Elevate Chicago Dance 2022 brings diverse showcase of Chicago talent to Dance Center stage

By Amaris Edwards and Leah Love

Devin Mosely (front left) and Star Dixon (front right) tap the night away to energy-packed, bass boosted hits among other M.A.D.D. Rhythms performers. Addison Annis

As Fast Life Yungstaz’s 2009 hit “Swag Surfin’” blasted through the Dance Center’s theatre, the performers on stage, tapping along to the rhythm, brought the audience to their feet.

Spectators became full participants, swaying along to the beat after a night of three very different performances.

M.A.D.D. Rhythms, which stands for “Making a Difference Dancing,” Hedwig Dances and Ginger Krebs were among the companies and choreographers highlighted at the Dance Center, located at 1306 S. Michigan Ave., on Oct. 13 and 14 as part of Elevate Chicago Dance 2022.

The festival, which was produced by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, was held Oct. 13-16 and sought to display the diversity of Chicago dance with a series of performances across the city.

Shawn Lent, the programs and communications director at the Chicago Dancemakers Forum, said the process of putting together the festival — which was last held in 2018 — was a bit tense, but for the good.

“There was a lot of energy coming out, so much work was being made, a lot of digital work,” Lent said. “There was this feeling of convening that was needed; relationship building and relationship healing that was needed.”

Gracefully prancing around the stage, the avant-garde dance, “META | MOR | PHOS – A Triadic Fiction,” is performed as a 40-minute fluid, experimental interpretation. Addison Annis

Jyl Fehrenkamp, an administrative assistant in the Dance Department and program coordinator of the Dance Presenting Series, said the Dance Center stage offers audiences an intimate experience.

“You’re in very close proximity to the performers and seeing works in that space … part of the excitement is I can see. I can see the sweat running down their face,” Fehrenkamp said. “Maybe that sounds a little raw, but I feel like post-pandemic, I’m so excited to be in that space and hear the breath of the performers and see them, see their faces.”

During the opening performance, “All We Can See From Here,” part of the audience was seated onstage surrounding the dancers, offering a close look at the choreography by Ginger Krebs.

The piece featured four dancers — Krebs, Kennedy Alexandria, Andy Slavin and Lauren Kunath — who moved across geometric lines marked on the stage with neon tape. When they intertwined at the center of the stage, they formed a single synchronized body. When viewed through the livestreamed aerial perspective, their movements created fluid, symmetrical shapes.

Crowd members begin to fill in, awaiting the first performance of the night at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago. Addison Annis

“META I MOR I PHOS – A Triadic Fiction,” co-produced by Chicago-based company Hedwig Dances and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, was performed stateside for the first time on Oct. 13. Choreographed by Hedwig founder Jan Bartoszek, the piece’s three short acts depicted a colorful story of change. The toy-like costumes based on the designs of German painter Oskar Schlemmer made for an indescribable finale.

The show ended with “A M.A.D.D. Mixtape,” created, directed and choreographed by Donnetta Jackson of M.A.D.D. Rhythms, incorporating DJ sounds from Dorian Huff — whose DJ name is DJ D9-3 — and mixing tap dancing and Chicago-originated footwork to tell the story of M.A.D.D. Rhythms.

The energetic performance was soundtracked by D9-3’s mix, which included artists like Missy Elliott, Aaliyah and Meek Mill.

Lent said her favorite part of the festival is the crossing of audiences.

“These artists are not often in the same greenroom,” Lent said. “And these audiences sharing space and time and conversation with one another, that’s really what I’m excited for.”