Classical and modern dance crowd Chicago playbills like belles at a ball. To rectify that, Alliance Dance Company artistic director Jennifer Gage last year launched Kaleidoscope, a choreographers' festival that doesn't make wallflowers of contemporary, jazz, tap, and hip-hop.
This year Gage shepherds an impressive flock of 25 choreographers, seven from Alliance, the rest from other local and regional companies. The 26 pieces certainly don't try to make people eat their vegetables; the main criterion for selection was entertainment value, says Gage, whose own mix of contemporary with jazz and ballet leans heavily on pop music and technical bravado.
The festival opens and closes with Kimberly Schomburg's I Pay Them No Mind, inspired by the Gumby-like inflatables you find bobbing in front of car dealerships; aptly, her piece ends with 12 dancers liberally swinging their arms like carefree loons to an upbeat song by Yaesayer. Schomburg is also a standout in Rebecca Robertstad's Moribus Armento (Latin for "herd behavior"). In one solo, her fluttering movement grows more and more desperate as an implacable horde of dancers stampedes, surrounding her.
Two more highlights: In Ashley A. Chung's Pas de Juge, a dancer is tossed between a judge and jury who announce their decisions by performing unison flamenco moves at a barre. And in Kristi Mosbey's Krewe du Vieux, set to music by Lorde and 2Cellos, six masked dancers in Mardi Gras garb parade around haughtily, drop their pelvises, swivel their hips, slap their thighs, and strike playful poses—it's West African dance meets voguing.