This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Thodo Dance Chicago’s “New Dances” at the Athenaeum Theatre. It was the first contemporary dance performance I’d ever seen. So I’m not skilled with the vocabulary of dance, and I can’t really speak to the technical aspects of the performance, except to say – I absolutely enjoyed it and anyone who has pretensions to knowing the live theatre scene in Chicago should check this company out. It’ll be awhile before they perform here again (next February, to be exact), but I recommend the experience with no reservations.

I’ve been a season ticket holder at the Joffrey Ballet, the Lyric Opera, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, which have all staged relatively modern productions, but I really know very little about dance. (I read a book about ballet once.) I found Thodos Dance’s version of the art to be thoughtful, beautiful, diverse, innovative, and accessible, even though I’m fairly certain some of the deeper meanings went over my head.

In “New Dances,” members of the Thodos ensemble directed and created their own choreographed visions over a three-month development period, and had the opportunity to be mentored by professionals. The 15-year-old program is designed to launch post-dance careers, allowing the company’s artists to showcase their skills as choreographers and educators as well as dancers. The ensemble members submitted creative proposals, cast their works, collaborated on lighting and costume design, contributed to marketing, and scheduled rehearsals.

thodos3What I saw this weekend was the result. These were nine different new works, short enough to interest those of us with less-than-average attention spans, featuring a variety of themes, music, and styles. I was honestly impressed by the differences I saw between these dances and the more traditional ballet movements I’m used to. Thodos dancers give of an impression of real strength and agility and health. They’re clearly athletes as well as artists.

I won’t discuss the show in too much detail, as it’s my understanding that it was unique to this past weekend. And while some of the works will reappear in later Thodos repertories, or be picked up by productions from other groups, it will not be the same. I’ll just urge you to look out for future Thodos Dance productions, which often take place at Chicago’s Harris Theater or the Auditorium Theater. The group is staging its 2016 winter concerts in Skokie and Chicago starting next February. Visit the website for more information.

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