Bob Eisen and Sheldon B. Smith | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Bob Eisen and Sheldon B. Smith


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Bob Eisen calls the concept for his new structured improvisation as simple as Choreography 101, but what he's devised sounds like the devil to me. He's made eight cassette tapes of 20-25 minutes each, each of which contains seven brief instructions at carefully planned intervals (so there's no overlap with the other tapes). Three of the tapes are randomly selected and played on three boom boxes simultaneously during the performance. Before the performance, each of the four dancers draws a number that determines which of the instructions he or she will follow; any given instruction might apply to all of them, none, or one, two, or three. The instructions themselves are simple--things like "exit," "make contact," "run back and forth"--and the dancers are supposed to do these things until they hear their next instruction. Most of the tapes have a little bit of music, maybe one or two minutes, and Eisen has also set three partnering phrases. It sounds daunting, but Eisen has a way of pulling playful, exciting, expert dancing out of his fiendish schemes. The NEA agrees: it's given him a 1996 choreography fellowship, one of the last of its kind. Eisen's also made another new work for the same four dancers, a set piece that sounds similar to the improv--it's described as "an attempt to create order out of chaos"--but that he says is entirely different in feeling. Also on the program (part of the Link's Hall "Strange Bedfellows" series) are two works by Sheldon B. Smith, a younger choreographer who calls Eisen a mentor. The works are departures for Smith--he says they'll reveal the significant differences between his work and Eisen's. One piece is actually set to classical music (six Franz Schubert songs), and the other features a live, unprecedented appearance by Smith's composer alter ego, Radon Daughters: in Untitled Solo #1 Smith will accompany himself on guitar while he dances. He wouldn't tell me how he does it. Friday and Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 7 at Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield; $8. Call 281-0824 for tickets and information.

--Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/T. Cifani.

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