Thodos Dance Chicago’s 16th Annual “New Dances”, an exhilarating smorgasbord of contemporary dance performed on the main stage at the Athenaeum, featured nine world premier works by nine talented young choreographers. Thodos has a long-standing tradition of encouraging company members to stretch their wings and become choreographers, launching more than 75 company members into successful choreographic careers. In fact, Founder and Artistic Director, Melissa Thodos, introduced two highly successful alumni, Jeremy Blair and Brock Clawson, before the performance.
The program opened with “Uncovering”, a beautiful work choreographed by Briana Robinson to “Zavodovski Island”, “All the Piece Matter” and “Cittagazze” by Portico Quartet. Dancers: Caitrin Bellavance, Kristi Licera, Richard Peña and Brennen Renteria
I was happy to see Briana’s name in the program, as I first wrote about her in a 2009 column, then again in my review of another Thodos performance, “Chicago Inspired”, last year. Here’s what I wrote then:
“As I read the program, I discovered that Briana Robinson is from Gary. Her name seemed so familiar, I thought I must have written something about her. Sure enough, when I checked, I found this paragraph about Briana in my NWI Times column, TheatreScene, right after her high school graduation, in 2009.
After I saw a recent performance by some of the students from South Shore Dance Alliance, I learned that one of the dancers, Briana Robinson, an Emerson School graduate, has been accepted into the Julliard School. Out of the thousands of dance students auditioning for 24 spots, Briana is one of just twelve girls accepted into the freshman class. Maybe we’ll see her up on the Broadway stage someday!”
Since her graduation from Julliard, Briana danced in a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Brooklyn, New York, and performed in the Emerging Choreographers Showcase here in Chicago before joining Thodos. She also returns to South Shore Dance Alliance frequently to teach master classes. Kudos Briana!
“Residue”, choreographed by Alex Gordon, was done in three sections, to “Faces by Armand Amar, “The Hidden Church” by Armand Amar, and “Dirty Hands” by Bear McCreary. Dancers: John Cartwright, Thomas Jacobson, Katy Kowalski, Jordan Mercer, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Ela Olarte and Luis Vazquez.
One of my favorites was “Sunrise” choreographed by Shannon Alvis to “Sunrise on a Clear Day” by Ezio Bosso, and danced by CJ Burroughs, Abby Ellison, Alex Gordon, Thomas Jacobson, Briana Robinson and Luis Vazquez.
Another favorite was the riff on a cooking show, “Show A Little Taste”, choreographed by Hattie Haggard to “Cantina Band” by John Williams, “Trololo Song” by Mr. Trololo (Eduard Khil), “Guilty” by George Shearing, and “J’y suis jamais allé” by Yann Tiersen. Dancers included CJ Burroughs, John Cartwright, Tenley Dorrill, Hattie Haggard, Thomas Jacobson, Kristi Licera, Michael McDonald, Shelby Moran, Brennen Renteria and Owen Scarlett.
Denim clad dancers leapt around the stage in “On The Greener Side” choreographed by Brennen Renteria to atonal music by Diplo and Connor Eck. Dancers: John Cartwright, Marissa DeBenedictis, Kristi Licera, Shelby Moran, Ela Olarte, Sydney Pangman, Richard Peña and Briana Robinson.
“Everywhere But Here” was choreographed by Abby Ellison to “It goes without saying” by Nico Muhly and “Century Rolls. I. First movement” by John Adams. Dancers: CJ Burroughs, Hattie Haggard, Kristi Licera, Richard Peña, Briana Robinson and Luis Vazquez.
The final dance of the night, “Mambo Clap Wozam Slap” choreographed by Tenley Dorrill to Tribe Called Quest, Fela Kuti, Mos Def and Mulatu Astake, brought down the house. Dancers: Tenley Dorrill, Abby Ellison, Hattie Haggard, Thomas Jacobson, Michael McDonald, Kelsey Middleton, Taylor Mitchell, Shelby Moran, Owen Scarlett and Emily Walen.
It’s not often that I get to see such a dazzling display of talent. Some I loved, some I didn’t, but the evening was a joy! If you have the chance to see a performance by Thodos Dance Chicago, do! I give “New Dances” 4 big Spotlights.
To learn more about this company and upcoming productions, call 312-266-6255 or visit www.thodosdancechicago.org