Dance, architecture team up for new Thodos Dance project
By Myrna Petlicki For Sun-Times Media February 21, 2014 8:28AM
A new work by Thodos Dance Chicago is a collaboration with Studio Gang Architects, which created the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. | Katie Graves photo
THODOS DANCE CHICAGO: WINTER CONCERT 2014
♦ 8 p.m. Feb. 22
♦ North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, Ill.
♦ Tickets, $20-$46
♦ (847) 673-6300;
Updated: February 21, 2014 8:28AM
Theoretically, dance and architecture have common elements. They both deal in form and function.
Evanston, Ill., native Melissa Thodos, founder and artistic director of Thodos Dance Chicago, has found a way to blend the two disciplines. Her company has been collaborating with Jeanne Gang, founder and principal of Studio Gang Architects, to develop a piece set to premiere at Thodos’ Winter Concert 2014, Feb. 22 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Ill.
“As an artist and in the context of the creative mission on my company, which really embraces creative thought and creative development, I’m always searching for new ways to work,” Thodos said. “Collaborations are a wonderful way to go because anyone that I work with brings something wonderful and new and fresh to the table.”
Thodos knew that Gang, who served on Thodos’ board for a time, was a lover of dance, so the pairing was a natural fit.
“Jeanne presented to me a concept in physics that has been intriguing her for a while,” Thodos said. That concept, being developed by physicist Sidney Nagel and the Nagel Group at the University of Chicago, is called jamming. It involves creating vacuum-supported membrane structures with load-bearing properties.
Thodos and Gang both brought their artistic teams to the University of Chicago to learn more about this process. Then they got to work on the joint project, including visiting each other’s studios to see their respective creative processes.
“Everything that’s being done for this work is dictated by this wonderful new idea in physics
that we’re presenting together,” Thodos said. At press time, the full-company piece had not been named yet.
The show also includes the world premiere of a work by choreographer Lucas Crandall, of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; “Panem Nostrum Quoditianum” (“Our Daily Bread”) by guest choreographer Ahmad Simmons; and “A Light in the Dark: The story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan,” a story ballet that was co-choreographed by Thodos and Broadway legend Ann Reinking.
“A Light in the Dark,” which was the subject of the documentary “Shine,” was first presented by the company in 2013. Company member Alissa Tollefson dances the role of Anne Sullivan.
“It’s based on the movie, ‘The Miracle Worker,’ ” Tollefson said. “There’s 11 scenes that we chose to do. Unlike our previous story ballet ‘The White City,’ there is some dialogue, and there’s more acting. It’s a more intimate story ballet where you can really get to know the characters.”
As part of the piece, the company does “disability awareness through the ‘touch tour’ before the show,” Tollefson said. “People who are visually impaired can come on the stage and feel the props and the set pieces and the costumes. During the performance, we have somebody in the audience do a spoken dialogue of what’s happening onstage.”