Dance at its finest
Chicago’s River North blends jazz and
By Gabrielle Wiegand
If you could see music, it would
look like River North Chicago Dance Company’s performance
November 6 at the Sangamon Auditorium.
company, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary,
blends jazz and modern dance to create a unique, daring
performance with a company of just 13.
The dancers are incredible
athletes with unbelievable skill and talent. They appeared to
be having a great time while they performed. They looked like
they really like what they do and the audience picked up on the
performers’ enjoyment of their craft.
The show started with a single
woman on a bare stage wearing an elegantly understated red
dress, dancing to “The Sweetest Sounds,” part of the company’s
tribute to Richard Rodgers. From that solo number, there was a
seamless transition to the full company dancing to “My Funny
Valentine.” The company, in perfect synchronization, moved to
the music with grace and emotion that was natural and unforced.
After the Rodgers tribute,
Monique Haley, who is in her third season with the company,
performed an exotic and high energy structured improvisation to
drum beats. It blended the dancer’s own movements with segments
of choreographed movement.
“Balada para un loco” was by far
my favorite dance in the performance. It featured six dancers
constantly moving and rearranging themselves into shapes and
formations, with each of their movements perfectly controlled
and planned. It combined dance and acrobatics in such a way
that it gave me goose bumps.
A male/female duet to Etta James
singing “At Last” followed, performed by Heather Sirois and
Ruedi Arnold. It was a dance of heat and sensuality with the
two dancers flirting back and forth, demonstrating their passion
without saying a word.
River North Chicago Dance boasts
of equally strong male and female dancers. In “Adrift” we saw a
man, James Gregg, alone onstage, conveying strong emotion
without a word or a sound. Then the company joined him for
“Storm,” a bold dance choreographed by Randy Duncan and
premiered by the company in 1997.
After intermission, the company
returned with the “Grusin Suite,” a five-part performance that
was first done by the company in 1996. “Grusin Suite” was
pretty straightforward jazz, choreographed by Frank Chaves, the
company’s artistic director, with some slight comedy thrown in.
Chaves’ choreography and the dancers’ skill made the dance look
Next in the program was “The
Mourning”, featuring Jessica Wolfrum and Bjorn Bolinder and “A
Mi Manera.” “A Mi Manera” was the Gipsy Kings’ version of Frank
Sinatra’s “My Way.” It featured three female performers dancing
three different but complementary dances, choreographed by three
The show ended with “5 Easy
Lessons,” a collection of five dances to classic songs sung by
Sarah Vaughan. They were fun and risqué and gave everyone in
the company a chance to show off.
The movement of each performer
seemed to come from deep inside each dancer- natural and
innate. There are so many types of styles of dance and the
River North Chicago Dance captured that. Their costumes, which
were minimal but very colorful and eye-catching, were ideal for
each musical number.
'Iron Jawed Angels:' empowering portrayal of
“Iron Jawed Angels” is a moving
and empowering film about the true story of the women’s suffrage
movement that was shown on campus Nov. 1 by the Women’s Issue
Caucus and the UIS College Democrats.
“Iron Jawed Angels” tells the
story of suffragist Alice Paul, played by Hilary Swank, and her
friend Lucy Burns, played by Frances O’Connor, as they work to
pass a constitutional amendment giving women the vote.
In 1912, they approach Carrie
Chapman Catt, played by Anjelica Huston, and Anna Howard Shaw,
played by Lois Smith, of NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage
Association) and ask to take over the Washington, D.C.
committee. The older, more seasoned suffragists find Paul and
Burns’ enthusiasm and plans too liberal for their tastes but
they allow them to go to D.C. with the understanding that they
must raise their own operating funds.
In D.C., the women begin by
organizing a parade on the day of Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration
in order to draw attention to their cause. The parade is the
beginning of a long line of attempts to convince President
Wilson to support the push for women’s suffrage.
Paul and Burns are joined by
Alice’s friend from college Mabel Vernon, played by Brooke
Smith, Polish factory worker Ruza Wenclawska, played by Vera
Farmiga and social worker Doris Stevens, played by Laura Fraser.
Their parade figurehead and thus the symbol of their movement is
labor lawyer Inez Mulholland, played by Julia Ormond.
