Guest Choreographers in Residence
We are determined to bring a diverse range of professional Dance artists, Dance companies, and Guest Lecturers to interact with our students.
We are proud to present our Spring Dance Concert Guest Choreographers in Residence:
Charles Askegard, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA), Charles began his dance training at the age of five with Loyce Houlton and the Minnesota Dance Theatre. He continued his studies in Minneapolis until the age of 16, spending one summer at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, in 1983. Mr. Askegard joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in 1987, and was promoted to soloist in 1992. His repertoire while at American Ballet Theatre included leading roles in Giselle, La Bayadere, Manon, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Etudes, Voluntaries, The Rite of Spring, Symphonic Variations, Rodeo, Fall River Legend, The Other, The Red Shoes, Le Corsaire pas de deux and Apollo.
In 1997, Mr. Askegard left ABT to join New York City Ballet as a soloist. He served as Principal Dancer from 1998 until 2011. In 2002, he appeared in the nationally televised Live from Lincoln Center broadcast, "New York City Ballet's Diamond Project: Ten Years of New Choreography" on PBS, dancing in Them Twos. And in May of 2004, he appeared in the Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of "Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine 100," dancing in Vienna Waltzes. In addition to his appearances with New York City Ballet, Mr. Askegard has been a guest artist with The Dutch National Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Etudes of South Florida, Bavarian State Opera Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Philippine Ballet Theatre, The Daring Project and the Stars of American Ballet. He performed the leading roles opposite Barbie in the "Barbie" 3-D animated videos, dancing in Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and the Twelve Dancing Princesses. He can also be seen in the documentary Ballet, directed by Fred Wiseman.
Since joining New York City Ballet, Mr. Askegard has danced featured roles in several key choreographers of the 20th and 21st century including:
George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante, Apollo, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (Fourth Movement), Concerto Barocco, Coppélia (Frantz), Cortège Hongrois, Firebird, The Four Temperaments, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™, "Diamonds" from Jewels, Ivesiana, Kammermusik No. 2, Liebeslieder Walzer, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Orpheus, Robert Schumann's "Davidsbündlertänze", Scotch Symphony, Serenade, Stars and Stripes, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Swan Lake, Symphony in C, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (Theme and Variations), Union Jack, Vienna Waltzes, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Western Symphony, Who Cares? Peter Martins' Barber Violin Concerto, Fearful Symmetries, Morgen, Naïve and Sentimental Music, The Sleeping Beauty (Gold), Swan Lake (Siegfried and Russian), The Waltz Project, Harmonielehre, River of Light, Swan Lake, ThemTwos, Thou Swell and Viva Verdi Jerome Robbins' The Four Seasons (Fall), Glass Pieces, In Memory of..., In the Night, Ives, Songs
In addition to Eliot Feld's Intermezzo No. 1, The Unanswered Question, and Organon and Robert La Fosse's "Rockin' in Rhythm" from Duke!, Helgi Tomasson's Prism (2000 Diamond Project ballet) and Christopher Wheeldon's Carnival of the Animals.
BALLET NEXT, Askegard's new company:
Ballet Next in Rehearsal
Ballet Next, one of the most interesting independent dance companies to emerge recently, was founded by former ABT principal Michele Wiles and ex-NYCB Charles Askegard. Together they aim to make ballet more accessible, investing in new works and audience engagement. One of the company’s projects is the Ballet Next Exhibitions Series, where audience members are encouraged to ask questions and participate in live discussions with the artists on topics like dance technique, choreography, production aspects and music.
Ballet Next is the newest ballet company coming out of New York City. Co-founded by Michele Wiles and Charles Askegard - who have only been dancing together for a little over a year – Ballet Next has made quite the splash since coming onto the scene and giving its inaugural performance at the Joyce Theater last year.
The company’s performances feature live music and offer a mixture of classic and contemporary. For the classics, however, you will not find fancy costumes and glitter: they present timeless pieces like the Act II of Swan Lake in a stripped-down version, so that audiences can focus on the music and the movement.
Ballet Next uses a core of six guests who are currently dancing with major US ballet companies. Their upcoming performance at MMAC has a lineup that includes Drew Jacoby, NYCB’s Georgina Pazcoguin and ABT’s Misty Copeland. What is the appeal of Ballet Next for someone who may already be with a company such as NYCB? Michele says “It’s new, fresh and dangerous, which is exciting. Dancers are attracted to that feeling. We are creating an atmosphere that allows the dancers to take risks and explore.”
Wiles had done some work with Askegard at a gala in Mobile (Alabama) and other shows through Youth America Grand Prix. While traveling, they began to discuss their concerns about major companies and things they wanted to change. Out of those discussions they decided to join forces and create their own vehicle. She adds “I wanted to experience my art in a different way. While the structure of a big company has its benefits, I feel more fulfilled as a human to be able to take on all of those responsibilities myself.”
What are some of their goals? “To continue to collaborate with dancers, choreographers, musicians and composers. We are interested in touring Europe and looking for opportunities for ballet to give back; opportunities for the power of ballet to do good” says Wiles.
Some of the choreographers they admire or would love to work with are: William Forsythe, JiYí Kylián, Paul Lightfoot & Sol Leon, Margo Sappington and Mauro Bigonzetti. For Wiles, Ballet Next offers the best parts of the classics, new choreography and amazing talent. For the dancers, this means a renewed sense of dance and, for everyone, the purity of dance.
Julie Blume began her dance training at the New Hampshire School of Ballet under the direction of Jennifer Reinert. In 2004 she received a BFA in Dance and minor in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan where she graduated with highest honors. While at Michigan, she studied with Sandra Torijano, Peter Sparling, Robin Wilson, Jessica Fogel, Judy Rice, and Bill DeYoung and had opportunities to perform works by Lar Lubovitch and David Dorfman. She was selected to be the student commencement speaker her senior year. Upon graduating, Julie was invited to perform as a solo artist at the International Conference for Peace in Costa Rica, performing for His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. From 2005 to 2010, Julie was a member of the Parsons Dance Company and traveled the world performing works by Mr. Parsons. She was one of few women ever invited to perform Mr. Parsons’ signature stroboscopic solo Caught. Julie has performed as a solo artist at numerous galas and festivals including the Aspen/Sante Fe Gala in 2010 and the Fire Island Dance Festival in 2009. In 2011, Julie performed at the Metropolitan Opera in the Mark Morris production of Orfeo ed Euridice. Throughout her career, Julie has been an advocate for integrating Arts and Medicine and has collaborated with other artists to perform in hospitals around the country. She was recently selected to receive the University of Michigan’s 2011 Emerging Artist Alumni Award. (Photography by: Lois Greenfield)
For our Fall and Spring Dance Concerts we have three choreographers in residence. The selected choreographers teach daily masterclasses, audition our students and set original choreography on the Dance Ensemble. Each guest choreographer in residence is on campus for one week in which they interact with our dancers, partake in informal question and answer sessions and provide strategies for obtaining healthy careers as dance professionals.
We are proud to present our Fall Dance Concert Guest Choreographers in Residence:
Lauren Edson, originally from Boise, Idaho began her training at Ballet Idaho Academy and Westside Dance Academy. She continued her formal studies at North Carolina School of the Arts and The Juilliard School, under the direction of the late Benjamin Harkarvy. She has danced with Trey McIntyre Project for three years and has been featured in several of Trey's most recent works including: “Bad Winter,” “Oh! Inverted World,” “In Dreams,” and “Shape.” Her past professional experiences include: Hubbard Street 2, Ballet Idaho and Idaho Dance Theatre. She has had the privilege to perform the works of Jose Limon, Paul Taylor, Angelin Perljicov, Robert Battle, Alex Ketley and Pina Bausch, among others. As a choreographer, Edson has won numerous awards and grants for her work. She recently won the Great Works Dance Project Choreography Prize 2012, a National Choreography Competition affiliated with Western Michigan University. Her work, “Foreground” was chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center as part of the National College Dance Festival. Edson was selected to participate in The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2011 and 2010 Seattle, affiliated with the Joyce Theatre, one of New York City’s major dance presenters. In 2009, she won the Northwest Dance Project's first annual Pretty Creative’s International Choreographic competition. She has recently been named Artist in Residence at Mystic Ballet in Mystic, CT and commissioned by Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (MI), Opera Idaho (ID) Polaris Dance Theatre (OR) Grand Valley State University (MI), Washington and Lee University (VA) and Pacific University (OR) to create work for their upcoming seasons. In addition, her work has been featured at the American Dance Guild Festival in NY, Idaho Dance Theatre, Conduit: Charged, Ten Tiny Dances, Aerial Without Limits, Portland Youth Ballet, Northwest Dance Project, American College Dance Festival, Regional Dance America, DROP Dance Collective, Fusion Dance Company, Balance Dance Company and Coriolis Dance Collective, to name a few. She has received grants from the Regional Arts and Culture Council and Idaho Commission on the Arts, recognizing her achievements in choreography.
