Mad Shak Dance Company | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mad Shak Dance Company

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The inspiration for artistic director Molly Shanahan's newest piece was a sign in the window of a house on Sheridan Road in south Evanston: "Keep out," it said. "A senior needs your help." Intrigued by its mysterious mixed message, she started to think about the ways we "put ourselves forward." Also aiming for choreographic boldness ("walking into a room knowing what you want to say"), she created The Signmakers, an often confrontational ensemble piece marked by a push-pull aesthetic: in one telling phrase, a dancer puts her hand to her chest, eyes cast down, and even though she seems drawn to the woman next to her jerks herself away. The end is stunning, a duet filled with longing and rejection. The same passion and muscularity distinguish Like Clouds in the Skies of Never, premiered last June. Here Shanahan hoped to be "more attuned to open space--to sculpting the space," and it's odd and refreshing to see her sometimes knotty choreography made to evince the delicate roiling of clouds. Also on this program is A Furious Calm, the first half of which, set to two traditional Irish songs, premiered last fall at Dance Chicago. The second half is new, set to versions of Irish melodies by the band Charlie Nobody (now defunct) whose sweetness and lyricism carry over into the dancing, unspooling in a fluid way that's somewhat unusual for Shanahan. In all these pieces, the lines of the dance and the music--most of it tailor-made by company composer Kevin O'Donnell--meet and diverge in ways at once understated and satisfying. Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 773-743-8014. Through October 27: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $20.

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

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