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spring dance collage

Spring dance groups (from left) bringing new and innovative works to Chicago include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Hiplet Ballerinas of the Chicago Multicultural Dance Company, Visceral Dance Chicago and (center) the Seldoms.

Photos courtesy of TROUPE1 (Danica Paulos, courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow); TROUPE2 (Brittany Sowacke for WBEZ); TROUPE3 (Andrew Glatt); TROUPE4 (KT Miller); TROUPE 5 (Jim McNulty); and TROUPE 6 (Todd Ronsenberg). Photo illustration by Mendy Kong

Nine great ways to see the best of Chicago dance this spring

Audiences are up for grabs right now, and dance companies know it. So they are putting their best foot forward, literally, with world premieres, bright multimedia presentations and dances that tackle thought-provoking themes.

As part of our weeklong spring culture guide (find our picks for music here; theater, flowers and art are coming later in the week), here are nine of our picks for the season. This is not an exhaustive list, but is intended to focus on the most interesting offerings from now through May.

Among them: the stage version of a groundbreaking dance film that disrupts the typically male-female pas de deux trope (American Ballet Theatre, April 14-16). A moodier, more melodramatic Little Mermaid (The Joffrey, April 19-30). And exciting premieres from contemporary Chicago dancemakers such as the Seldoms (June 1) and Visceral (April 28) that show just how intriguing new work from the Midwest can be.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Series: Elements

Hubbard Street Elements dancers

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in ‘BUSK’ by Aszure Barton.

Courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow

When: March 23 through April 2

Where: Museum Contemporary Art Chicago

The spring showcase from Chicago’s internationally reputed contemporary company is again a big draw, with a mix of repertory favorites and world premiere choreography from some of the leading dancemakers working today. Coming off a few rocky years that saw the company sell its West Loop headquarters, Hubbard Street seems to have found a new stride, with a new resident artist (Aszure Barton), a new address (in Water Tower of all places) and a buzzy lineup that already means some sell-out nights. Expect new works from Thang Dao and Hope Boykin; a company premiere of a work by Chicago-born choreographer Lar Lubovitch; and work by Barton.

Info: Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 200 E. Chicago Ave. Tickets are $15 to $95.

Flock & Artists: Somewhere Between

When: March 23 to 25

Where: The Dance Center Columbia College Chicago

Choreographers Alice Klock and Florian Lochner met as dancers at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and have toured worldwide since their departure, creating dances for other companies. Their contemporary style is rooted in complex partnering that always seems a little surprising — wait, bodies can move in tandem that way? The pair can be mesmerizing to watch when performing on stage. A post-show discussion follows the opening on March 23.

Info: Dance Center Columbia, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $15 for faculty and $10 for students.

Sans Pareil: Black Legacy Dance Project

hiplet performance

Hiplet ballerinas practicing for a performance.

Brittany Sowacke for WBEZ

When: March 25 and 26

Where: Logan Center for the Arts

Probably the best bang for the buck when it comes to dance this spring: This evening of Black-led dance will showcase a wealth of talent and movement styles, including two styles rooted in Chicago — footwork and the ballet-hip-hop fusion called “Hiplet.” The six companies featured on the bill — Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center & Hiplet Ballerinas, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Forward Momentum Chicago, Joel Hall Dancers & Center, Najwa Dance Corps and Muntu Dance Theatreare each a superb ticket individually. Together, they showcase a rich ecosystem of dance in Chicago that often gets overlooked by the coasts.

Info: Performances are at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St. Tickets are $10 (students, seniors) and $25 (general).

American Ballet Theatre

João Menegussi and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Rudd’s Touché.

Calvin Royal III and João Menegussi in Christopher Rudd’s Touché.

