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United they dance: 4 companies join forces for FlySpace series

Margi Cole (from left) from The Dance COLEctive Michelle Kranicke from Zephyr Dance Jan Bartoszek from Hedwig Dances JoannRosenthal from

Margi Cole (from left) from The Dance COLEctive, Michelle Kranicke from Zephyr Dance, Jan Bartoszek from Hedwig Dances, and Joanna Rosenthal from Same Planet Different Work are collaborating for the FlySpace Dance Series. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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♦ All performances take place on the fully enclosed and heated stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E.
Randolph in Millennium Park
♦ Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre, April 5-6 at 7 p.m. and April 7 at 5 p.m
♦ The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance, April 12-13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 5 p.m.
♦ Tickets, $15
♦ (773) 871-0872;

Updated: April 8, 2013 1:10PM

Audience-building is the name of the game for all arts institutions, from the most established brick-and-mortar operations with multi-million-dollar budgets, to tiny itinerant troupes whose boards are comprised of generous family members and friends.

But talk to Michelle Kranicke, who for the past 22 years has been the artistic and administrative force behind Zephyr Dance, and the problem becomes more fully focused: “Dance is always at the bottom of the food chain, and when it comes to marketing and publicity, the challenges faced by a small, experimental, contemporary dance company like mine are huge.”

Confronted by the desperate, universal effort to brand and build, is there something to be said for the power of uniting? Can a consortium of dance companies — sharing the stage, as well as a joint marketing effort — become a viable “all for one and one for all” model?+Out of such questions came FlySpace,a new consortium of four long-established, female-led contemporary dance companies — Margi Cole’s The Dance COLEctive, Jan Bartoszek’s Hedwig Dances, Joanna Rosenthal’s Same Planet Different World and Kranicke’s Zephyr.

Bearing the name of the overhead space on a stage into which scenery and lighting equipment are hoisted, and hinting at every dancer’s fantasy of flight, FlySpace also suggests that by working together on new tools and with technology useful for audience development, all four organizations can “ascend” together. The project launches publicly in a two-weekend series on the intimate, heated, fully glass-enclosed stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and is part of Chicago Cultural Center Presents, a program of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. All four companies will be showcased, with three performances on each of two weekends, and with each weekend’s program featuring two companies.

“In a certain sense, contemporary dance attracts a niche audience that is interested in engaging in ideas and excited by the physicality of dance,”said Kranicke. “ But it is larger than we are able to access, and we now hope to raise the collective visibility. I think by getting attention for all of us we also will get that extra little crucial bit of notice for each of us. We are all keenly aware that we have the biggest audiences when we perform as part of a widely publicized series like those at the Dance Center of Columbia College or the MCA.”

“We discussed all this over a period of about two years,” said Hedwig Dances’ Bartoszek. “When you are creating a company’s work, and also serving as chief cook and bottle washer, there is not much time to do the back-end office stuff required to cultivate audiences and contributors. And we’ve all felt this even more strongly during the recent years of economic downturn when government and foundation funding fell off.”

As for the city, here was the Pavilion — a beautiful, dramatic, centrally located facility able to seat about 100 people, and adaptable to any season, yet underutilized for much of the year.

“What a great opportunity to perform in a space where you can use the city and the great lawn as your backdrop,” said Bartoszek, who said the four companies involved in FlySpace had annual budgets ranging from about $125,000 to $400,000. “As part of this project we are getting help with print marketing and the development of social media, including a microsite,”

Here’s a brief overview of the FlySpace Dance Series:

Weekend 1 (April 5-7): Hedwig Dances (, founded 28 years ago, will present Bartoszek’s world premiere “Double Helix,” involving large paper sculptures by Barbara Cooper and an original score by L.A.-based composer Matthew Ferraro, and “Por Dentro,” a quintet choreographed by Cuban-born company member Michel Rodriguez that explores physical communication. Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre (, founded in 1997, will present two works by Rosenthal — “Cracked” (a world premiere) and “It Is What It Is,” plus the premiere of a piece by Robin Mineko Williams, the veteran Hubbard Street dancer now focused on choreography, who explores the idea of patterns within the course of one’s life.

Weekend 2 (April 12-14): The Dance COLEctive (, founded in 1996, presents Margi Cole’s “Moving Stories,” exploring the notion of home, and “My Sufi Tale,” a solo performed by Cole that deals with survival. For Zephyr (, Kranicke has created a new abstract work designed specifically for the Pritzker stage space. It will feature her long-time movement collaborators Andrea Cerniglia and Colleen Welch, with lighting by Rich Norwood.

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