From Chicago Tribune November 13, 2003
By Sid Smith, Tribune arts critic
The New Dances program that’s part of the monthlong Dance Chicago fest at the Athenaeum Theatre is easily the city’s most exciting choreographic competition. The more than 50 new works, selected from some 1,600 entries and spread out over four performances that conclude next week, are a sample of just about everything and a feast for enthusiasts who value originality and aren’t afraid of a minor lapse.
These are young choreographers testing the waters: There are missteps and misfires to be sure. But the quality, variety and imagination on view at Wednesday’s opening suggests that this informal competition is emerging as a critical vitamin to our artistic health.
Two more installments are set for Wednesday and Thursday and a fifth program that will feature works deemed “The Best of New Dances” by festival curator John Schmitz will be presented Nov. 21.
His job won’t be easy this year, judging from the dozen or so offerings at Wednesday’s opening. None of them were anything less than respectful, and several genuinely rocked.
Dmitri Peskov’s “Good Night” is a poetic duet alternately beautiful and honest, harmonious and disturbing. Paul Christiano, a onetime gymnast, slyly enacts a death-defying body flip, the kind of excitement you see rarely on a stage. And yet it’s slipped so cagily into Peskov’s overall stratagem, a fiendish, unpredictably revealing exploration of love ever interrupted, detoured and shaken, just as the dancers sometimes shake their hands in frenzy. Christiano, for instance, stands on top of his gorgeous partner, Jill Economakos, reverse of the more typical presentation.
Astonishing in another sense is Christine Rich’s and Christiano’s “Schmitz’s Intent” a work named for the festival curator. The actual drama of the dance itself takes second place to the remarkable talents of Andrew Cribbett and Becky Ramos, both age 11, and dancing almost as if they were New York City Ballet principals.
The always reliable Randy Duncan breaks new ground, of a sort, in “My Life,” a handsome solo for handsome soloist J.P. Tenuta. This is a more loose, more casual, almost improvisational Duncan, with Tenuta smoothly commanding the stage with breezy, conventional arm swings only suddenly to be yanked off center, as if under the spell of his own limbs.
In a lighter vein, Erin Parsley serves up a lovable duet employing her own clean executions and the somewhat unlikely but charming style of her pudgy partner, Ed Cox. Music makes out well in a lot of this, including Duncan’s use of Johnny Adams singing “There Is Always One More Time,” Arvo Part’s haunting tonal beauties for “Good Night,” Eddy Ocampo’s soulful score (with N’Dea Davenport) to his stylish jazz romp “Savin’ All My Love” and the lively, surprisingly original response to classic Irish lilt in the Chicago Ballet’s sprightly “Celtic.”
New Dances plays Wednesday, Thursday and Nov. 21 at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave. For tickets: 312-902-1500.