Lucia Mauro Previews March Dance Performances | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Lucia Mauro Previews March Dance Performances

Many dance companies tend to specialize in one main style, whether it's ballet, jazz or contemporary. But NoMi LaMad celebrates them all. When the Chicago dance troupe – headed by Madeline Renwick and Laura Kariotis – debuted last year, audiences saw an explosion of many movement styles, from an ensemble tango to ballerinas on pointe. The group combines high entertainment with eclectic dances that test the limits of the body. For its spring concert this month, NoMi LaMad has assembled an impressive group of local choreographers who have performed with well-known companies, like Joffrey, Hubbard Street, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and River North Chicago Dance.

Instead of just focusing on eclectic movement, this show features all world premieres that tell stories – mostly about relationships. Lizzie Mackenzie has created a series of lyrical jazz-based duets, called “Altered Interactions.” Each partnership in the piece symbolizes a facet of her life: Loving relationships, antagonistic ones, and those are – at times – strained or joyful.

Paul Christiano, a psychologically intense modern dancer-choreographer with a gymnastics background, pairs extreme athleticism with intricate partnering in the full ensemble dance, “Athena's Abacus.” It was inspired by a simple moment. Paul noticed a little girl asleep in the theater and created in movement what he imagined she might be dreaming. It's an emotionally charged, non-linear dance that takes as its structure an abacus. The dancers take on a similar symmetry, but evoke a combined propulsive and dreamlike aura.

High-energy modern choreographer Elijah Gibson comments on our relationship to our stressful environments. In “I Had to Stop,” the dancers perform non-stop in complete unison for seven minutes. They're more a block of movement than individuals. The music alternates between underlying sound and silence, to suggest that the dancers are detached from each other and possibly plugged into invisible iPods. Then the dancers come crashing down in a stunning blink of stillness.

They rise again through Albanian-born choreographer Altin Naska's all-female quartet, “His Four Muses.” Each woman performs strong or delicately sensual movements in pointe shoes, but with a poetic contemporary flare. The original score, by Lili Wosko and Thomas Faulds, hints of the Middle East, while the women vaguely suggest mythic Greek muses – similar to George Balanchine's famous “Apollo” ballet.

Co-artistic directors Madeline Renwick and Laura Kariotis wrap up the performance with a group samba ?? part of their ongoing passion for incorporating Latin ballroom styles into contemporary concert dance. The Afro-Caribbean music propels the dancers into a raucous Brazilian Carneval street party.

As you can hear, the dances run the gamut and will certainly keep you entertained. NoMi LaMad performs March 13 and 14 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn.

Way back in the late 19th and early 20th century – long before NoMi LaMad's artists began experimenting with a vast range of dance styles – Loie Fuller made revolutionary strides in theatrical dance and high-tech stagecraft. I like to call Fuller a chemist-choreographer because she devised patents for stage lighting and gels that allowed for magical special effects. Combined with movement, her dynamic lighting designs made her something of a Steven Spielberg of her day. Fuller herself can be seen flapping her arms inside Thomas Edison's earliest projecting kinetoscope.

She grew up in and around Hinsdale, Illinois, but spent most of her creative years performing in Paris, reaching rock-star popularity with her evocations of fire, flowers and even a star-filled night sky.

Now local audiences will have the rare opportunity to see reconstructions of three of Fuller's dances – really kaleidoscopes of flowing fabric, light and color. Stephanie Clemens, artistic director of Momenta Performing Arts Company, has devoted many years to historic reconstructions of early modern-dance pioneers, from Isadora Duncan to Doris Humphrey. Performances this month reflect Stephanie's ongoing relationship with Loie Fuller scholars Jessica Lindberg and Megan Slayter, who recreated Fuller's “Fire Dance,” “Lily of the Nile” and “Night” based on the musical scores, written descriptions, engravings and sculptures.

Fire Dance is a one-woman opera of light in which the soloist manipulates bolts of fabric as she stands on a mirror. Revolving red and orange lights bounce off the fabric to give the effect of the dancer becoming engulfed in flames. "Lily of the Nile" is more delicate – the soloist swirls one hundred yards of silk into the sensual shapes of flowers. And "Night" transforms the dancer into a glittering night sky filled with a galaxy of stars. The piece ends with a spectacular pink-orange dawn. Stephanie Clemens calls Fuller's dances visually stunning and highly theatrical. She invites audiences to watch them and absorb them in a state of total bliss.

Momenta performs Loie Fuller's historic dances, as well as other works, March 14 and 15 in the Doris Humphrey Memorial Theatre at the Academy of Movement and Music, 605 Lake Street in Oak Park.

Audiences will no doubt leave both concerts rejuvenated at the limitless possibilities of movement, storytelling and optical illusions.

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