East Hampton Star

Accompanying this titillating and often disturbing history lesson are Bruce Wolosoff's lilting "Songs Without Words," a beautiful and melodic composition gorgeously played live here by the Carpe Diem String Quartet.

— Joe Stead. Chicago Stage Style

Dancers are the perfect fusion of artist and athlete. I state this with a certain amount of awe and envy since I myself can barely walk and chew gum at the same time. The dozen dancers who are currently showcased by Thodos Dance Chicago may not reflect much diversity, but they are all lean, beautiful, powerful and agile young specimens of physical perfection. In its 2011 Winter Recital, the company members of Thodos Dance Chicago take us on a thrilling journey of what is possible in contemporary dance. As debuted February 19 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, the first half of the program is an hour-long story ballet co-choreographed by founder Melissa Thodos and Tony Award winner Ann Reinking, while the second half of the bill is given over to four shorter abstract pieces that celebrate pure movement.

Thanks to her association with the Kander & Ebb musical "Chicago," Reinking is a natural for "The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893," and you'll note several of Reinking's signature jazz moves here too, particularly in "The People's Mayor". "The White City" of the title incidentally refers to the Columbian Exposition's brilliant white buildings and palatial Greco-Roman construction. It's a fascinating piece that charts the explosion of progress and underlying violence in the fastest growing city in the world near the turn of the 20th century. This dark and riveting multi-media performance brings back to life Chicago's popular and charismatic Mayor Carter Henry Harrison and his sociopath assassin Patrick Eugene Predergast, as well as architects John Root and Sophie Hayden (the first female architect educated in the United States) and serial killer H.H.

Holmes, who lured some 200 unsuspecting women to his "Murder Hotel" labyrinth. Reinking and Thodos, complimented by Chris Olsen's film design and production, portray these stories through 13 movements that contrast the light and dark side of human nature, ambition, progress and evil.

We see the sinister Holmes (Brian Hare) stalking his innocent and pretty young prey (Jessica Miller Thomlinson) and watch both her agonizing death and her ghost's return to turn the tables on her predator. We likewise see the immigrant laborer Predergast (Joshua Manculich) stalking and eventually murdering Mayor Harrison (towering Wade Schaaf) while a projected candle slowly flickers out. Accompanying this titillating and often disturbing history lesson are Bruce Wolosoff's lilting "Songs Without Words," a beautiful and melodic composition gorgeously played live here by the Carpe Diem String Quartet.

Contrasting the dark and disturbed undercurrent of "The White City" is the joyfully playful "Getting There" by Melissa Thodos, and the vigorously exuberant and jaunty "Shift" by Ron De Jesus, both highlights of the evening's second half. In the former, Thodos has three dancers (Brian Hare, Sharon Joyce Kung and Danielle Scanlon) playing with and melding themselves to a large cylindrical wheel, matching the almost magical ellipse with precise and graceful movement. The jubilant World Premiere of "Shift" once again showcases the entire company in all its glory, with light playing off of the men's muscled torsos like sculpted marble. A lively upbeat soundtrack provides Choreographer De Jesus with all the opportunity he needs to explore the sinewy possibilities of his dancers' beautiful bodies in motion.

Also on the bill are "Dancer, Net," a solo for dancer Jackie Stewart dressed in a flowing formal gown that all but traps her legs and feet (an ironic touch in a dance concert), and "Quieting the Clock," an expressionist interpretive company dance choreographed by Francisco Avina and Stephanie Martinez Bennitt. The latter piece left me a bit cold, but then that is the beauty of a mixed bill concert such as this that gives the viewers a neat and tasty sampling of various styles and dance artistry. There will be one more opportunity to sample the Thodos artistry on March 4 at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance in Chicago's Millennium Park. Contemporary dance fans won't want to miss it.

Click here for: PDF Version
Click here to return to: Reviews

Click here to:  Contact Us

© Bruce Wolosoff, 2012. All rights reserved.

Photography: Christian Scheider

Web Site Design:  Elizabeth K Studio