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

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Mad Shak Dance Company

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Intense and thoughtful, Mad Shak artistic director Molly Shanahan isn't content to let things slide. Instead she worries ideas like a dog with an especially meaty bone. She says that her new The Poems of Replaceable Kings is part of a phase that began with The Waiting Room, which premiered almost a year and a half ago. The score, created by resident composer Kevin O'Donnell, is the same for both--she wanted it to "resonate" with her for a while. But where The Waiting Room experimented with structure--its four sections were performed three at a time and in various orders--The Poems of Replaceable Kings, a sextet preceded by a solo, is limited, Shanahan says, to "very minimal movement elements." Sure enough, the dance features several almost balletic phrases (a run stopping on half toe, then arms pulled in and fingers curled like burning leaves before the dancer collapses from the waist) repeated by various dancers in various locations. I find such simple repetitions--Shanahan's movement can be detailed but is the opposite of fussy--more satisfying than scads of choreographic oddities that never really register. Repeated simple movements also help put the focus on individuals, another of Shanahan's purposes here. Always a very personal artist, she plans here to incorporate Mylar to approximate the dodgy mirrors in her rehearsal space on the top floor of the Berger Park field house. Not quite as distorting as the fun-house variety, these create endearingly odd reflections, intended to expand on the theme of the observer/observed. Also on the program is a preview of Eye Cycle, a duet for a dancer and O'Donnell (performing the score live) that explores "the role of light in...the perception of live and recorded movement." Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 773-743-8014. Opens Thursday, October 16, 8 PM. Through October 25: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM. $15-$18.

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