Ambitious remounts and big, milestone concerts are on tap this winter for Chicago dance, with a handful of touring groups rarely seen within city limits. Here are the most anticipated dance events taking place early in 2023.
Step Afrika! This Washington, D.C., company has honed a theatrical style of stepping — a genre born in the fraternities and sororities of historically Black colleges and universities. Making their Auditorium Theatre debut, Step Afrika! blends stepping with its Indigenous roots across the Atlantic, culling this uniquely American form through decadeslong collaboration with artists in Johannesburg, South Africa. Jan. 14 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive; tickets $37-$83 at 312-341-2300 and auditoriumtheatre.org
Bob Eisen’s “On Go Ing”: In 1978, Charlie Vernon, Carol Bobrow and Bob Eisen rented an empty room above a Wrigleyville bar. They needed a space to dance, and called it Links Hall after the label on the side of the building. Revered nationwide as a hotbed for experimentation, Links Hall moved to Roscoe Village nearly 10 years ago — but never forgets its roots. Eisen’s annual visit was disrupted by the pandemic, but the septuagenarian returns this winter to dance on his transplanted hallowed grounds. Expect cool moves from Eisen and an all-star cast (Meida McNeal, Jennifer Monson, Ayako Kato and frequent partner Joanne Barrett among them). Track pants, sneakers and handstands are guaranteed. Feb. 10-11 at Links Hall, 3111 N. Western Ave.; tickets $15-$40 at 773-281-0824 and linkshall.org
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo: The trailblazing drag ballerinas lovingly known as “The Trocks” rarely stop in Chicago, last visiting the area in 2019 for one nighter at College of DuPage. Their comedic skills are on point(e), with satirical excerpts from classic ballets like “Swan Lake” and Michel Fokine’s “Dying Swan,” the solo that made Anna Pavlova a star. But these boys can really dance, and The Trocks’ signature blend of ballet, comedy and drag a night are not-to-be-missed. Feb. 11 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive; tickets $38-$84 at 312-341-2300 and auditoriumtheatre.org
Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina”: Yuri Possokhov’s pared-down version of the Tolstoy classic — pared down compared to Tolstoy, that is — is back in Chicago for the first time since it premiered in 2019. As modern ballets go, “Anna Karenina” is lush and schmaltzy in the best way. Gorgeous choreography, plus a superstar creative team including Ilya Demutsky’s moody original score, Tom Pye’s exquisite sets and costumes, and rich lighting by David Finn made for one of the best new narrative ballets this side of the 20th century. Feb. 15-26 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; tickets $36-$190 at 312-386-8905 and joffrey.org
Chicago Tap Theatre’s 20th Anniversary Show: A retrospective from the tap troupe’s 20-year history includes revivals by some of their earliest influencers: Rich Ashworth, Kirsten Uttich and Kendra Jorstad. But this show is not just about looking backward. Recent voices like Sterling Harris and Molly Smith will create new works, plus there will be a premiere by Chicago tap legend Martin Tré Dumas III. Feb. 18-19 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.; tickets will go on sale at chicagotaptheatre.com
Hamburg Ballet’s “The Glass Menagerie”: If any choreographer can get inside Tennessee Williams’ head, it’s John Neumeier. The Milwaukee native and longtime director of Hamburg Ballet is due to retire at the end of the season. Lucky for us, his 2019 ballet after Williams’ “memory play” is coming to the Windy City, keeping with the Harris Theater’s recent tradition of balancing risk and reward — with great success. Neumeier, like Williams, is not everyone’s taste, but a dive into this balletic mastermind’s worlds is almost always worth the trip. (Bonus: We’ll get another chance to see Neumeier’s Chicago swan song with his dark, grown-ups-only “Little Mermaid,” due to be staged April 19-23 by the Joffrey Ballet). Feb. 23-25 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $35-$140 at 312-334-7777 and harristheaterchicago.org
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: The legendary troupe’s annual stop in Chicago includes two new-to-us pieces by former resident choreographer Jamar Roberts and current dance darling Kyle Abraham. Also on the bill: a new production of Alvin Ailey’s tribute to Nelson and Winnie Mandela called “Survivors,” first created just three years before Ailey’s death, plus recent company premieres by Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp. March 8-12 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive; tickets $38-$120 at 312-341-2310 and auditoriumtheatre.org
Flock’s “Somewhere Between”: Florian Lochner and Alice Klock started their company duetting around the globe and have garnered momentum retrofitting their inimitable partnership onto pick-up ensembles. The result is a sometimes elegant, often quirky, mellifluous blend hinting at, but never copying, the pair’s roots in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Bonus: Kevin Shannon, who recently departed Hubbard Street after 14 seasons, joins the cast of six for Flock’s Dance Center debut. March 23-25 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan Ave.; tickets $30 at 312-369-8330 and dance.colum.edu
Celebrate Giordano: If there was ever a time to see Giordano Dance Chicago, it’s this capstone engagement celebrating 60 seasons of jaw-dropping jazz dance. Among the highlights are revivals of founder Gus Giordano’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” and Chicagoan Randy Duncan’s “Can’t Take This Away,” a joyful noise set to live gospel music from the Bourne Family Singers. South Chicago Dance Theatre joins for a staggering 25-dancer piece by choreographer Kia Smith; plus, rarely, if ever, seen photos and video of the company’s history will be showcased throughout this magical night. March 31-April 1 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.; tickets $20-$90 at 312-334-7777 and harristheaterchicago.org
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago “Elements”: Ailey veteran Hope Boykin and Stephen Petronio Company alum Thang Dao create new works for Hubbard Street’s two-week sit-down at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The company revisits some of the best stuff they’ve got in circulation — Aszure Barton’s “Busk” and Osnel Delgado’s “The Windless Hold,” for example — plus an exquisite solo excerpted from Kyle Abraham’s 2019 “The Bystander” and the company debut of “Coltrane’s Favorite Things” by Lar Lubovitch. March 23-April 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; tickets will go on sale at hubbardstreetdance.com
Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.