Reader's Choice: Alejandro Cerrudo
There are lots of great Chicago choreographers with longer track records of ambitious and challenging—if uneven—work. Among these brave, intelligent souls, who do their own thing and do it well, are Shirley Mordine, Billy Siegenfeld of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, Breakbone DanceCo.'s Atalee Judy, Carrie Hanson of the Seldoms, and Julia Rhoads, who broke through to a new level of brainy comedy in Lucky Plush's Cinderbox 18 last fall. But my pick is Hubbard Street Dance Chicago member Alejandro Cerrudo. The two pieces he's choreographed for that company show taste, ingenuity, and feeling. Of course they had all the bells and whistles, including great performers and technical effects, but I think they'd shine even stripped bare—especially the quicksilver, intimately scaled Lickety-Split (2006). This spring's Extremely Close relies more on stage effects, but the impression it creates is breathtakingly soulful. Cerrudo's work is thoughtful, but mostly it succeeds through kinetic invention and force. aHSDC's fall series, Thu-Sun 10/9-12, will include Extremely Close; a new work by Cerrudo will premiere in April; hubbardstreetdance.com. —Laura Molzahn
Readers' Choice: Erin Carlisle Norton, the Moving Architects
Best Dance Company
Reader's Choice: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Artistic vision, which is not the same thing as choreographic vision, means thinking about what will have popular as well as artistic appeal. The rest—including top-notch dancers—follows after. Hubbard Street started out as small potatoes 30 years ago, and founder Lou Conte made money the hard way: by producing dance that general audiences would pay to see. Early on the choreography was sometimes far from astounding, but under Conte's leadership it was well danced. And in the decade before he retired, in 2000, the company could afford to bring in choreographers with deserved international reputations, among them Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kylian, and Nacho Duato. Current artistic director Jim Vincent has reinforced Conte's vision, and Chicagoans are the winners.
The Joffrey is obviously a contender for Chicago's best company, but its 50-year-old concept of a uniquely American ballet has needed refurbishing. Promisingly, new artistic director Ashley Wheater dug up a largely unknown masterwork by Twyla Tharp, Waterbaby Bagatelles, for May's American Moderns program. Best up-and-comer is nine-year-old Luna Negra Dance Theater, led by Eduardo Vilaro, whose savvy choices and risks have paid off in increasingly sophisticated Latin-inflected work. aHubbard Street Dance Chicago, 312-850-9744, hubbardstreetdance.com. —Laura Molzahn
Readers' Choice: Matter Dance Company
a Next show: With a Twist, 9/11-14, Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western, matterdance.com.
Best Dance Venue
Reader's Choice: Dance Center of Columbia College
There are trade-offs at every venue. Big, expensive places like the Harris and the Auditorium have grandeur and excellent technical resources, but the performance can feel far away. A shoe box like Link's Hall provides intimacy but not much potential for stage effects. The Dance Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art offer the best of both worlds—but the sheer volume of expert, challenging work at the Dance Center pushes it into first place. aDance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300, colum.edu/dance_center. —Laura Molzahn
Readers' Choice: Link's Hall
a3435 N. Sheffield #207, 773-281-0824, linkshall.org.