Photography by Rosalie O’Connor/Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

When: April 14 to 16

Where: Auditorium Theatre

Two things to know: The New York company is touring again post-pandemic, and some of its principal dancers — notably Calvin Royal III and Isabella Boylston — dominate dance Instagram and are as luminous in the social media world as they are onstage. The company is bringing a mixed repertory bill to Chicago. What stands out is Christopher Rudd’s Touche, a 10-minute duet that explores male love and started off as a dance film when COVID-19 closed stages. On April 15 after the 7:30 p.m. performance, ABT will host a “Pride Night” panel discussion about Touche, moderated by Zachary Whittenburg, at the nearby Gage Gallery. The program will feature Rudd, Royal and corps member João Menegussi and is free to ticket holders for that evening’s performance. An advance RSVP is requested.

Info: At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive. Tickets from $48.

Little Mermaid

This season is the first time Joffrey Ballet will present ‘The Little Mermaid.’

Courtesy of Kiran West

Joffrey Ballet presents The Little Mermaid

When: April 19 to 30Where: Lyric Opera Chicago

Note to parents: This is not the saccharine Disney take on the story of a mermaid caught between her family in the sea and a love interest on shore. Choreographed by Milwaukee native, Europe-based dancemaker John Neumeier, the ballet hews more closely to the tragic Hans Christian Andersen fable. Described as “beautifully haunting,” the ballet has made the rounds internationally, but this is the first time it is being performed by Chicago’s top-flight classical company.

Info: Performances will be at the Lyric Opera Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Drive. Tickets start from $36.

Visceral presents SpringTEN

When: April 28

Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance

Celebrating the company’s 10th birthday, Visceral has carved out its own respected space in the city’s contemporary scene as a training studio, performance company and as a showcase for a growing list of budding, international choreographers. The 10th anniversary show, which is one night only, will feature a decade of favorites from the company repertoire – most notably, Ruff Celts by Irish-born choreographer Marguerite Donlon and a new work by founder Nick Pupillo, whose athletic dancemaking always gets the audience’s blood pumping.

Info: At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets from $18.

Ruff Celts

Irish-born choreographer Marguerite Donlon’s ‘Ruff Celts’ will be part of Visceral’s 10th anniversary show.

Courtesy of Visceral

Alonzo King LINES presents Deep River

When: May 5 and 6

Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance

San Francisco choreographer Alonzo King is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his contemporary dance company with a new commission that pairs his technically gifted dancers with Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Lisa Fischer, who will perform onstage. King, the son of civil rights activists in Albany, Georgia, has always viewed dance as “thought made visible.” For the Chicago series, King will debut a collaboration with Fischer and jazz pianist Jason Moran. As the world thaws from a pandemic, what thoughts the trio make visible onstage will surely leave audiences with plenty to ponder. A bonus: The company will stage a family matinee on May 6.

Info: At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets from $35.

TERRANEA: hakawati of the sea by Body Watani

All week long, WBEZ is curating lists of the best of spring culture in the Chicago area.

When: May 12

Where: Links Hall

Water is a recurring theme in dance; after all, it’s fluid like contemporary dance shapes, and bodies of water can both sustain communities and divide. The Mediterranean Sea, migration and the contemporary spirit of Terranea — who gathers lost souls, according to the lore — inspire this evening of movement, music and oral history that is the brainchild of Palestinian American choreographer Leila Awadallah. Awadallah, who divides time between Minneapolis and Beirut, works at the intersection of movement, politics and social justice. This project started as a residency through the Arab American National Museum in Michigan and will be performed there first, in April, before coming to Chicago’s experimental dance venue Links Hall.

Info: At Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave. Tickets from $16.

The Seldoms Superbloom

Superbloom dance

‘Superbloom’ is a daring take on a wildflower superbloom.

Courtesy of Andrew Glatt

When: June 1

Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance

The contemporary troupe uses movement and multimedia to take on big social themes, such as power, the economy and climate change. The Seldoms even sometimes pop up in a location antithetical to dance — they once performed in an empty swimming pool. But for the June 1 premiere, they will fill the stage of a more traditional venue — the Harris — with a bold, visual take on a wildflower superbloom.

Info: Performance at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.

Cassie Walker Burke is WBEZ’s external editor. Follow her @cassiechicago.

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