Chicago Human Rhythm Project | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago Human Rhythm Project 

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Guys jumping around inside crates may not sound like much, but the Tokyo-based Boxmen put on quite a show. Wearing suits and ties and sometimes bowler hats, they stand inside the wooden frames, which come almost to their waists, and use their arms to jerk themselves and the boxes a few inches off the floor. The noise when they crash down is close to thunderous--and surprisingly well synchronized among the four dancers on the tape I watched. The rhythms aren't as subtle as those accomplished by footloose tappers. Still, the dancers manage considerable variety, tapping more traditionally both inside and outside their boxes, advancing downstage (which has a certain menacing appeal), and creating crude rhythms while rotating the crashing crates. Supposedly the Boxmen are referencing the homeless people living in boxes in Tokyo's subway system, but I'd never have guessed that from the cheery performance I watched. Also appearing on the "Rhythm Asia" bill, which comprises the first week of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project performances, is New York-based Cobu, headed by Japanese native Yako Miyamoto. Awkwardly alternating taiko drumming and tap dancing, this company has a stylish veneer--a woman's hair is dyed the same deep shade of red as her traditional-looking embroidered costume--and a warriorlike performance style at odds with the usual affability of tap dancers. The Chicago troupe Natya Dance Theatre also performs, lending the barefoot rhythms of classical Indian bharata natyam to this eclectic showcase of Asian percussive dance. (See listing for the other events that are part of the festival.) Museum of Contemporary Art, theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Through August 1: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $19-$22.

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