February is jam-packed with a roster of exciting and varied dance events, with the blurring of genre lines as modern meets tradition. The Shen Yun Show highlights ancient Chinese tradition at the Harris Theater, while challenging programming from The Joffrey Ballet's "Game Changers" sends us to the cutting edge in contemporary ballet at the Auditorium Theatre. Kick the winter blahs, get out of the house, and See Chicago Dance!
Here are six February highlights on the dance calendar in Chicago:
"The Cunningham Event" // At Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art shines a spotlight on Merce Cunningham's innovation in the use of music and visual art, found movement and chance in performance events and an exhibit. Cunningham's ground-breaking ideas have become a legacy in the development of 20th-century modern dance.
See how this bold-thinking choreographer stunned the dance world and influenced dance makers across the spectrum of contemporary concert dance at the MCA's "The Cunningham Event," a series of short performances by former Cunningham company members, along with Ballet de Lorraine's concert featuring seminal works by Merce Cunningham.
Drawing from key works that span six decades of original choreography, former dancers of the remarkable Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform Cunningham's signature approach to dance in nonconventional spaces. Presented in the fourth-floor lobby, it is an experience of unmitigated Cunningham genius at full strength. Event is performed twice each day during gallery hours (with limited capacity) and lasts about 30 minutes.
FREE WITH MUSEUM ADMISSION
"Music for Merce" // At Museum of Contemporary Art
An additional program, "Music for Merce," will take place on the MCA stage. Merce Cunningham and John Cage, partners in life and art, defied expectations of how to do things. Their restless explorations not only revolutionized their individual fields, they also changed the relation of music and dance. Instead of dance moving to music, they created both elements separately and brought them together at the performance—fundamentally changing the nature of how we experience performance.
As Cage wrote in a program note for an early Cunningham performance, this is art that doesn't "say" something, but rather simply "presents" activity.
"Music for Merce" features an all-star cast of former Cunningham collaborators convened by guest curator John King. These major figures include David Behrman, Joan La Barbara, Fast Forward, George Lewis, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Quinta, Phil Selway, and Christian Wolff. Presented in conjunction with Merce Cunningham: Common Time.
220 E. Chicago Avenue
The Shen Yun Show 2017 // At Harris Theater
The Shen Yun Show 2017 combines musical theater, ballroom dance, ballet, aerial dance, circus arts and culturally specific dance in a unique program depicting ancient Chinese culture. In ancient times, China was known as the Land of the Divine. Everyone, from emperors to the common people, believed that their culture was a gift from heaven. They lived in harmony with the universe and saw a connection among all things. Traditional Chinese culture carried these principles for thousands of years—until this world was lost.
But in 2006, a group of elite Chinese artists came together in New York with a mission—to revive traditional culture and share it with the world. They created Shen Yun and brought this majestic culture back from the brink of extinction.
Pushing the boundaries of performing arts, the producers of the Shen Yun Show combine ancient legends with technological innovations, and historically authentic costumes with breathtaking animated backdrops. They let classical Chinese dance do the storytelling, sharing beautifully diverse ethnic and folk traditions. Filled with an enchanting orchestral sound, this is a mesmerizing experience you won't find anywhere else.
205 E. Randolph Street
Ballet de Lorraine Performing "Sounddance" // At Museum of Contemporary Art
Making their first-ever tour to the United States, CCN Ballet de Lorraine is one of the most important companies working in Europe. They open the spring season with three works on the MCA Stage, presented in conjunction with The Dance Center of Columbia College. "Sounddance" (1975) is one of Cunningham's most beloved pieces. Created in opposition to the uniformity and unison of classical ballet, the work is fast and vigorous, driven by a powerful score by musician-composer David Tudor.
Inspired by the 64 hexagrams in the I ching, Cunningham created "Fabrications" (1987) by combining 64 dance phrases to form a deeper interconnected whole. The multidisciplinary collaboration features live music by the original composer Emanual Dimas de Melo Pimenta, and striking visual design by artist Dove Bradshaw.
"Untitled Partner #3" was created by Ballet de Lorraine's artistic director, Petter Jacobsson, and the company's rehearsal director and coordinator of research Thomas Caley (Merce Cunningham Dance Company 1993–2000).
1306 S. Michigan Avenue
The Joffrey Ballet's "Game Changers" // At Auditorium Theatre
"Game Changers" brings abstract works by three cutting-edge contemporary ballet choreographers.
Christopher Wheeldon's "Fool's Paradise," set to the changing moods of Joby Talbot's music, is an abstract work that explores the intensity of emotional connections in solos, duets, and trios.
Wayne McGregor's "INFRA," set to the music of Max Richter, is all about seeing below the surface of things, what is inferred rather than obliquely spelled out.
Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit," is a musically driven piece, with an electronic song cycle by composer Sufjan Stevens. Energetic and jazzy with an urban hip feel, "Rabbit" was Peck's first truly public work, created for the New York City Ballet, for which he is both a dancer and resident choreographer.
50 E. Congress Parkway
The Cambrians Performing "Empress Archer" // At Old Town School of Folk Music
You can always count on something new and different from the Cambrians. "Empress Archer," produced by the Cambrians founder Benjamin Holliday Wardell, is an international dance collaboration created by the Cambrians, featuring dancers Ariel Freedman and Meredith Webster. These two performers spent the last 18 months creating duets with a dozen choreographers from across the globe. Now they're coming to Chicago to work with dancer and director Benjamin Wardell to mix these diverse duets into an evening-length performance.
The performance centers on the relationship these two artists have built over their time working together. This intimate portrait of their friendship manages to be both goofy and serene and, at times, downright feral. As always, the Cambrians puts the audience in the middle of the action, bringing you up close and personal with some truly world class dance.
4545 N. Lincoln Avenue
This feature is brought to you by SeeChicagoDance.com, the definitive guide to Chicago's dance scene and your source for a full calendar of performances in the city. Read about all the February dance highlights at SeeChicagoDance.com.