Kurt Elling and the Tyego Dance Project | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Kurt Elling and the Tyego Dance Project 

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KURT ELLING AND THE TYEGO DANCE PROJECT

What's surprising about this "Traffic" concert is the degree of collaboration between choreographer August Tye and jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, who's performing live. Choreographers usually fit movement to a previously composed piece of music--and Tye has done this with some of Elling's repertoire. But they've flipped the process, too: Elling has written some new pieces (prose poems accompanied by his longtime partner, pianist Laurence Hobgood) for dances Tye previously composed. And they've built a few works from the ground up, agreeing on the germ of an idea and creating dance and music in tandem. Elling and Tye suit each other well: both produce work that's smart, sexy, and wonderfully inventive, and both know how to throw a line into disarray with a seemingly intuitive quirk, then let it snap back into place. Both have a gift for revitalizing their disciplines: Elling catapults his music off the hipster aesthetic of the 50s and 60s, and Tye uses the classic vocabulary to create structures ballet masters never envisioned. Her narratives run from the straightforward to the abstruse. To Elling's recent recording of the Irving Berlin ditty "The Best Things (Happen While You're Dancing)," she concocts a dance contest for five couples that both celebrates the song's romanticism and parodies it in the form of one hapless pair to whom the worst things happen on the floor. At the other extreme, working from the Elling-Hobgood setting of a Gwendolyn Brooks poem written to celebrate the unveiling of the Daley Plaza Picasso, Tye creates a series of abstract tableaux with the tensile energy of the sculpture itself. In addition to Elling and Hobgood, the concert features Elling's wife, Jennifer Carney Elling--a model of lithe rhythm--as guest soloist with Tyego Dance Project. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650. Monday, February 15, 7:30 PM. $30. --Neil Tesser

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