“The Trey McIntyre Project, based in Boise and led by McIntyre, a former Oregon Ballet Theatre resident choreographer who is a rising international star, has obviously been a happy home for Edson, who is one of the project's leading dancers and has taken easily to the challenges of choreography.” - The Oregonian
AUTUMN ECKMAN, an Atlanta native, received her classical training from the Houston Ballet Academy under Clara Cravey and Steve Brulee. In 2000, Autumn relocated to Chicago to join Giordano Dance Chicago, where she is currently serving as Artistic Associate, Resident Choreographer, and Director of Giordano II. She has also been a dancer with State Street Ballet (Santa Barbara), Cangelosi Dance Project, Lucky Plush Productions, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ron De Jesus Dance, and Collective Body Dance Lab. Autumn has also created works for companies and schools including DanceWorks Chicago, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Inaside Chicago Dance, Momenta, Western Michigan University, KRESA, Northern Illinois Universirty, State Street Ballet Young Dancers, and Contemporary Dance South. In 2010, she was named as a "standout choreographer" in the Chicago Tribune. Autumn has taught at Northern Illinois University, and is currently on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio and Visceral Dance Chicago. She regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses across the country.
THODOS DANCE CHICAGO
MELISSA THODOS Founder and Artistic Director
Melissa Thodos has been described by critics as “a choreographer with a bright and lively imagination.” The Chicago Sun-Times wrote: “Thodos displays a fine musicality and elegant lyricism; there is a sort of New Age mysticism about much of her work. Everything is fluid, and she is able to create beautiful stage pictures in which lots of things are going on simultaneously. She is a skillful and eclectic choreographer with a talent for creating a well-defined mood and interesting group patterns. She also pays considerable attention to elements of design.” Or, as Tony award-winning Broadway legend Ann Reinking put it, “she has this way of moving, of approaching dance that is informed by history, based on her personal experience, and totally unique. Wherever she puts her energy, she does so with grace and talent.”
These are just examples of the accolades Thodos has received as a performer, choreographer and director. In 1992, Thodos founded Melissa Thodos & Dancers (later renamed Thodos Dance Chicago) and has developed it into one of Chicago’s most innovative and top performing companies. The environment Melissa has created also serves as an incubator for its artists as choreographers and as teachers. Ensemble members are invited to join Thodos Dance Chicago based on an audition and an in-depth evaluation of their achievement as performers, educators and choreographers. The Company holds a very unique position in the national community of dance for this very reason. The company’s fresh, athletic, award-winning style has been well received by critics worldwide: British Herald - “Serene athleticism...every aspect of the choreography is truly satisfying”; Chicago Reader - “The Company’s repertoire is so rich...the dancers are superb.” The Chicago Sun-Times - “strong and attractive...engaging... lovely...they perform with solid strength and feeling.”
Thodos Dance Chicago clearly serves as a platform for over 30 acclaimed works that Melissa Thodos has created over her career. Of her work, the late Gerald Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet wrote “highly innovative and technically strong.” Teaming up with Tony-award winning choreographer Ann Reinking in 2011, Melissa and Ann collaborated to create the critically acclaimed story ballet “The White City: Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893”, a ballet currently being toured by Thodos Dance Chicago. Melissa has also created in collaboration three times with Fulcrum Point New Music Project under the artistic direction of Stephen Burns. In November 2006, Melissa choreographed a work for TDC in collaboration with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra set to Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale,” and in 2007 created “Cascade” set to music by Maurice Ravel for the Ruth Page Festival of Dance at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. Most recently she created a work for Luna Negra Dance Theater in collaboration with their Artistic Director, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano titled 4+4.
An honored veteran of the Chicago dance community, Thodos, born in Evanston, received early dance training at the Evanston School of Ballet. She continued her study of both classical and contemporary technique at Skidmore College in Saratoga, New York, and then the Ruth Page Dance School, the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Lou Conte Dance Studio, all in Chicago.
