513 Two dance performances give classics a twist http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-20/two-dance-performances-give-classics-twist-85436 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-20/Busta Keaton.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The classics of literature, film or ballet earn their keep by remaining fresh and compelling from one generation to the next. Still a contemporary update can sometimes make even a classic more relevant. That’s the case for two dance performances currently on stage in Chicago. For <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, Lucia Mauro tells us how.<br> <br> At first glance, break dancing and the silent movie era seem like a pretty surreal anachronism. Not so for <a href="http://chicagodancecrash.com/" target="_blank">Chicago Dance Crash</a>, a daring eclectic troupe known for unexpected mash ups. Christopher Courtney and Michael Dice, Jr., are the creative forces behind <em><a href="http://chicagodancecrash.com/productions/trials-busta-keaton" target="_blank">The Trials of Busta Keaton</a></em>, the first full-length hip-hop ballet. It’s a contemporary homage to the famous 1920s stone-faced stuntman Buster Keaton. His action-comedy films are considered classics. Chicago Dance Crash compares the silent comedian’s tortured career to the grueling lives of dancers. Courtney, a break dancer known for pushing his body to the limit, admits to performing with strained muscles a collapsed lung.</p><p>So <em>The Trials of Busta Keaton</em> parallels Keaton’s increasingly dangerous stunts with a dancer’s need to constantly challenge their physical capabilities. The large ensemble – clad in pork pie hats and Converse sneakers - often portrays multiple Buster Keatons, who smoothly vacillate between pratfalls and pop and lock. Most significantly, the cast is painted head to toe in black-and-white monotint to convey a live silent film. Yet weaving their way through the intense ensemble action are girls wearing 1960s-style shift dresses in TechniColor. They represent the advances in film technology – from sound to color – that cut short the careers of great physical actors like Keaton. One of the most high-powered numbers mixes up two tap dancers, three acrobatic B-girls, and an ensemble that joins together synchronized music-video moves, wide ballroom sweeps, and the Charleston. It’s the dance equivalent of Keaton flinging himself down a flight of stairs or dangling from a speeding train.<br> <br> ince 1869, choreographers like <a href="http://www.abt.org/education/archive/choreographers/petipa_m.html" target="_blank">Marius Petipa</a>, have been staging classical ballet versions of the 17<sup>th</sup> century novel, <em>Don Quixote</em> by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. The title idealistic knight, best known for jousting with windmills, has long symbolized hope, despite the more cynical realities of life. Russian choreographer Boris Eifman, who fuses extreme ballet with avant-garde ideas, brings to Chicago his full-length ballet, <em><a href="http://www.auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/pages/home/performances-events/performances.php?event_id=296" target="_blank">Don Quixote, or Fantasies of a Mad Man</a>.</em> He reimagines the lead character as a patient in a psychiatric ward. This Don Quixote escapes his torment by pretending to live among the villagers celebrating the wedding of Kitri and Basil from Book Two of Cervantes’ novel. He and his patients wave their bed sheets as they alternate with matadors swinging their capes. It’s a soaring, discombobulating affair – complete with gravity-defying lifts and hyper-extended legs – to convey the enduring power of the imagination.<br> <br> Both Chicago Dance Crash and Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg infuse the classics with fresh and provocative life.</p><p>Chicago Dance Crash performs <em>The Trials of Busta Keaton</em> through May 1 at the <a href="http://www.theatreinchicago.com/theatredetail.php?theatreID=170" target="_blank">Hoover-Leppen Theatre</a> in Chicago.<br> <br> The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg will perform <em>Don Quixote, or Fantasies of a Madman</em> at <a href="http://auditoriumtheatre.org/wb/" target="_blank">Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre</a>.</p></p> Wed, 20 Apr 2011 14:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-20/two-dance-performances-give-classics-twist-85436