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It's standing room only at the Chicago Dancing Festival

Tickets are long gone, but you can still watch for free.



In its eighth year, this octopus of a dance festival has nabbed choice companies both local and national for three nights of programs featuring an oceanic range of dance forms—ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, and hip-hop. As usual, all shows are free; also as usual, tickets are long gone, though you can still catch programs at Millennium Park.

On Wednesday at the Harris Theater, "Classics and Creations" offers Kyle Abraham's Counterpoint. Tender and ebullient, the work was planned as a collaboration with DJ Rashad before the hip-hop producer and footwork impresario overdosed in April. But Abraham has a talent for layering the personal—in this case, a tragic death—into emotionally ugly yet graceful modern dance. In one weird and riveting image, Emily Leriche lunges forward and turns her torso to watch her hand caress her Achilles tendon, then jams down ruthlessly on her calf as if to crush it. The powerhouse program, which will screen simultaneously at Pritzker Pavilion, also features works from Hubbard Street, Joffrey Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, and traveling troupe Stars of American Ballet.

"Dances for 2," at the MCA for two shows on Friday, includes Ron De Jesus's festival-commissioned work Transition Zone, written for spectacular male duo the Nexus Project. No matter what they're dancing, Benjamin Wardell and Michel Rodriguez Cintra unfold in a fastidious and complicated chain reaction. Here they tick and tock, circle to meet like hands of a clock, recombine and roll out in long sweeping arcs. When the dance softens, they stretch their necks through their legs like taffy—or one of Salvador Dalí's melting clocks.

Saturday night's "Celebration of Dance" at Pritzker Pavilion is as close as we get to a dedicated Chicago program. The Joffrey Ballet presents Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, and Hubbard Street reprises Falling Angels, Jiří Kylián's frenetic, unnerving piece for eight women, accompanied by Third Coast Percussion's redoubtable drumming. Darrell Moultrie's festival-commissioned Cyclic Connections, performed by 20 talented teenagers from After School Matters, mixes ballet, modern, and hip-hop with Moultrie's signature high-flung patterning. Amazingly, his reckless abandon as he propels dancers through space registers as poise.

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