Dance rings in 2020 with experimentation, provocation and a lot of works-in-progress

There was barely enough time to clink flutes and ring in 2020 before several Chicago dance artists found themselves in final rehearsals and performances kicking off the winter dance season in earnest. With Nutcrackers a thing of the past, experimentation is on tap this January. 

Steppenwolf’s movement-centric winter LookOut series is already underway again, with upcoming performances by Auri CuriAtlas, a physical theater troupe that tells wordless stories with dance, acrobatics and gestures, and Spektral Quartet (both recently previewed here by senior writer Lynn Shapiro), as well as interdisciplinary artist Nikki Lynette in an autobiographical one-woman show, and Nora Sharp’s pick-up group in a longer version of “Family Reunion,” a musing first developed as a New Works commission for Synapse Arts.

Links Hall is once again alive with activity, with several opportunities to see works in progress throughout the season. This month, summer Co-Mission fellows Kelly Anderson, Dedrick Gray and Marceia Scruggs, Corinne Imberski and Zach Nicol show the latest versions of their projects on Jan. 29, and tomorrow, DePaul MFA actor Anthony Sims presents portions of an ongoing piece about turning points in Black American history. On Jan. 24, the Dance Center offers a sneak peek into Lucky Plush Productions’ newest work, as part of the venue’s first-ever round of commissioned artist residencies. Without much intel as to what you might see at each of these in-progress showings, January requires an adventurous spirit that trusts the track record of these artists to produce reliably engaging and intriguing works. 

Speaking of the Dance Center, the 2019-20 presenting series picks back up Jan. 30-Feb. 1 with the Chicago debut of Kimberly Bartosik. In “I Hunger for You,” Bartosik’s stellar cast exhibits various physical manifestations of faith, as seen in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity and other ritualistic religious practices. I honestly can’t wait to see this, and also anxiously await Ligia Lewis in the third of her triptych of works called “Blue, Red, White” at the Museum of Contemporary Art the same weekend. In this, the “white” portion called “Water Will (in melody),” text; monochromatic lighting and costumes; and staccato, distorted dancing culminate Lewis’s study on the American flag. It’s not patriotic in the typical sense; rather, Lewis draws from an obscure Brothers Grimm tale to explore free will and agency in a country which, against a backdrop of white supremacy and social immobility, still touts “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” American exceptionalism.

An aside: See Chicago Dance just announced the open call for applications seeking our first cohort of critical writing fellows. The organizational and editorial arms of SCD, with our board, have been working together over the last few years to organize a mentorship program as a response to the need for more voices and innovation in dance criticism. It is our hope that this fellowship will create opportunities for a diverse group of new or underpublished writers to learn about the field and potentially punch up our team of critics. Applications are due Feb. 29.

More dance events in January: