In 1992, Artistic Director Melissa Thodos created her company as a center for dancers to grow, which she explains in their mission statement, “not only as performers, but as well-rounded artists.” Now on their 25th Anniversary, Thodos celebrates with Full Circle, which given the company’s mission, seems like a perfect way to honor their history of artistic exploration, and move towards the next chapter in this company’s story. Full Circle acts as the final performance for this company, as Thodos' ensemble disbands and she moves towards more project-based work.
Thodos Dance Chicago: Full Circle
The performance is comprised of three acts, including a range of old pieces of their past as well as new premieres to introduce to the public. The first act includes Uncovering by Briana Robinson, Changing Strangers by Melissa Thodos, and Acid Reign by Brian Enos. The second includes Nos Duraturi by Bella Lewitzky, and finally, the third act covers The Wheel Triology by Melissa Thodos.
Thodos Dance defines itself as a multi-disciplinary company, and that certainly sounds like an excellent way to describe the experience as a whole – beginning with the design. Each piece had its own distinct look with lighting and costuming, as well as clever sound elements mixed into the music. Uncovering, the first piece of the evening, acts as a perfect example.
Costume Designers Nathan Rohrer and Briana Tobin dressed the dancers in beige dresses, which were beautiful alone. However, when combined with the vibrant colors of pink and green in Lighting Designer Adrien Dion’s creation, the ending result was stunning. The collaboration between costume and lighting designers was a theme across the evening, which enhanced the overall aesthetic of the performance.
Sound Designer Johnny Nevin and Music Editor Aaron Arthur worked together to push Uncovering over the top for the senses. The music was fantastic, and added a bouncy rhythm to the number that opened the show. However, that which was truly exciting was the use of silence. At key moments in the piece, the dancers would move to absolute silence, leaving us with nothing to hear other than the movement of their feet. The juxtaposition added a clever and unexpected contrast within the performance. The sound of the feet on the stage made the choreography feel even more emotional, and added a sense of strength to the piece.
The Wheel Trilogy Completed Premiere
While each piece was exciting and impressive, The Wheel Trilogy truly made the night, and took up the entirety of Act III. Comprised of three pieces - Reaching There, Getting There, and There, all were choreographed by Melissa Thodos, the Artistic Director. The first two had been performed previously – the first in 1986, and the second in 2011. There received its premiere at Full Circle, and the event as a whole acted as a brilliant way to conclude the night.
Each of the three pieces involved a large circular object, that was able to change in size. The dancers would interact with the object, whether they were summersaulting over it, using the piece as a mode of balance, or even chasing it about the stage. The gymnastic-style routines were incredible to watch unfold, but the most exciting element was watching the evolution of the three pieces.
Reaching There involved three dancers, each of whom interacted with the object in a more solo-type manner. Getting There included five dancers, who acted as a bit more of a team in relation to the object, and used the circle as a way to interact with each other. Finally, There had the largest cast, and the circle found its way into larger group numbers, ending with the entire ensemble in a pyramid at the back of the stage, topped with this object that had been shared thus far.
Thodos Dance Moving Forward
Full Circle was meant to act as the culmination of the last twenty-five years, and the evolution of The Wheel Trilogy brought that all together in a thrilling conclusion to the night. Watching the number of dancers increase felt symbolic of the company over the last twenty five years – while the ensemble may have grown or change, the essence remained the same, and Thodos clearly brought together a group who cared for one-another, and helped each other succeed. Watching them share the circle and play off each other also showcased their chemistry, and the trust that was clearly necessary to bring this company to its success.
Full Circle may have been this company's final performance, but I certainly hope Melissa Thodos does not lose that vision. She clearly inspired this group of ensemble members, and I will be anxious to see what is next for all of them.
This performance was ONE NIGHT ONLY on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 7:30pm
Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.