Although many Dance Companies now present a program at some point in their year that features choreography by the members of the Company, very few have done so for as long, and perhaps none do so with as much commitment and creativity as Thodos Dance Chicago. Thodos Dance's New Dances Choreography Series, described by Time Out Chicago dance writer Matt de la Peña as "one of the best in-house choreographic showcases", is in its thirteenth season, and on Friday and Saturday, July 19-20 at 7:30 PM, and again on Sunday July 21 at 5:00 PM, the series will feature nine new works in performances at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago.
There are quite a few reasons why these programs are so uniquely effective. One of them is that Thodos Dance company members are hired as choreographers, not just as dancers. Because of Melissa Thodos' emphasis on the development of company members as choreographers, Thodos company members have the opportunity, and the experience, to put together a consistently eclectic and successful program, but that same emphasis on choreography among the dancers has another significant effect. New Dances is a uniquely collaborative phenomenon.
"I think the fact that everyone is friends changes the dynamic," Carrie Patterson observes. Patterson and Alissa Tollefson are premiering a new work entitled "Relativity", a dynamic showcase for five dancers, two of whom (John Cartwright and Kyle Hadenfeldt) are premiering works of their own at New Dances. "It's not like going into an environment where you don't ..." Patterson continues, and in a moment emblematic of the easy collaborative ethic of New Dances, Cartwright finishes her sentence: "Where you don't know anyone. It definitely is nice that we all come from the same Company," Cartwright continues, "and even though in this project, we do have an audition that's open to the the Chicago dance community, I think that in Chicago the dance community as a whole is very together and collective, so it still seems very much like the same community."
As challenging as it is to express an artistic vision, only slightly less difficult is trying to get anybody to pay attention when you do. One of the important artistic aspects of Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances series is that all of the best critical voices in the city take the time to see the works and write about them. Here's some of the coverage for New Dances 2011 -- enthusiastic, engaging, and like most criticism, multifaceted:
There's a well-known dance theater whose web site describes with pride -- and justifiably so --- how more than twenty new choreographic works have been commissioned by the space over fifteen or so years. An impressive accomplishment, considering the complexity and challenge of sponsoring and staging even a single new work. It puts into vivid perspective, though, the incredible achievement of the Thodos New Dances series, which in its eleventh year is approaching its one hundredth new work, many of which have gone on to achieve impressive success beyond the New Dances program.
The process that transmutes an idea from experimental to iconic is long and improbable, and a careful look through the program for the ever-more-impressive 2011 edition of New Dances gives some idea of what that process involves. It requires a substantial community of shared enthusiasm, working hard to make everything work successfully.
In a great article called Together With A Gift at 4dancers.org, Kimberly Peterson talks about the latin roots of the word "communiity", which comes from the latin words for "together" and "gift". New Dances 2011 is a community of more than forty dancers, ten choreographers, a distinguished advisor panel, the Thodos Dance Chicago staff and technical organizations, and several independent lighting, sound and costume designers. Over its eleven year history, New Dances has probably been the shared creation of four or five hundred artists, and now regularly performing to packed houses, in its various editions it has played to an audience several thousand people too large to fit in any dance theater. It's an astonishing achievement, of course in the multi-faceted success of nine different choreographic visions, but even more significantly, in the multidimensional gifts shared by the unique community that makes it happen.
The New Dances 2010 concerts at the Dance Center presented three nights of some of the most impressive new dance creation you could ask for. The combined creativity of the ten featured choreographers, expressed in the movement of an inspired cast of performers, and with the support of an exceptional production staff, made for a one-of-a-kind presentation. The reviews have been exceptional, with Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, and Hedy Weiss on Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times both writing strongly supportive pieces. Hedy Weiss opens with a great paragraph about the daunting challenges of dance creation in an article whose title described the show as "a rich threatrical work". She goes on to describe the presentation as "very thoughtful, richly theatrical work that often was downright virtuosic." Sid Smith described New Dances 2010 as a "worthy potpourri", and observes that "the production is slick, the technical trappings superb and the event is well worth replicating elsewhere". To read either review in full, click on either the Chicago Sun-Times or the Chicago Tribune. To read some of the aotpr.com series on the Choreography of New Dances, click on any of the links below:
Sharon Joyce Kung and "Just Before Now"
Brian Hare and "Temporary Proof"
Wade Schaaf and "Dancer, Net"
Jacqueline Stewart and "Jiffy Pop"
Joshua Manculich and "____versus____"
Danielle Scanlon and "Heart Strings"
Francisco Avina & Stephanie Martinez Bennitt and "Quieting the Clock"
Jeremy Blair and "2:00 AM, Delancy St."
