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Epic myths in dance

Innervation Dance Cooperative.
Innervation Dance Cooperative.
By Teresa Swanson

Over the ages, artists, architects and composers have been inspired by classical mythology. Even ballets of the royal courts relied on familiar themes of gods testing mortals or falling in love with them. In its new full-length show, Gods, Monsters and Heroes, Chicago’s Innervation Dance Cooperative brings these myths to life through contemporary movement and the music of Pink and Beck, among others. Members of this theatrically inclined dance company -- a collaborative headed by core artists Shayna Bjerke, Molly Beck, Elisa Carlson, Michael Sherman, Christine Talley and Amy Williams -- choreographed vignettes for each act representing the story of a god, monster or hero. Furious tap dancing is the genre of choice for the Birth of Zeus. As a baby, the future head of Mount Olympus was sheltered from the insatiable Titan Cronus who devoured his own children. Zeus’s mother hid him among a group of armored warriors who muffled the baby’s cries through loud percussion.

In a chilling section, a subtly menacing Hades – god of the underworld -- abducts Persephone via an off-kilter waltz of attraction and repulsion. For the heroic Theseus, who slays the vicious Minotaur in his labyrinth, the dancers create a living, breathing maze with their bodies in gymnastic contortions. They then break into synchronized club-dancing formations that evoke the robotic feel of a video game. Ultimately, Innervation Dance sets out to show that these gods, monsters and heroes are really interchangeable…all vengeful and flawed.

Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre, a classical Indian troupe known for its rhythmic bharata natyam style and Hindi source material, performs the myth of Daphnis and Chloe for a concert by the DuPage Symphony Orchestra. Choreographer Hema Rajagopalan visually transports the ancient Greek pastoral – set to the music of Maurice Ravel -- to an Indian setting. This lyrical merging of aesthetics conveys the trials –- including a pirate abduction -- endured by a shepherd and his beloved before the god Pan reunites them. The Natya dancers employ dramatic gestures and facial expressions. They spring into the air and drop to the floor with splayed fingers to represent drops of morning dew before enacting the soft fluttering of birds. A horned Pan becomes a central figure as he fashions a flute out of reeds. Though based on a 1912 production of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (with Vaslav Nijinsky in the role of Daphnis), Natya finds parallels in Hindi stories, particularly those in rural settings that feature (not unlike Pan, god of wild nature) rakshasa, a similar being that sports horns.

Innervation Dance Cooperative presents Gods, Monsters and Heroes Oct. 6-9 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 2:30 p.m. at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. Tickets: $15-$20. Call 773-975-8150 or visit www.theaterwit.org. More information: www.innervationdance.org.

Natya Dance Theatre performs with the DuPage Symphony Orchestra Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville. Tickets: $11-$28. Call 630-637-7469. More information: www.natya.com or www.dupagesymphony.org.

Also playing...

Six classical-modern dance premieres are featured in For: Four Choreographers for Dance Art Oct. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 9 at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The quartet of Chicago dancer-choreographers are Masha Balovlenkov, Christina Eltvedt, Amy Roby and Buenaventura Castrejon. Tickets: $20. Call 773-327-5252 or visit www.stage773.com.

Dance Union kicks off its Improvisation & Score/Scenario series Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. at the Drucker Center/Menomonee Club, 1535 N. Dayton St. Three dancers (Lisa Gonzales, Julia Mayer and Ayako Kato) and four musicians (Josh Berman, Jason Stein, Brian Labycz and Jason Roebke) collaborate on a live sound-movement experiment as they explore new ways of moving in the moment. Tickets: $10-$12. http://danceunion.tumblr.com/.

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