Chicago’s Next Dance Festival

Henry James once remarked that the house of fiction has many windows, and the same might be said of modern dance: with every new choreographer, its physical vocabulary and point of view shift. So the fact that the fifth annual Next Dance Festival is made up almost entirely of modern dance does not imply any limitation or monotony–far from it. And one of the best things about this fest is that it’s open to newcomers like Jennifer Grisham, whose duet Surfaces reveals that the view from her window is spare, even a little bleak, and assiduously unsentimental. Two women follow parallel paths that only occasionally vary and intersect–but when they do, the dancers’ linkages seem random and unmotivated. Grisham’s mainly interested in the way the body folds–in the fulcrums of the knees, the waist, the hips, the elbows–and in how one body bears another’s weight. Her dancers may logroll over each other or curl up together, but they never get personal. The score–droning or squawking horns, strings, and some ticking device winding down–is just as astringent. This, the first of three weekends, also features Grisham’s trio 30A-38; Chicago Moving Company member Cindy Brandle’s Awakening; Dardi McGinley Gallivan’s The Expedition Regrouped, commissioned for the Dance COLEctive; River North Dance Company member Harrison McEldowney’s untitled comic solo based on an animated short film; and Same Planet Different World’s Trinity and a new duet about lost relationships, Waves. (The second weekend features work by the 58 Group, Breakbone Dance Co., Jeffrey Hancock, Winifred Haun & Dancers, and Christy Munch, plus a children’s matinee on Sunday; the third, work by BackTalk DanceTheatre, Cerulean Dance Theatre, Paula Frasz, the Moose Project, and Zephyr Dance.) Beginning Thursday, January 21: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 through February 6 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport; $15, or $30 for all three programs (matinee Sunday, January 31, at 3:30 is $10, $3 for children under 12). Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 773-583-2995 for information.

–Laura Molzahn