Jan Erkert | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jan Erkert 

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Jan Erkert has no shame. She's never had any. In 1989 she performed a solo called Fame & Fortune in a pink Afro wig, a tutu, and tennies. In the 1991 Forgotten Sensations, members of her company rolled around on patches of sod and pretended to be babies nuzzling for their mothers' breasts, then munched apples and oranges greedily. These images--as well as video close-ups of Erkert in a bathing cap pursing her lips and dragging her fingers down her cheeks--reappear in her new 70-minute solo piece, presented with help from numerous collaborators. Memoirs in the Stomping Grounds is a compendium of old dances and themes unraveled and rewoven, just as the choreographer did literally with cloth hangings in the 1997 Unweavings. And after a good quarter century making dances--Erkert had her own company from 1979 to 2001--she's got plenty of material to draw on. Amazingly, though she's pretty much alone onstage throughout (Atalee Judy acts as dresser, stagehand, and all-around helper), the piece feels massive, perhaps because of the volume and variety of video projections, texts, musical selections, set pieces, and props. Then there's Erkert's plethora of allusions, personal and cultural, interspersed throughout. The ones I found most moving were those to her mother, in stories about her mom's love for pink and for zebra prints, in a recurring yellow afghan, and (I think) in a character who washes her hair with popcorn. Whimsical, wild, and eventually serious and lyrical, Memoirs in the Stomping Grounds represents a remarkable return to the stage for a dancer entering her 50s. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Through April 12: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $24. Note: A book-signing party for Erkert's Harnessing the Wind: The Art of Teaching Modern Dance follows the Friday performance.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Erika Dufour.

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