Soon their fundraising has been
so successful, NAWSA calls for an investigation into their funds
and Paul decides to split with the group forming the National
Women’s Party. Everything seems to be moving along until the
U.S. joins World War I. During a routine picketing outside the
White House, a crowd attacks the suffragists and they are
and convicted, they are sentenced to 60 days in a workhouse. The
protests do not stop. Paul takes another group to protest and
they too are arrested and sent to the workhouse. Refusing to be
silenced, the women go on a hunger strike in prison and force
the president and the nation to take notice. For according to
one of the suffragists, “In prison or out, American women are
This was an incredible film with
phenomenal acting and composition. Hilary Swank was spellbinding
as Paul. Alice Paul was the embodiment of the suffragist cause
and Swank was able to portray that part of her while still
letting us see her humanity and her vulnerabilities. Frances
O’Connor was also excellent. She was able to lend some humor to
the film that is, by its nature, very serious and sober.
Julia Ormond, Anjelica Huston,
the always super-cute Patrick Dempsey who played Paul’s love
interest, and others filled their secondary roles perfectly.
Some of my favorite elements of
the film were the music and cinematography. This is, of course,
a period piece with corsets, lots of cool hats, etc., but at the
same time the music is ultra modern. The soundtrack features
Vertical Horizon, Lauryn Hill, and Sarah McLachlan, among
others. The movement of the camera is fast and exciting to match
the excitement of the suffragist movement in the film.
“Iron Jawed Angels” was directed
by German director Katja von Garnier and premiered on HBO in
February of 2004. I am convinced that once people watch this
film, regardless of their gender, they will never again take for
granted their right to vote.
Former 'SNL'. 'Mad
About You' star comes to Sangamon
Comedian Steven Wright will be
performing at Sangamon Auditorium on Nov. 13. “I was born. When
I was 23, I started telling jokes. Then I started going on
television and doing films. That's still what I am doing. The
end,” says Wright on his website, but there appears to be much
more to the comedian than that.
began by performing on Saturday Night Live in 1983 and returned
to SNL in 1985. In 1986, he produced his debut album entitled
“I Have a Pony,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Wright has been in numerous films
and television programs.
He was in “Desperately Seeking
Susan” in 1985, “Reservoir Dogs” in 1992, and “Mixed Nuts” in
1994. More recently he was in 1998’s “Babe: Pig in the City,”
“The Muse” in 1999, and 2003’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” among
Wright also appeared on the
television series “Mad About You” from 1992 to 1994. He made a
guest appearance on “Becker” in 1999. Wright is not only a
performer, however. He directed, wrote, and acted in 1988’s
“The Appointments of Dennis Jennings” an HBO Short Film. It won
an Academy Award for best short film, live action. Wright went
on to direct and act in an HBO film in 1999 entitled “One
To read more on Wright go to his
Steven Wright will be at Sangamon
Auditorium Saturday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25
to $32. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact
the Sangamon Auditorium Box Office by visiting its website at
or calling 206-6160.
“View of the Dome” a Venn diagram
of power, sex, and politics
Where have you gone, Monica
It has been one week since the
end of an election season in which we were told The Evildoers
still want to kill us, attacking Iraq was a good idea, the other
guy will ruin social security, attacking Iraq was a bad idea,
and, oh yeah, watch out for that hungry pack of metaphors.
The past three months made me
nostalgic for that not-so-distant time when the media tittered
over a stained, blue dress and the President’s worst crime was
that he misappropriated cigars.
Opening at the UIS Studio
Theater last Friday, “View of the Dome” fit the bill.
Written slightly before Monica
became a household name, the play follows the fall and rise (and
fall) of Emma, an ingénue who convinces her idealistic law
school professor to run for Congress.
Emma (Lytishya Borglum) thinks
she is on Arthur’s (Jeff DiScala) campaign staff until she is
shunted into a corner during a dinner with an important senator.
Not one to take things lying
down, Emma devises a strategy for revenge, which ironically
involves a fair amount of lying down.
“View of the Dome” has less
faith in the average politician than do many voters. To a one
they were all portrayed as crass, manipulative and ruthlessly
This play’s political
establishment is designed to disabuse politicians of their
ideals as quickly and fully as possible.
