Chicago Dancing Festival: Dance wants to be free | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Chicago Dancing Festival: Dance wants to be free

See dozens of dancers from a dozen companies at this seventh annual blowout.


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You don't have to leave home to discover new things. The Joffrey Ballet, for instance, reveals a whole new side of itself when it takes to the streets in Alexander Ekman's Episode 31, a company premiere at this year's Chicago Dancing Festival. Created in 2011 for Juilliard students, Episode 31 opens with a video of flash mob-like Joffrey dancers overrunning the el and the pavement. The piece itself exudes tribal energy—think hip-hop and Nijinsky's Rite of Spring—as 17 dancers break into stamps, spasmodic twitching, all sorts of tipping and tossing, and yelling. It's thrilling, but exhausting for the dancers and almost assaultive for the viewer. Fortunately, it's relieved by sudden moments of stillness, even of classical dance.

This year, the festival's seventh, there's way more homegrown talent on view. Among the out-of-towners: Brian Brooks in his solo I'm Going to Explode and Philadanco, making its CDF debut in Wake Up, by hip-hop king Rennie Harris. Tickets, as usual, are free—and "sold out." If you're among the lucky souls with reservations, don't waste them. With local companies Natya Dance Theatre and Ensemble Español in their first festival appearances, and a tap-dance premiere by Bril Barrett and Lane Alexander, where else can you see bharata natyam, flamenco, tap, hip-hop, contemporary dance, and ballet side by side? For the unlucky, no reservation is required Saturday at the Pritzker, and standby seating is available at the other venues.

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