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Susan Weinrebe
Performance Reviews
Chicago Cultural Center
United States
Chicago, IL

Hedwig Dances at the Chicago Cultural Center

by Susan Weinrebe
June 9, 2005
Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Hedwig Dances at the Chicago Cultural Center

Hedwig Dances
(Hedwig Dances Website)
In Residence At
The Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Washington Street
Chicago, Illinois 60602
(The Chicago Cultural Center Website)
Sponsor: Department of Cultural Affairs

Founder and Artistic Director: Jan Bartoszek
MD: Berryl Riley-Sawyers
Artistic Associate: Mei-Kuang Chen
Production Manager: Eric Eatherly
Performers: Victor Alexander, Eric Eatherly, Brooke Franklin, Rebecca Lemme, Kirsty Mackellar, James Morrow, Kyle Terry

Susan Weinrebe
June 9, 2005

Watching this company, Hedwig Dances, perform excerpts from three of its longer works, was like attending a wine tasting: pleasantly intoxicating and leaving me thirsty for more.

As the resident dance company at the Chicago Cultural Center, Hedwig Dances is tucked into a black-painted studio. There is just enough floor space to permit the dancers breadth of movement for contemporary synthesis of dance forms. Seating, close to the performers, gives a sense of being drawn into the dance.

Jan Bartoszek, the founder, artistic director, and choreographer of Hedwig Dances, explained the format of the evening. She would introduce each of the short pieces. Following the presentation, she and Lucia Mauro, a freelance journalist, would discuss the dance using questions and answers.

Sleep of Reason: Goya Dances: Music by J.S. Bach, Choreography, Concept, and Direction by Jan Bartoszek, Movement Development by Jan Bartoszek and Dancers, Costumes by Tatajana Radisik, Masks by Blair Thomas.

Inspired by Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos series of etchings from 1799, this section of Bartoszek's longer work skewered couples and their courtship. Wearing half masks with nightgown-like dresses, red corkscrew wigs for the women, and Marcel Marceau-like ensembles for the men, these costume effects raked social vanities. Green and red medallions worn at groin level by both men and women were symbolic traffic signals in the caricatured nuances of the human mating dance. The performers created a froth of movement, acting out the pursuit of partners, acceptance, rejection, and dejection.

Here, Often There: Choreography, Concept, and Direction by Jan Bartoszek, Sound Design by Kevin O'Donnell, Poem by Jim Harrison, Movement Development by Jan Bartoszek and Dancers, Costumes by Jan Bartoszek.

Fittingly a work in progress, Here, Often There is an impression of memories that moves backward and forward in time. As often seems the case, the genesis of a Bartoszek piece is sparked by another art form. In this case, a poem by Jim Harrison, Moving, stimulated her creativity.

A female dancer wearing a housedress enters, pushing a doll-size house. As though the walls of the building are speaking to her, reminding her of past events in its rooms, we hear unintelligible murmuring. Three other dancers bound onto the floor. Their laughter is playful and goes on and on as they rise and fall, strike yoga-like poses, and partner each other in unexpected combinations. The woman lifts the man; the men coalesce in a pas de deux. Meanwhile, the first dancer intermittently moves in and out of the group, sometimes joining in, sometimes an onlooker. Uncannily, the multi-sensory triggers of sound effects and a single visual prop, the house, combined with the medium of dance in the concrete portrayal of memory.

Blues Dances: Choreography, Concept, and Direction by Jan Bartoszek, Music by Erwin Helfer and also by John Brumbach, Movement Development by Jan Bartoszek and Dancers, Costumes by Susan Haas.

Mimicking the pulsing rhythm of blues by Chicago musicians Erwin Helfer and John Brumbach, dancers melded, separated, returned. Pairing the men and women in exponentially interesting combinations, acrobatic movement, lifts, and especially floor work, commanded attention. Such a synergy of music and movement made me want to paraphrase a poetic line: How shall we tell the dancers from the music?

Signature to Hedwig Dances is the inspiring influence of arts that inform the shape of Bartoszek's work. Elements from art, writing, music, used in her process, demonstrate that dance can be created from whatever has the power to move us.

Hedwig Dances Performers (L - R) Rebecca Lemme, James Morrow, Kirsty Mackellar
Photo courtesy of Jessie Weinrebe

Hedwig Dances Performers and Choreographer: Rebecca Lemme, James Morrow, Jan Bartoszek, Kirsty Mackellar
Photo courtesy of Jessie Weinrebe

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