Forget service, honor, wealth,
and fame…politics is about power. So says Senator Geoffrey
Maddox (Paul Cary), who shares a surname with one of the vilest
characters in American history, segregationist Georgia Governor
Before long, Emma’s plan garners
media attention and brings trouble to the politicians she set
out to get.
She is courted by a right-wing
religious organization led by Richard Reilly (Jim Hepworth).
This scene exposes one of the
few, minor flaws in this production. There are ten actors
playing 24 characters, and at times it was difficult to tell
which character was on stage.
The right-wing leader was also
the actor behind Emma’s kind uncle; for a few moments it was
difficult to tell why her uncle had turned into such a jerk.
Though the timing could have
been just a little tighter, some scenes were hilarious.
Among the funniest were a series
of “dream sequences” in which Emma imagines how the dinner might
have gone differently. (Emma: “Lucky it’s not the Vatican.”
Tommy: “Arturo, why are these women talking?!”)
Whitney Alao, playing the
alcoholic screenwriter E. T. Black, steals one of the earlier
“Do you know who I am?” she asks
Emma every two minutes, later telling her, “ideals are nothing —
[expletive, rhymes with ‘ducking’] Plato forgot to tell you that
Black returns in the second act,
playing her entire scene with a lit cigarette. It is one of
those distracting stunts that, in rehearsal, must seem like a
really good way to define the character, but in reality only
succeeds in filling the theater with the fresh smell of an Elks’
Lodge on a Sunday morning.
“View of the Dome” harkens back
to a time when partisan battles seemed more about sex scandals
than policy differences.
Gennifer, Paula, and Monica have
been supplanted by Osama, Saddam, and Kim. With Americans at
war and major policy battles looming, today’s invective
political atmosphere makes that of the 1990s seems quaint.
Still, the talented cast and the
intimate atmosphere of the studio theater combine to make a show
Saturday, Nov. 12-13 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 14 at
2:00 p.m. in the Studio Theater. Tickets $10 (UIS: $6
faculty/staff, $4 students). For more information, contact the
Sangamon Auditorium Box Office at 217-206-6160 or visit
Allusion, illusion, & delusion:
Natkin opens show at Visual Arts Gallery
By Brian Mackey
“I really have a big, fat
mouth. I love to talk.”
Natkin introduced his show to another standing-room-only crowd
at the UIS Visual Arts Gallery last Thursday.
At age 74, the Chicago-born
artist has what he calls terrible leg problems, “I hope it
doesn’t seem pretentious or anything, but I’m taking off my
shoes because I’m in such pain.”
He could have fooled the
audience. For the next half-hour, he delivered an energetic,
circuitous talk on his past, his family, and his art.
Natkin is an abstract painter,
that is, his works are not necessarily pictorial depictions but
rather are representations of internal feelings, moods, and
experiences (of course, by its very nature, abstract painting
defies easy definition).
Natkin said that when he begins
a new work, he has no idea what his paintings will look like.
He believes in working freely, painting off the top of his head.
“Style is the enemy of art, and
I’m always trying to tell students, ‘don’t try for style.’”
He said that in recent years, he
has been “losing things:” words, thoughts. He has been drawing
people, though he will not sell the work (he gives them away).
He never uses people posing, and
said, “I like to just work from photographs because the
photographs leave me alone.”
Natkin spoke a lot about the
concept of “joy.” At different times it was a signifier for
color, taking risks in art and life, and a story about him
trying to cheer his wife by jumping up and down on their bed.
With no clothes. Last week.
“I feel like I’ve overused that
word. I swear I’m not going to use it one more time.” In a
rapid whisper, he added, “Joy joy joy.”
Even though he calls himself a
non-narrative artist — no Red Riding-hood or Christ Rising, as
he put it — Natkin says his work has an equivalent to narrative.
But he does not necessarily like
talking about the specifics of his technique. “If you expected
me to talk about color or space or composition…what the blank is
Natkin studied at the Art
Institute of Chicago from 1948-1952. Someone asked him if he
used anything today that he learned back then.
No, he said, nothing against the
Art Institute, but “I didn’t know how to learn.”
He said he was lucky, however,
to go upstairs to the museum, look at the paintings of Matisse
and Goya, and not be intimidated.
