This review is written with mixed emotions, one part celebratory and one part bittersweet. Focusing initially on the celebration, Thodos Dance Chicago is returning to the Auditorium Theatre’s stage for their 25th Anniversary performance. Now for the bittersweet, this piece marked Thodos’ final performance as an ensemble company. Originally founded in 1992, Melissa Thodos painstakingly crafted a contemporary dance company from the ground up. Now on solid financial footing, no small feat in itself, Thodos has decided a little restructuring of the organization to produce more project-based work is in order. “Our ride to 25 has been incredibly fulfilling, personally and professionally, and I feel such a deep sense of accomplishment as we celebrate our Silver anniversary season,” shared Thodos. “As Thodos Dance Chicago has grown, I found myself spending more time focused on artistic management and day to day operations and less time in the studio. Now I seek more time and creative freedom as a choreographer and educator.” Who could fault her for that? Thodos Dance Chicago is now synonymous with inventive, pioneering modern dance. After a quarter century of innovative work, Thodos is not hanging up her dancing shoes permanently, but the ensemble, as it is known and designated now, is no more. The swan song, a collection of new and classic routines titled Full Circle. With a proclamation signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, March 11, 21017 was recognized as Thodos Dance Chicago Day in Chicago. It was time to let the last dance begin.
After a brief video presentation of Thodos’ greatest hits and accomplishments throughout the years, the first dance of the showcase was Briana Robinson’s Uncovering. Backed by music from the Portico Quartet, dancers Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Shelby Moran, Richard Peña and Brenna Renteria took to the stage in a flutter of meticulously crafted whirls, twirls, boys and girls. Strong, assertive arm movements complimented their crisp rotations. Adorned in costumes designed by Nathan Rohrer and Briana Tobin, this initial whimsical modern dance achieved all that is signature Thodos Dance Chicago. Melissa Thodos’ own Changing Strangers was up next, Nathan Rohrer’s turquoise and red costumes popped against the dark staging. Once again, the tremendously athletic, remarkably strong and flexible dancers worked in syncopated unison to the music “Summa” and “Fratas” by Arvo Part. The third piece, Brian Enos’ Acid Reign, began with an array of supermodel runway strutting across the stage, set against music producer Trentemøller and Kevin MacLeod’s powerful bass. Costume designer Nathan Rohrer’s grey shorts and muted toned tees adorned a dozen dancers all performing sharp and sexy, fierce and titillating, potent movements.
Following a brief intermission, it was time for the Chicago premiere of Bella Lewitzky’s Nos Duraturi. Using Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms” as accompanying music, twelve dancers emerged, proving lengthy, lanky, and strikingly beautiful. Shelby Moran’s solo captivated as did the duet between Thomas Jacobson and Richard Peña. The closing piece of the evening’s puzzle ended where everything once began. Melissa Thodos’ The Wheel Trilogy, merging choreography from 1986 and her initial piece Reaching There, 2011’s Getting There and a new piece, 2017 There. The entire troupe once again took the stage performing a cornucopia of gravity defying modern dance moves, all performed on, in and around a five foot rolling ring. This prop reinforcing the Full Circle concept from which the evening found its moniker. A masterful and visually delightful blend of ballet and gymnastics, authoritative movement, fluid flirtatiousness, sass and, of course, fun.
As a fan of Thodos Dance Chicago, I look forward to seeing the future performances inspired by the organizations’ current metamorphosis. I think it is important to acknowledge by name all of the individuals who comprise this troupe of hardworking, dedicated and remarkably talented dancers. They include Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Shelby Moran, Richard Peña, Brenna Renteria, John Cartwright, Abby Ellison, Alex Gordon, Hattie Haggard, Hailey Meert, Thomas Jacobson, Marchetta Genis, Tyler Ring, Melissa Panetta, Lisa Caldwell, Kristen Vasilakos, Carson VonFeldt and Luis Vazquez. Their capable talents and masterful skills in modern dance have directly aided in Thodos Dance Chicago’s successful ascent to the forefront of modern dance institutions. Not just exclusively here in the Windy City, but throughout the country as well. I am eager to discover where each of these talented performers will land next. For now, I will raise a glass to celebrate all that each have accomplished in this final moment. It may be a silver anniversary, but all involved are starting anew. To that I will simply say Cheers.
Thodos Dance Chicago Full Circle played at the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday, March 11, 2017.