Julia Mayer and Janet Schmid | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Julia Mayer and Janet Schmid

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Both these choreographers avoid the well-worn grooves of modern dance--their movement is refreshingly off the map. Janet Schmid's quartet Pilotless, set to a soundscape of swings aimlessly creaking and a lounge-act version of "Happy Birthday to You," is matter-of-fact but evocative because the movement seems so instinctual, whether one dancer is inchworming across the floor or many are falling onto one shoulder from all fours, then joining hands to pull themselves into a tangled pile. Drawing on yoga, martial arts, and ballroom dance, Schmid uses ultimately unclassifiable movement to create a sense of mysterious, playful community. Her other work, the duet Foot Opera, employs a large caterpillarlike tunnel with two slits in it to isolate the dancers' feet; set to songs by Kurt Weill and Arnold Schoenberg, Foot Opera is simultaneously intense and ludicrous. Julia Mayer's Ebb/Glow is a highly visual trio whose signature feature is a huge web of twisted lengths of golden cloth laid out on the floor. Throughout the piece the dancers "knit" these strands together even as they write notes on little pieces of paper, then tuck them into the crevices of the fabric as if it were a soft, squishy wailing wall. The brief text, delivered by Mayer onstage, has to do with vague memories of a grandmother sewing. The Opposite of That, a quirky solo Mayer performs herself, alternates between extroverted, almost jaunty motions and self-involved, less controlled movements. The music, a piano composition by Dave Burrell, is perfect: Burrell's virtuosic playing periodically collapses into odd rhythms and jarring notes. Thu-Fri 5/26-5/27, 7:30 PM, Hamlin Park field house, second floor, 3035 N. Hoyne, 773-588-5732, $12-$15.

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