Today, his own works share space
with past masters. In New York alone, he has paintings in the
public collections of MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the
The audience reacted warmly to
Thom Whalen, the Assistant
Professor of Art at Lincoln Land Community College who just
exhibited in the gallery this October, said, “I thought he was
Toward the end of the evening, a
woman asked Natkin, “Why does art need art criticism?”
Without missing a beat, he
replied, “I think art criticism is bulls--t.”
After a discourse on why critics
were bad for artists, he worked his way around to saying that
they were necessary — and sometimes good — in bringing art to a
He eventually conceded, “No
matter how much praise I’d ever get in the world, it could never
On the Net:
Can songwriters be nobel
By Paige Wessel
October came and went, and once
again, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan failed to secure the Nobel
Prize in Literature.
It marked the eighth year that
Dylan has been nominated but failed to win the prize despite
efforts by Gordon Ball, author and literature professor at the
Virginia Military Institute, who has nominated Dylan for the
award every year since 1996.
Traditionally, the Nobel Academy
has awarded the prize to works of fiction, historical and
biographical works, poems and plays. Although a songwriter has
yet to secure the prize, the Nobel Academy says that songwriters
are not excluded from the selection process.
Which begs the question: Can
songs be considered works of literature?
Clearly, the rhythmic quality of
song ties it to poetry, a point argued by Ball in nominating
Dylan: “Poetry and music are linked and Dylan has helped
strengthen that relationship.”
But what standards should the
Academy use in evaluating song? Should the music play a role in
candidate selection, or should lyrics stand alone as a ruler for
I do not pretend to hold the
qualifications necessary to choose future Nobel winners. But if
I could head up the selection committee, I would assume that
lyric quality is essential, and some measure of musical
excellence is necessary to distinguish a particular song from
other works, or songs.
Given these somewhat broad
standards, I offer a short list of candidates, in no particular
order, for consideration for the Nobel Prize in Literature:
1. Bob Dylan: His
alliterative lyrics hold a special place in the folk tradition,
and have found their way into textbooks, movies, and
documentaries, to name a few.
Songs for consideration:
Mr. Tambourine Man, Hurricane, Blowin’ in the Wind, Like a
Rolling Stone and All Along the Watchtower
2. Harry Chapin: He’s best
known for Cats in the Cradle, but Chapin’s “wordy” songs
range from silly to sentimental to suggestive of social reform.
His work has already received theatrical attention through the
musical revue Lies and Legends.
Songs for consideration:
Taxi, W.O.L.D., Sniper, Dance Band on the Titanic, and
Tangled Up Puppet
3. Simon and Garfunkel:
Though this pair of artists firmly secured the place of
folk-rock among viable music genres through years of work, it
was their quickly-composed Mrs. Robinson tune in the film
The Graduate that gained them long-term fame. Their
unusual harmonies and well-executed acoustic guitar distinguish
their lyrics from the competition.
Songs for consideration:
Sound of Silence, Homeward Bound, The Boxer, and A
Hazy Shade of Winter
4. Billy Joel: His rich
piano stylings accompany catchy words to make memorable ballads,
invoking a variety of emotions and styles. His song Goodnight
My Angel was actually turned into a children’s book this
year. The text of this work? Just his lyrics…
Songs for consideration:
Piano Man, Goodnight My Angel, She’s Always a Woman,
We Didn’t Start the Fire and River of Dreams
5. U2: This band’s
electrifying rock sound aids in pounding out top-notch lyrics as
sung by Bono’s truly unique vocals. Like many of the bands on
this list, U2’s work ranges over pop hits, provocative social
statement, and love songs.
Songs for Consideration:
Where the Streets Have No Name, Beautiful Day, With or
Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Grace,
6. Coldplay: As the newest
of these entries, Coldplay may have the most ground to cover.
Though their lyrics may be simple and repetitive, they achieve a
memorable melancholy optimism through the interweaving of words
with addictive melodies. Consider the words of A Whisper:
Night turns to day, And I still have these questions, Bridges
will break, Should I go forwards or backwards? Night turns to
day, And I still get no answers
Songs for consideration:
A Whisper, Clocks, Yellow, God Put a Smile Upon Your Face,
Politik, and Don’t Panic.
Certainly, many more artists
would merit inclusion on this list, but I thought these entries
provided notable lyrists over the past thirty to forty years of
music. It remains to be seen whether or not the Nobel Committee
would agree with me, but there’s always hope for 2005….