China Dance Theater | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

China Dance Theater 

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Hybrids can be strange two-headed monsters, and the program being presented by the 52-member Beijing-based China Dance Theatre, making its North American debut in Chicago, promises to be no exception. The 12 pieces, called collectively "August Rising," are "modern" (that is, Western) interpretations of "traditional" (Chinese) dance movements and concepts, sometimes of recent vintage--Ode to the Red Flag, for instance, pays tribute to "motherland China." The dancers are clearly talented and well trained: in various pieces, a man holds a woman aloft by the ankles as she releases her long, blowing scarf (there's lots of billowing fabric throughout the evening); a man tosses himself with unbelievable confidence and fervor into somersaults, barrel turns, and handsprings; and a group of men play drums strapped across their chests with all the bravado of warriors about to plunge into battle. Gender roles are well-defined and mutually exclusive: a woman traverses the stage in tiny steps, then flings aside her cape to reveal huge, long sleeves, which she alternately tosses or crumples. And in a piece that perhaps exemplifies the company's hybridization, a stage full of performers present a traditional ribbon dance to music that sounds as if it's come directly from the old Lawrence Welk Show. Revolutionary this is not. Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, 312-902-1400, 312-977-1710 for rates on groups of 20 or more. Opens Tuesday, February 27, 8 PM. Through March 4: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $24-$57.

--Laura Molzahn

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