New Dances Captures Choreographer’s Vision | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

New Dances Captures Choreographer’s Vision

WBEZ July Dance: Thodos Dance Chicago – Segment One By Lucia Mauro

INTRO Even during auditions for Thodos Dance Chicago, dancers are told to bring to the table a strong desire to choreograph. More than vessels for one choreographer's vision, the ensemble members get to test their own movement composition skills. New Dances, a concert devoted to the dancers' original choreography, takes place July 17-19 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. WBEZ's dance critic Lucia Mauro previews the substantial offerings.

Artistic director Melissa Thodos says she was inspired to become a choreographer after being encouraged to create while a dancer with Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble. Now as the head of her own established contemporary dance troupe, Thodos Dance Chicago, she is a powerful mentor to scores of dancers looking for outlets to make dances rather than just perform in them. For the past eight years, Thodos has set aside a summer concert showcasing her eclectic ensemble's choreographic prowess. Eight dancers will premiere a range of work that Thodos has described as intense, contemplative and energetic. Guest choreographer Elijah Gibson, formerly of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, also debuts a lyrical new reflection on relationships.

Since its inception, New Dances has served as a constructive platform for aspiring dance makers. One choreographer's work was performed by the Joffrey Ballet, and others have had their dances accepted into the repertoire of Thodos Dance Chicago. One of this year's participants just made a name for herself as the winner of the $10,000 prize at The A.W.A.R.D. Show, a new choreographic competition held recently at the Dance Center of Columbia College.

For New Dances, Miller Tomlinson debuts “Architecture: Splintered and Cracked.” Obviously in love with moving bodies through space, she transforms the dancers into a wall of bodies traveling back and forth across the stage. As the dancers pass through, over and under the wall, their movement quality changes in dynamic and segues into complex partnering.

Also interested in spatial relationships is Dori Santarsiere. In “No Where, No When,” her dancers get visually tangled in an abstract universe that mirrors Albert Einstein's theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity. The dancers almost take on an alien eeriness as their bodies serve as the dynamic data for a physics experiment. Following another scientific theme, Jackie Stewart explores the detachment felt during our age of immense technological change. In “E-ffect,” the physically charged ensemble appears overwhelmed by the means of communication at their fingertips at the same time they struggle with connecting. To add to the starkness, they maneuver around poles topped with bare light bulbs.

Even choreographer Natalie Tursi, who holds a degree in design, rearranges her dancers on stage as if they are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Not surprisingly titled “Fitting Pieces,” her ensemble work plays with the idea of fitting bodies together then pulling them apart. Enter Justin Sears for some emotional release. In “Speak,” he uses circular patterns to come to terms with the many ways women have shaped his life. A series of abstract encounters suggest tension, love, separation and jealousy.

Though the program seems to tackle bleaker social and emotional states, Thodos does not call it a doomsday performance. There's an intensity to these works that no doubt reflect our uncertain times…and validate the curious minds of emerging dance makers.

Thodos Dance Chicago performs New Dances July 17-19 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street in Chicago. END

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