While the concert-dance industry continues to be populated by a preponderance of women in all areas, a tradition as curious as it is unfortunate nevertheless soldiers on: The highest ranks of artistic and executive directorship continue to be held predominantly by men. An inspiring bit of contrary evidence, however, is increasingly more visible here in Chicago. The rapid growth of our dance community is due in large part to women founding new companies and expanding existing organizations. Should trends continue—and I hope they do—we could shortly find ourselves in a completely new paradigm of gender equality in dance leadership.
Anyone who's ever doubted the staying power of a new year's resolution should know the story of The Moving Architects. A Pennsylvania native here since 2003, Erin Carlisle Norton decided four years later on Jan. 1 she would start her own dance company; later this month the company will premiere her newest work, Stops on the Line, as part of a multitude of cultural events spurred by the 100th anniversary of visionary urbanist Daniel Burnham's plan for the city of Chicago. True to their name, the Architects pay homage to the planner by way of what is perhaps the single most significant building to the plan and this city's history, Burnham's own Union Station. An evening-length work in one act, Stops on the Line evokes a specificity of time and place, and blends abstract composition and character-driven dance-theater scenes with a sure hand. Original music performed by composer Ian Hatcher makes a solid pair of rails, driving staccato rhythms chugging along in effective contrast to the delicate instrumentation of acoustic guitar and glockenspiel.
A recent recipient of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Grant, Julia Rae Antonick is off and running into her big year with PEND, a premiere collaboration with dancers Katie McCaughan and The Humans' Precious Jennings along with composer Joseph St. Charles. As comfortable with unpredictability as Norton is meditatively deliberate, her creation unfolds alongside a stated aim to unfold from within a deep commitment to discovery through investigation. Antonick is wildly generative: Even her shortest creative processes yield a wealth of material. She's a young prospector who's found herself in a perpetual gold rush, and it will be worth watching how all that movement is sorted and applied for PEND and her project for the Dancemakers Forum, Duologue.
Appropriately enough, Cindy Brandle's latest work directly addresses the state of contemporary women. Searching for SuperGirl looks at this not just through the lens of dance, however: It's a multimedia evening that includes an exhibit of images by photographer Kat Fitzgerald ( who contributes to Windy City Times, among other publications ) , original music by pillar of the community Barry Bennett, short films by Carl Wiedemann and Breakbone Dance Co.'s Atalee Judy, as well as pre-show music by Brandle herself.
Bravely opening her process to the public, Ginger Krebs has taken on the body itself for the premiere dance Rehearsals for Becoming Gods. In a succinct summary of the work, Krebs states the observance that humans are becoming increasingly dissociated from their bodies, viewing them more often as "states from which to escape, humiliating betrayals of our ideals, and uncooperative entities that require management." Five dancers step in to assist her in using movement, logically enough, as a medium through which she can further explore this point of view.
Last ( alphabetically ) but not least, Zephyr Dance represents the upperclass women of this month's unofficial festival of female choreographers. A decade on the scene, Artistic Director Michelle Kranicke and her associate, Emily Stein, will each show a piece for their annual spring concert; while I haven't seen Stein's suite of four solos, The Forest, Kranicke's Erased Dance—also a quartet—was on last month's Epiphany Dance Experiment program and clearly demonstrates she's no novice. Moving as a single entity, the dancers reminded me of the rhythmic purities and faded lines of Agnes Martin's large canvases; the dance rewards a balanced combination of wandering thought and patient focus.
Three of these performances are being held at my new favorite venue, Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland. Stops on the Line, May 15-16 at 8 p.m., is $15 in advance at www.themovingarchitects.org; Rehearsals for Becoming Gods, May 30-31 at 3 p.m., is free; and Zephyr Dance's Spring Concert, June 4-6 at 8 p.m., is $20 at www.zephyrdance.com .
Cindy Brandle Dance Company presents Searching for SuperGirl at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, May 15-16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20; call 773-509-1709 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com .
PEND, by Julia Rae Antonick, is at Overdier Hall at the United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse, May 29-30 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 each; see www.seechicagodance.com .
Also in the mix:
—Boris Eifman has had a good deal of ink spilled over him recently. Touted by many as a "savior" to the grand, multi-act story ballet, his St. Petersburg-based company will interpret his interpretation of the quintessential Russian novel in verse, Eugene Onegin, chosen as a frame through which the immensely complex question of the state of the Russian soul may be answered. The production will take place at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, May 14-15 at 7:30 p.m.; May 16 at 8 p.m.; and May 17 at 2 p.m. $32-77. Visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org for more information.
—Ayako Kato's Epiphany Dance Experiment, mentioned above, continues with Simply Showing, featuring choreography by Janet Schmid, Melissa Simo and J'Sun Howard as well as groups Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting and Green Cross at the Epiphany Episcopal Church, Sunday, May 17, at 6 p.m. There is a $12 suggested donation. Visit epiphanydance.blogspot.com .
—Quicksilver Occasion Pieces names the evening of May 29 at Wicker Park rehearsal and performance studio Silverspace. Houston bassist Thomas Helton will accompany dancer Asimina Chremos and vocalist Carol Genetti for an informal performance with refreshments. It will be at 1474 N. Milwaukee at 8 p.m. Donations accepted; visit www.asiminachremos.com and web.mac.com/thomashelton.
—Title of the year goes to Chicago Tap Theatre's "fairy tale tap dance opera" with a touch of the meta, Little Dead Riding Hood. Find out what happens when pigeonholed characters say "enough!" and take matters into their own ... shoes. It will run at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, May 29-June 14. Tickets are $18-30; see www.chicagotaptheatre.com .
—Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's final program under the leadership of Jim Vincent includes his latest ( but perhaps not last ) creation for the company, Slipstream, to Benjamin Britten's Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. Joining it are audience faves Extremely Close by Alejandro Cerrudo and Nacho Duato's Gnawa. At the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, June 4 at 7:30 p.m.; June 6 at 8 p.m.; and June 7 at 3 p.m. More information is available at www.hubbardstreetdance.com .