by Jena Cutie
Thodos and Reinking's A Light in the Dark flashes through seven-year-old Helen Keller's life once her family installs teacher Anne Sullivan to help her learn to sign. Jessica Miller Tomlinson is rousing as Helen: her combination of adroit swinging leaps and thrashing perfectly figure the child's obstreperous, scrappy, slightly mystic character, and her recklessness and speed effortlessly conjure Helen's blindness—she seems to hack together a new form of sight by touching everything at once. The portrait is admirably free of pity: in one section, Helen snatches food from her family's plates as they say grace and eats happily under the table.
Simmons's Panem Nostrum Quotidianum ("Our Daily Bread") begins with a procession under a cloud of smoke that resembles incense. With rapturous quick strokes in short white satin pleated robes, the dancers are altar children performing devotions. Huddled close with their chins on their shoulders, they are cherubim. And in a row on a rectangle of light they are parishioners in a pew whose pelvic jiggles remind me of the hip-thrusting rumba in Alvin Ailey's Revelations—another work that connects spiritual and moral rejuvenation to dance. The glowing afterimages of arms and legs are a neon sign that reads: the spiritual dimensions of dance are open for business.
Thodos Dance Chicago Winter Concert, Sat 3/8 7:30 PM and Sun 3/9 2 PM, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, harristheaterchicago.org, $20-$60.