Thodos founded Thodos Dance Chicago following years of success as both a performer and choreographer with The Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble on the local, national and international contemporary dance circuits, performing her own work as well as works by Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, Zeva Cohen, and very established Chicago based artists. Since then the Company, with its unique mission to perform, create and educate, has gained its own acclaim and has been invited to perform in some of the most prestigious dance showcases and venues throughout the world. Thodos’ work has been presented in venues coast to coast in America including Alaska; in Paris on numerous occasions; Edinburgh, Scotland; Australia; and in Turkey for two festivals, at the International Ankara Music and Dance Festival and Istanbul Dance Festival at the Busan International Dance Festival in South Korea and at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Thodos Dance Chicago repertoire consists of works by Melissa Thodos and selected works of ensemble members, as well as those of acclaimed guest choreographers Ann Reinking, Lar Lubovitch, Shapiro & Smith, Amy Ernst, and Ron De Jesús, among others.
Thodos has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants for her work including Illinois Arts Council Fellowships; Ruth Page Award nominations; a Chicago Dance Achievement Award nomination and an award from the State of Illinois as a Greek American for nurturing and training dancers and choreographers in Chicago. One of her signature works, “Reaching There”, won her international acclaim in Paris in 1988 at the Internationale Dance de Paris. In 1998, Thodos was featured in Today’s Chicago Woman as one of Chicago’s “100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” and was voted one of Chicago’s “top ten hidden talents” by the Chicago Tribune. In 2008, Melissa was one of nine finalists selected nationally for the “Women of Worth” award in New York City.
Through her company, Thodos participates in community outreach programs, bringing dance to inner- city and suburban school children. She has set more than 20 works on high school and university dance companies. Thodos has served on the faculty of the Broadway Theater Project, under the artistic direction of Debra McWaters and co-founded with Ann Reinking, where she taught master classes and choreographed alongside such noted artists as Ben Vereen, Desmond Richardson, Charlotte d’Amboise, John Kander, Chita Rivera, and Jeff Calhoun, among others.
ABOUT THODOS DANCE CHICAGO
“Breathtakingly athletic,” “powerfully beautiful,” performing “vibrant choreography” are among the many critical accolades that Thodos Dance Chicago (TDC) has received since its inception. Founded in 1992 by artistic director Melissa Thodos, this ensemble of well-rounded artists delivers contemporary dance to its audience with an appealing style that incorporates a variety of dance forms created and performed with innovative flair. The Company’s unique mission of inspiring expression through dance education, dance creation, and dance performance has established Thodos Dance Chicago as an innovative presence in American contemporary dance.
Highlights of the Company’s annual performance season include its home concerts, many touring engagements and the critically acclaimed New Dances choreography performance series presented annually and currently in its 12th year. The Company has performed in more than 50 dance venues in 17 states, including a recent 9 city tour to Alaska as well as in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the International Istanbul Dance Festival, the Ankara Music and Dance Festival, the Busan International Dance Festival, South Korea and at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. TDC has collaborated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Remy Bumppo Theater, and three times with Fulcrum Point New Music Project, as well as with numerous individual studio artists and musicians.
In addition to performing choreography of its resident artistic staff, TDC performs a diverse array of works created by other well-known choreographers: Tony Award-winner Ann Reinking, Lar Lubovitch, Shapiro & Smith, Lucas Crandall, Jon Lehrer, Brock Clawson, Michael Anderson, Zachary Whittenburg, Amy Ernst, Ron De Jesús and Gustavo Ramírez Sansano. In addition, TDC ensemble members themselves create highly-charged, illuminating world premieres every year in the Company’s acclaimed New Dances choreography series that audiences have found “exquisite,” “phenomenal,” and “inspirational.” Selected works from the series are chosen to become part of the Company’s repertoire each year, and two works have been performed by The Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, respectively.
Reaching young minds through dance education is vital to Thodos Dance Chicago. As a teaching company, members of this highly trained ensemble hold BA’s and MFA’s in dance, and teach at the elementary, high school and university levels. TDC is well-suited for residency programs where performances, lecture demonstrations, workshops and master classes go hand in hand. TDC is in residence at The Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls where it teaches daily classes and operates a Youth Ensemble and hosts week-long intensive programs every summer geared to pre-professional and professional dancers.
For more information about programs and upcoming performances of Thodos Dance Chicago, please regularly visit our website at www.thodosdancechicago.org.
Page last modified January 10, 2013