Melissa Thodos & Dancers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Melissa Thodos & Dancers

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Ann Reinking and Chicago choreographer Melissa Thodos met cute: they were watching their husbands play in a tennis tournament and casually started talking about dance. Apparently it was only after several years of meeting at the same event that Reinking got out of the self-effacing Thodos that not only did she dance and teach, she also had her own company. Once Reinking caught Thodos's troupe at a "Dance for Life" performance, she realized that Thodos had a good one. "I beg to have people hire me," the two-time Tony winner declared during an open rehearsal while telling this story, and the rest is history. Reinking's piece for Melissa Thodos & Dancers--Caution: Side Effects, choreographed with Debra McWaters--uses all 13 company members and is said to be about four powers, actual and potential. There's the power of war, and there's the power of tai chi, which prepares for war. And then there's the unleashed power of young people frustrated by "having no love in the city"--a power Reinking likens to an electrical wire that needs to be connected--and the power of love once they find it. A brief excerpt from the dance shows the performers with sticks, brandishing them like swords or balancing them like props in martial arts exercises. Raised platforms give the dancers the iconic look of figures on altars, perhaps a trick learned from Reinking's mentor, showbiz genius Bob Fosse. The music is a version of Thomas Newman's theme for the HBO program Six Feet Under. Thodos's premiere for this engagement, Elements, includes actors from the Remy Bumppo Theatre Company and original music by Kevin O'Donnell and Tom Farrell. And award-winning company member Paul Christiano (whose Miracle, Interrupted made it into the Joffrey's repertoire in 2001) will present his new First Love; Second Sight, with music by Portuguese vocalist Dulce Pontes. Works from the repertory round out the program. Harold Washington Library Center, auditorium, 400 S. State, 773-883-1487. Through March 14: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3 PM. $20-$25. Note: A company benefit performance Thursday, March 11, will be followed by a gala party chaired by Reinking; 6 PM. $150-$300.

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

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