No princesses in tutus. No stodgy orchestras playing 19th Century scores. No formal, snobbish, elitist programs. This winter and spring on Chicago stages, dance productions range from edgy, industrial choreography to aerial ballet to a movement tale that incorporates live spoken word by poetry slam godfather Marc Kelly Smith. Looking for a snooze-proof dance show? Check out these six, which bring to life everything from a French noir horror film to a gypsy love story to Chicago’s 1893 World Columbian Exposition.
Joffrey Ballet: ‘Winter Fire’
Yes, this was the first dance company ever to perform at the White House—at Jacqueline Kennedy’s invitation—but it was also the first classical ensemble to incorporate multimedia elements and commission a rock ‘n’ roll ballet. The Joffrey keeps things modern with the U.S. premiere of “Infra” by British choreographer Wayne McGregor (inspired by the 2005 London tube bombings); “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” by former Joffrey dancer William Forsythe, which premiered at the Paris Opera Ballet); and “After the Rain” by former New York City Ballet resident choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.
Go: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Tickets: $25-$149; 800-982-2787; ticketmaster.com
Thodos Dance Chicago: 20th Anniversary Concerts
Founder-artistic director Melissa Thodos remounts her 2011 hit multimedia story ballet collaboration with Tony Award-winner Ann Reinking, “The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1893,” plus a “greatest hits” revue of favorites from the contemporary dance company’s 20-year history. Bonus: Get a sneak preview at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, when WTTW-TV Ch 11 debuts a documentary film about the show, “Beneath the White City Lights: The Making of an American Story Ballet,” by Emmy Award-winner Chris Olsen.
Go: 8 p.m. March 2-3 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive
Tickets: $25-$60; 312-334-7777; harristheaterchicago.org
El Circo Cheapo Cabaret
Just because it’s dance doesn’t mean it has to happen on a floor. This monthly-changing revue features aerial movement artists plus acrobats, jugglers, puppeteers, clowns, side show freaks and more. The 7 p.m. show is all ages; the 10 p.m. show is 18+ only.
Go: 7 and 10 p.m. March 3 at Aloft Loft, 2041 W. Carroll Ave.
Tickets: $10-$15; 773-782-6662; elcircocheapo.com
Chicago Tap Theatre: ‘Eyes Without a Face’
Tap dance goes noir in this new dance theater piece based on the 1959 French horror-mystery classic film of the same title. Uptown Poetry Slam founder and slam movement creator Marc Kelly Smith provides live storyline narration set to an original score by Andrew Edwards.
Go: March 23-April 1 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Tickets: $20-$35; 773-327-5252; stage773.com
Luna Negra Dance Theater: ‘Carmen’
The Latin dance company premieres its first evening-length work, a Picasso-inspired, contemporary take on George Bizet’s opera by artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, who collaborates with Spanish fashion designer David Delfin and set designer Luis Crespo to bring to life through dance the story of a gypsy and her lover which takes place in a cantina, a jail, a tobacco shop, the countryside and a bullfighting arena.
Go: 8 p.m. March 24 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive
Tickets: $25-$65; 312-334-7777; harristheaterchicago.org
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: 2012 North American Tour
New artistic director Robert Battle—only the third in the company’s 54-year history—curates two programs: one features “Arden Court,” an AIDS-themed piece by modern dance master Paul Taylor and “Minus 16,” by Ohad Naharin, which blends techno-pop, cha-cha, Dean Martin and Israeli music; the other includes Battle’s Indian-music-influenced “Takademe” and “Home,” by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris. All performances include “Revelations,” the company’s signature work by Ailey, set to a gospel score, which still causes audiences to leap out of their seats during the exuberant finale 50 years after its debut.
Go: April 11-15 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.
Tickets: $30-$90; 800-982-2787; ticketmaster.com
Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor.