Preview of Dim Sum Dance and Dance for Life | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Preview of Dim Sum Dance and Dance for Life

Julie Mayo of Chicago's Dim Sum Dance tries to find non-linear ways to extract the performers' inner lives from the movement. That's the theme of her upcoming concert opening August 27 at the Hamlin Park Studio Theater. The artists participating in this weekend's Dance for Life, celebrate the extroverted side of dance while benefiting HIV/AIDS prevention and services. Eight Forty-Eight's dance critic, Lucia Mauro, gives us a taste of both events.

Dim Sum Dance

August 27 and 28
Hamlin Park Studio Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne.

Dance for Life
August 29
Harris Theater in Millennium Park

When she founded her contemporary troupe, Dim Sum Dance, in 2003, Julie Mayo chose a name that represented the way she constructs dances. Like the Chinese culinary tradition of dim sum, in which a variety of dishes make up a meal, her dances are built upon distinct parts that form a whole. Those parts can be gestures, movement phrases, vocalizations and sound scores. Together, they aim to reveal the dancers' interior lives.

Mayo's concert at the Hamlin Park Studio Theatre is titled Fever Drift, which also refers to her new dance trio. In it, three women move fiercely between independent roles and unity. They actually appeared to be three fragments of one individual struggling with how much to hold in and when to let go.

In Fever Drift, each dancer moves from long arched backs to wide squats and cautiously swiveling hips. In between bursts of vocal gibberish, they also strike unexpected poses, such as a swan with a broken wing or an arm wrapped around a leg like a crutch, and even a fanatical twinkling of the nose like Samantha on Bewitched.

In addition to Fever Drift, Dim Sum Dance will perform a new ensemble work and solo by Mayo, as well as a solo exploring the concept of expendability by guest artist Tiffany Rhynard.

Dim Sum Dance performs August 27 and 28 at the Hamlin Park Studio Theater, 3035 N. Hoyne.

Mayo may prefer small choreographic plates. The artists behind the 18th annual Dance for Life benefit concert favor an elaborate banquet of dance styles. The all-volunteer event, established by Keith Elliott features uplifting works performed by Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Joffrey Ballet, River North Chicago Dance Company, and Same Planet Different World. Proceeds from the concert on August 29 at the Harris Theater benefit a number of AIDS organizations, including the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Center on Halsted.

One of this year's highlights includes the Joffrey Ballet performing “Aria,” a male solo choreographed by San Francisco Ballet's Val Caniparoli. In it, the dancer performs with a white mask to musical selections from Handel's Baroque opera, Rinaldo. The mask essentially becomes another dancer in this seductive and emotionally wrenching meditation.

New to Dance for Life is a world premiere by popular Chicago choreographer Harrison McEldowney, who has a flair for retro comedy and exquisitely structured dance. He's assembled the ultimate fusion piece, set to Neil Diamond's multicultural recording, “Soolaimon.” The lyrics include African expressions for Hello and Goodbye. Joyous in nature, this rhythmic dance is a contemporary riff on folkloric styles. It combines the talents of Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, the classical Indian Natya Dance Theatre and Argentine tango. As if that weren't enough, McEldowney adds a flying element via the aerial dance troupe, C5, led by Jeremy Plummer. He calls the work “a celebration of new life.”

Much-admired Chicago choreographer Randy Duncan is on the same wavelength. Every year, he brings together dancers from the participating companies in a world-premiere Finale. His style is jazz dance with African and modern influences, punctuated by a strong spiritual component. The Finale is supposed to be a surprise. But without giving too much away, Duncan revealed that his choice of music is “Let It Be,” arranged by Chicago composer Andy Mitran. His message is loud and clear: the power of community support, love and moving on.

Dance for Life takes place August 29 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Both Dim Sum Dance and Dance for Life offer a feast for the eyes and ears, and for the human spirit.

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