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Luna Negra Dance Theater: Heart & Soul

Though his absurdist, cinematic aesthetic suggests filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano likens his artistic vision to "playing with Legos." His new duet, Toda una Vida (All My Life), debuts Oct. 16 as part of Luna Negra Dance Theater's fall engagement at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. It also marks his new position as the contemporary Latino company's artistic director. In terms of those Lego building blocks, Sansano brings a refreshing non-linear wittiness to the troupe as he explores and refashions his view that "life is like a puzzle." No stranger to Luna Negra (founded in 1999 by Eduardo Vilaro, who now heads New York's Ballet Hispanico), Sansano created for the Chicago-based group Flabbergast (2001), a topsy-turvy commentary on his relative's desire to seek a better life, and Luna de Miel (The Honeymoon) in 2003 that mirrors the melodramatic structure of a Telenovela.

With Toda una Vida, set to Ravel's Bolero, he evokes the disparate but ultimately loving aspects of his parents' relationship -- one that began during Franco's dictatorship and has endured through subsequent sociopolitical upheaval and personal growth. The two dancers, initially separted by a coiled aluminum pipe, struggle to evolve as individuals and as a couple. They can be coy, reserved, unbridled, angry or preoccupied with daily tasks. They may refrain from touching or fervently adher to each other as their limbs construct a terrain of understanding, or struggle to fill in the empty spaces -- a dance of nuptial endurance.

Sansano invited Brazilian choreographer Fernando Melo (currently a dancer with Sweden's Goteburg Ballet) to set his abstract work for seven dancers, Bate (It Beats), on Luna Negra. It begins with a Cubist sensibility of revealing only certain body parts through on-stage windows, before humorously commenting on the tragic desperation of the men's lovelorn personae. They wander about in a trance, whine with gusto, then right themselves into a synchronized evocation of melancholy. The piece ends with a surprising visual recreation of a beating heart.

Both Sansano and Melo share a lush yet stark and cerebral artistic lineage, having worked with contemporary choreographers Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Johan Inger and Mats Ek in Germany, Holland, Sweden and the United States. As new artistic director, Sansano is poised to merge Luna Negra's Latino heritage explorations with refined and risk-taking choreography.

Also on the program is a revival of Vilaro's 2008 Deshar Alhat (Leave Sunday), which honors the music and culture of the Sephardic Jewish communities of Latin America.

Luna Negra Dance Theater performs Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr. Tickets: $25-$55. Call 312-334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org. More info: www.lunanegra.org.

Also playing...

Dance for the Camera: R.E.M./Dreamscapes continues tonight, Oct. 13, with a screening at 6 p.m. and a discussion at 7 p.m. with Erin Feiler of the Dance Center of Columbia College. The fourth annual evocative dance-film series is co-curated by Jan Bartoszek, artistic director of Hedwig Dances, and Sarah Best of the Chicago Cultural Center. It features abstract, poetic films that employ movement to often navigate an interior landscape. Highlights include the vintage-noir Meshes of the Afternoon, and the world premiere of (Black) Light by New York's Dance Film Association's artistic director Deirdre Towers. Event takes place at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington. Free. More info: www.HedwigDances.org.

The Joffrey Ballet opens its season with All Stars, a salute to choreographers of New York City Ballet, Oct. 13-24 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Program includes George Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Tarantella; Jerome Robbins' The Concert (or The Perils of Everybody); and Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain. Tickets: $25-$145. Call 800-982-2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. More info: www.joffrey.com.

In Pieces is the umbrella title for the collaborative Striding Lion Performance Group's tenth anniversary performance Oct. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield. Founding artistic director Annie Beserra returns to premiere Slip, which delves into humans' fear of obscurity; and choreographer Adriana Durant debuts Chemical Reactions, a study of energy exchanges between people in a chandelier-lit French disco. Tickets: $15-$20. Call 773-281-0824 or visit www.LinksHall.org. More info: www.stridinglion.org.

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre participates in danceOUT: Viva Chicago!, an evening of jazzy Latin American-inspired concert dance and socializing as part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. Tickets: $5. Call 773-472-6469 or visti www.centeronhalsted.org. More info: www.cerquarivera.org.

Pandemonium: The Lost and Found Orchestra runs through Oct. 17 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. STOMP co-creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas recreate a symphony orchestra using handmade instruments of found objects (albeit slickly produced) -- saws, bottles, traffic cones -- with an emphasis on orchestral melody versus edgy rhythms. Tickets: $25-$60. Call 800-775-2000 or visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

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