Modern Women at The Chicago Dancing Festival Review – Then and Now

The Chicago Dancing Festival is a wonderful gift from the city offered to anyone interested in seeing dance and it is free!  I was especially drawn to the performance that honored Modern Women dancers and their influence on the dance world.  My interest in this particular night was heightened when I heard Kelly Kleiman on WDCB say this was a night not to be missed. I have had some experience with modern dance and wanted to see how this would be presented.


Modern Women took place on the second night of the festival and there were two performances at the MCA, the perfect setting.  The auditorium was filled with a quiet, focused, attentive audience.  Between the dance numbers, old photos of dancers who created this dance movement were projected on a large screen and then the dance company that is currently carrying the torch and continuing the work of these dancers shared their talents. This was the first time an entire evening is devoted to “Modern Women,” featuring works created by lauded and renowned female choreographers from across the nation.


Valse Brillante


The Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company from New York, opened the program with Valse Brillante This piece was created by Isadora Duncan in 1915 and was staged this evening by Lori Belilove to the music of Fredic Chopin, Waltz in A flat, Op34, no 1 accompanied by pianist Matthew Martin Ward. This was a charming piece and a pleasant beginning to the program.  The costumes were light and lovely as was the music and the dance movements.



Deep Song

The Martha Graham Dance Company is also located in New York and has been a popular participant in the festival in past years.  Choreographed and performed by Martha Graham in 1937, Deep Song was performed this eveningby Blakeley White McGuire to music by Henry Cowell. The powerful movements in this solo were an expression of Graham’s fears of a world torn apart by man’s inhumanity to man, how current!  The costume, designed by Martha Graham, was particularly effective, enhancing the movement.




The Kate Weare Company website says, ”Kate Weare Company is an New York-based contemporary dance company known for its startling combination of formal choreographic values and visceral, emotional interpretation.” In the excerpt the company performed from Unstruck, toan originalscore with costumes by Brooke Cohen, there was some amazing dancing.  Bodies moved and entwined and separated, dramatic and engaging.



A Picture of You Falling

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was the only Chicago based company on this program.  And, in this women’s program, it was a man who stole the show-Jesse Bechard in the show that I saw.  With choreography and text by Crystal Pite, A Picture of Your Falling, was captivating both because of the synchronization of the words and movement and because the movement was almost unbelievably intricate in conception and realization.



Heaven on One's Head

Pam Tanowitz Dance is, yes, from New York.  The company has won a number of prizes.  Performing Heaven on One’s Head to music by Conlon Nancarrow, String Quartets 1&3, accompanied by members of the Chicago Philharmonic,(Rika Seko,violin, Rose Armbrust-Griffin, Viola and Paula Kosower, Cello), the costume design by Reid Bartelme was striking. However, the number was very long and failed to hold the attention of several audience members.



It was impressive that the auditorium was filled and the audience was very attentive and appreciative.  The photos displayed on the screen helped to create a more complete sense of the way women have influenced modern dance over time.


Photos: Courtesy of the Chicago Dancing Festival


Check the Chicago Dancing Festival website for up to date information and be in the know next year.

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