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Form vs. function: Jeanne Gang plans collaboration

Thodos Dance ensemble members pose one Studio Gang’s signature Chicago structures Nature Boardwalk Lincoln Park Zoo. | Katie Graves photo

Thodos Dance ensemble members pose at one of Studio Gang’s signature Chicago structures, the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. | Katie Graves photo

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:48PM



Jeanne Gang, the Chicago architect and MacArthur Fellowship Award winner, has already stepped into the wings of the theatrical world with her design for the new Glencoe-based home for Writers’ Theatre.

Now she is segueing into the world of contemporary dance by way of a collaboration with choreographer Melissa Thodos — designing an interactive “set” for an as yet untitled piece that will explore “the intersections of dance, architecture and physics.”

The piece will debut as part of Thodos Dance Chicago’s mixed-bill Winter Concert 2014 at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2014, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The program will be repeated (March 8 at 7:30 p.m. and March 9 at 2 p.m.) at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph.

Studio Gang Architects will be designing an interactive structure that combines art and science, tapping into cutting-edge research being performed by physicist Sidney Nagel and the Nagel Group at the University of Chicago. This new process, informally called “jamming,” is being used to create “vacuum-supported membrane structures with load-bearing properties. Responding to movement and other stimuli, the structure, stage set and dancers will transform into a live study of motion, material, shape, composition and light.”

In a prepared statement Gang noted: “As architects we are interested in how Thodos Dance Chicago uses the body’s physicality and the mechanism of performance to catalyze community and creative discovery. We are thrilled to collaborate with the company on this unique project exploring parallels between the worlds of audience and performer, art and science, movement and stasis.”

In addition to the Thodos-Gang piece, the program will include: The highly dramatic and moving story ballet, “A Light in the Dark: The Story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan,” co-choreographed by Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking, that explores the world of Keller, the extraordinary writer-activist who found ways to transcend her deafness and blindness through the efforts of her teacher; a world premiere work by choreographer Lucas Crandell, currently Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s rehearsal director; and “Panem Nostrum Quoditianum” (“Our Daily Bread”), a piece exploring spiritual matters, created by Ahmad Simmons of River North Dance Chicago.

For tickets to the North Shore Center program ($20-$46), call (847) 673-6300 or visit northshorecenter.org.

For tickets to the Harris Theater engagement ($20-$60), call (312) 334-7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org.

Email: hweiss@suntimes.com

Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic



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