Jan Erkert & Dancers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jan Erkert & Dancers 

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In recent years I've wondered what makes Jan Erkert's choreography so moving. The movements are rarely literal--it isn't as if we're drawn in by a facile, familiar gesture that suggests emotion. And though she often chooses cut-to-the-bone subjects--losing one's children, experiencing a deathly illness--she doesn't hit us over the head with them. Her dances are at some elegant remove from life yet all the more powerful for that. Watching a rehearsal of her new piece Gaps made me think I'd found her secret: she establishes an energy, then transforms it continually. This piece begins with all five dancers in stationary stepping that gets bigger and bigger as their energy flows up and out until finally they move forward in a trainlike motion. It also helps that Erkert's movement is never dull: accompanied by jazzy blasts on saxophone or flute by Cameron Pfiffner in this piece, the dancers might twitch like the Faun in Nijinsky's L'apres-midi d'un faune or lie motionless on their bellies, heads up and turned to one side like a flock of birds gazing at something we can't see. In Erkert's Puerta del Alma ("Doorway to the Soul"), a solo she performed as a work in progress last fall at Dance Chicago '95, she's collaborated and will dance with a 70-year-old Guatemalan woman. Excerpts from these works will be shown with a performance of poetry, stories, and dance by Konojel Junam, the Guatemalan teen theater group from the Kovler Center for the Survivors of Torture, Thursday, April 18, at 12:15 in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State; free. Regular performances will include Erkert's two new pieces, her award-winning Whole Fragments from last year, and associate artistic director Mark Schulze's Inward and Outward Round (last fall's engaging I.S.T.B.E. #9, renamed and slightly revised). Next Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20, at 8 in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State; $12-$16. Call 800-732-6230 for tickets and information. --Laura Molzahn

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