The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago is a small jewel held within the prongs of sleek four-story Art Deco limestone building from the 30’s at 1306 South Michigan Avenue. The area bustles with students. Originally it was built by Paramount as a “film exchange”-- a venue for the presentation of films to the independent cinema operators throughout the Midwest who could rent them for exhibition at their theaters. Perhaps the current theater was the original, made to function now for the intimate presentations of sensational dance.
Chicago Human Rhythm Project, the opening performance for Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago season.
And sensational dance it was at the opening of the 2017-2018 the Dance Center Season featuring Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP).
What is tap dancing?
Tap dance is the drum of the body. When you listen to rhythmic music, your body naturally wants to join the expression, usually with your feet, drumming. That’s the origin of tap dance in percussive African music and African-American dancing, Celtic music, clogging, among others. Chicago Human Rhythm Project is the apotheosis of the human drum. In the post-performance discussion, Alexander said, “In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined what we saw tonight.”
Watch them dance!
Appearing in the slide show: Time Brickey, Nico Rubio, Star Dixon, Tristan Bruns, Jessica Tenbusch, Dani Borak.
Opening ensemble performance
The evening was a perfect orchestration of performances. The event opened with Lon Chaney’s Big Diesel Going North. Like jazz, the ensemble pieces are carefully choreographed and rehearsed—you hear one tap, not seven. Solo turns are improvised, but may be choreographed around a movement.
Introducing new Artist-in-Residence, Daniel Borak
The second piece, Dani Mix, and the third, The Entertainer, were the first of many pieces choreographed and performed by CHRP’s new Artist in Residence, Daniel Borak. His three-year residence is a coup. Borak has it all—excellent performer, imaginative choreographer, stage presence and handsome looks. He blends transparently with the ensemble and is magnetic in his solo turns.
The Unexpected Joy of Reginald Robinson
Borak was accompanied by Chicago pianist, Reginald R. Robinson, who also played solo sets in the first and second halves of the evening to give the dancers rest time. His spellbinding interpretations of Scott Joplin rags, tango and sophisticated jazz stand on their own in his many concert appearances and recordings.
Earlyn Whitehead Premiere
Movement artist Earlyn Whitehead’s piece, Woven Recognitions, premiered. The weave was a combination of one, and later two tappers, with three in soft-shoes. This combination of hard and soft sound, with tap and modern dance movements, was fresh and compelling.
Percussion Star Donnetta Jackson
Donnetta Jackson is a star. Her lead in Push Past Break featured dancing and singing. Most everything you see featuring song and dance has the voice track overdubbed. It’s almost impossible to control the breathing for singing during an extreme cardio workout. But, joined sweetly by the ensemble, she did it. Jackson is small, almost fragile and childlike, until she dances. Then watch out—she is the embodiment of percussion.
Cartier Williams Amazes
Guest star, Cartier Williams of the Broadway Dance Center, presented two excerpts from his developing piece Zigitybop. In the first he joined with Dani Borak; the second was solo. Working with Borak was watching a testosterone battle in the solos followed by aggressive yet playful duets. Williams’ solo, with the music Maggot Brain by Funkadelic was masterful. The music is other-worldly, and the dancing, which Williams said is always improvised in response to the music, was a perfect physical expression of the track’s intense yearning.
Borak leads the way to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project future.
The evening ended with a new Borak piece featuring tap and contemporary dance. In the post-performance interview, Borak said that a piece is usually inspired by listening to music in his headphones and the idea “pops up”. What popped up in Fusion, based on the music Take A Quick Break by Bugge Wesseltoft, Henrick Schwarz & Dan Berglund, is a performance that appeared to progress from life to death, to resurrection, to death again. Grim as it sounds, Fusion, with the little bits of black and white costuming and make-up, shows how Borak is pushing the performance edge of CHRP from strictly tap to a fusion of tap and contemporary dance. IMHO, as a fan of tap dance, this fusion is the way to the future to provide depth and breadth to the choreography, the performance and the overall enjoyment of CHRP.
September 21-23, 2017
Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago
1306 Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60605