Compagnie Felix Ruckert | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Compagnie Felix Ruckert

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Berlin-based choreographer Felix Ruckert is known for attacking the distinctions between audience and performer. Formerly a dancer with Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal, he struck out on his own in 1994, creating such pieces as Hautnah, modeled, according to his Web site, on the "human and social activities" of a brothel: individual spectators paid to observe a single dancer in a private cubicle. Most of the time, says critic Burt Ramsey, the performer got the viewer to dance with him/her, or they interacted in some other way--in one case by running around the block together. Such intimate contact between spectator and dancer--indeed, the dancer's "close and knowing scrutiny of the spectator," in Ramsey's words--has proved to be the cornerstone of Ruckert's work since. Watching a tape of excerpts from Deluxe Joy Pilot, in which the performers manipulate audience members lying on raised "beds," I was struck by the sense that Ruckert had simply expanded on a fairly common experience in the theater, at least when a performance goes well--the feeling that one can be seen and is known by the performers and by other audience members. For its Chicago debut the company will present two U.S. premieres. One of them, Consulto, sounds as if it resembles Hautnah: the performers--Ruckert's troupe plus ten local dancer-actors--offer simultaneous solos for individual spectators stationed all over the stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Audience members not consuming a solo show can observe from a distance, either seated onstage or wandering around it. (For this piece the proscenium will be built out over the theater's first three rows and the remaining seating will be partitioned off.) Also being performed is a more traditional work without audience interaction, Tools/Chicago Mix, based on a piece Ruckert choreographed for the Ballet de l'Opera National du Rhin and inspired by "large movements of the cosmos" as well as "molecular structures." Too brainy for me, but if the dancing resembles that in Deluxe Joy Pilot, it should be great: spiky, fluid, quick, and marked by affectionate interplay. Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Opens Thursday, October 16, 7:30 PM. Through October 18: Friday-Saturday, 7:30 PM. $18. Note: Ruckert leads a series of master classes October 14-17 organized by the Dance Center of Columbia College; call 312-344-8300 for the schedule and registration fee. And there will be a free discussion with the artists following Thursday's performance.

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