Jessica Miller Tomlinson and "Big Technique"
Yutaka Fujita is a great lover of animals and enjoys making paintings that make people laugh. He has been painting for 15 years and currently resides with his wife Stacy, designing and making fine clothing in Chicago. There's a great article by him at the site of the CJAS about growing up in Japan, adapting to a new life in Chicago, and the development of his artistic vision. Here's a brief excerpt: "The first day I arrived in Chicago, our friend took me to College of DuPage and I enrolled in English as a Second Language classes for a half year. With a student visa, I took many classes including Fashion and Art. I found that I was good at Fashion Design. They taught me how to make patterns, drape, and draw to express the ideas in my head." In addition to many interesting observations about his artistic inspiration and process, the article includes a number of photos of his very broad range of work.
The New Dances 2010 Art Auction is live online at Thodos Dance Chicago, and will continue through the evenings of the performances. Thodos Dance Chicago’s NEW DANCES 2010 will be presented July 16 and 17 at 8PM and on Sunday July 18 at 5PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago 60605. (312) 369-8330.
Sharon Joyce Kung is a dancer/choreographer for Thodos Dance Chicago, who also has a passion for drawing. What started as doodles on scratch paper turned out to be the foundation for her artwork. Inspired by textures, patterns, shapes, lines and embellishments, her artwork is defined by structure and free-form movements in the space. “Minutiae: 3” consists of three 5 x 7 ink drawings on canvas, with each canvas portraying a different perspective of structure and movement. The New Dances 2010 Art Auction is live online at Thodos Dance Chicago, and will continue through the evenings of the performances. Thodos Dance Chicago’s NEW DANCES 2010 will be presented July 16 and 17 at 8PM and on Sunday July 18 at 5PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College.
Michael Zak was born and lived in Buffalo, New York until he moved to Chicago in 2004, where he practices video editing and pauperism. His photography varies in subject and is shot on35mm film, bringing interest and life to his beautiful work. Michael has a flair for shooting subjects in moments where they are at their most beautiful and personal.
Thodos Dance Chicago’s NEW DANCES 2010 will be presented July 16 and 17 at 8PM and on Sunday July 18 at 5PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago 60605. (312) 369-8330.
This year, there is a yet another artistic dimension to Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances in the New Dances Art Auction. The auction is live online at Thodos Dance Chicago, and will continue through the evenings of the performances. Thodos Dance Chicago’s NEW DANCES 2010 will be presented July 16 and 17 at 8PM and on Sunday July 18 at 5PM at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago 60605. (312) 369-8330. Here's a look at one of the artists, Jenny Fullerton, and her painting entitled "Acrylic Rose".
Jenny Fullerton, a native of Windber, Pennsylvania resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Zane and their new addition Chase Parker Fullerton. Jenny holds degrees in Art History from the University of Pittsburgh and in Wildlife Biology from Ohio State. Despite her busy schedule, she continues to freelance her creativity and art throughout the Columbus area. Her work, "Acrylic Rose" is a 16X20 original Acrylic painting on canvas.
Michael Li was born in China, and now resides in Irvine, California. In addition to his work in photography, he runs his own automotive wheel business, DPE Wheels, a brand that reaches all corners of the world, from Australia to Asia to Europe, not to mention a good following in the windy city. This allows him ample opportunity to pursue other creative endeavors, including his work as an independent photographer. Although none of Li's work in wheels is a part of the Thodos Dance Chicago New Dances 2010 Art Auction some of the aotpr.com staff is from Detroit, so as far as aotpr.com is concerned, wheels are definitely art. (Which explains why there's a link to DPE WHEELS in the aotpr.com series on the New Dances Art Auction.)
Michael's photograph, entitled "Bian Zhong - Hung in a memorial park in my home town Wuhan, China", is an 8X10 black and white lustre high quality photo mounted on white matte board with a 11X17 black frame. Li describes the subject of this work, which is an especially apt choice for his support of New Dances, like this: "The Bian Zhong is a classical Chinese musical instrument that has been a part of our culture for thousands of years. A set of the bell ensemble can be up to sixty-five individual pieces ranging in size anywhere from eight inches to five feet tall, and can weigh over five tons. This picture captures ONE bell from a unique perspective."
Diane Thodos is a painter and printmaker who lives in Evanston, Illinois. She received her BFA from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University in 1985 and her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1989.
In 1984 Thodos studied printmaking in Paris under Stanley William Hayter. Working at Hayter’s Atelier 17, Thodos completed important experiments using automatism, similar to those performed by Jackson Pollock in the mid 1940’s. This Abstract Expressionist method provided the basis for Thodos’ use of spontaneous lines and shapes to energize subconscious imagery.
Thodos was inspired by the powerful graphic techniques of the German Expressionists (1906 – 1932) after meeting Marcia and Granvil Specks in 1992. Over the course of two decades, she was allowed to view their collection of over 450 prints and absorbed the ideas these artists demonstrated in lithography, etching, and woodblock prints. Thodos focused on the Expressionists’ innovation of “painterly” techniques through which they created innovative traditional print processes used in biting etching plates, cutting woodblocks, and print making.