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30 Hours of Dance to Celebrate 30 Years at Links Hall

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It may be located in the heart of Chicago's Cubs Land, but the Wrigleyville-based Links Hall exists firmly outside the boundaries of sports. It's a fertile haven for avant-garde dancer-choreographers, musicians and performance artists. For its 30th anniversary, Links Hall will unite artists from across the generations in a 30-hour marathon concert this Friday. Dance Critic Lucia Mauro fills us in.

The Links Hall 30th Anniversary Celebration
Links Hall
Friday, October 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Links Hall had a pretty informal start. A “For Rent” sign on the vintage building caught the eye of a friend of experimental dancer-improvisers Bob Eisen, Charlie Vernon and Carol Bobrow. This unconventional trio founded the beloved rehearsal, teaching and performance space by signing a lease for $250 a month back in 1979. Links Hall followed on the heels of 1960's post-modern dancers, who hosted unpredictable showcases. Happenings, as they were called, occurred in lofts rather than in traditional theaters. Charlie Vernon recalls being influenced by iconoclastic composer John Cage, who believed that ambient sound was a legitimate component of music.

And Links Hall, located along the L tracks and above a bar, certainly has its fill of outside noise. The inventive performers welcome the unexpected sounds of trains, sirens, even street brawls into their shows. But, more importantly, the affordable space has united creators from a range of disciplines and given them the freedom to take risks and find their socially conscience artistic voices.

Here's a sampling of artists across the generations performing in the 30th anniversary marathon.

Shirley Mordine and Nana Shineflug were among the earliest choreographers to benefit from Links Hall's intimate setting. Mordine, who heads the multifaceted Mordine and Company Dance Theater, will present her duet, titled “New Ground,” for two women. The dancers interact with designer John Boesche's projections and a live video feed.

Nana Shineflug, founder of the post-modern Chicago Moving Company, will dance a series of excerpts from three of her solos. Chaos theory and subconscious motivation form the basis of her personal, spiritual and generally indefinable choreography, including the poetically titled “A Heart, Three Trees and a Brown Dress.”

Independent dancer-choreographer Asimina Chremos, who arrived in Chicago in the mid-1990s, will perform her ongoing and ever-changing improvisational solos that combine her classical training with spontaneous movement impulses. She's a graceful and fluid mover, who also fills the space with edgy, satiric and assertive twists. Jyl Fehrenkamp, a wry dancer-comedienne, has distinguished herself as hostess of Links Hall's eclectic Poonies Cabaret, a popular variety show rooted in gender and sexual identity. As her alter ego, Jyldo, she will dance and sing her way through her obsession with the original “Star Wars”. Against the music of Phil Collins' “Throwin' It All Away,” she castigates George Lucas for his excessive approach to his later “Star Wars Trilogy.”

Also opting for the retro route is emerging choreographer Erin Carlisle Norton of The Moving Architects. Her all-female quartet, titled “The New,” was inspired by the AMC TV series, “Man Men.” Set to early 1960s surf rock, including the Beach Boys, her dance suggests the extremes of a tumultuous era alongside a pop culture that promoted fun and oblivion. This idea is achieved through dangerous renditions of the Twist and a severely angular section in which the dancers get pulled out of their whimsical comfort zones.

At 30, Links Hall continues to inspire. New director Roell Schmidt sums up its appeal when she says that Links Hall “could serve as the venue for the biggest performance of one's career or simply be a small stepping stone. But both are equally valued.” 
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