Thodos Dance Chicago’s final ‘New Dances’

New Dances by Thodos Dance ChicagoFor 17 years, Thodos Dance Chicago has fostered new dance creation by producing New Dances, one of this city’s first and, still today, most extensive in-house choreography incubation programs. Now, in the series’ final year under Thodos Dance Chicago’s auspices, New Dances 2017 will give eight members of the company’s ensemble one last chance to kick off their dance shoes and show off their skills as creators and directors of their own, self-conceived new works.


With so much creative freedom, New Dances is always a must-see of Chicago’s summer dance season, consistently serving up a diverse lineup of fresh, homegrown, fully produced new works. New Dances 2017 is Saturday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre. Tickets range from $14 to $40.


John Cartwright, Abby Ellison, Alex Gordon, Hattie Haggard, Thomas Jacobson, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Brennen Renteria and Luis Vazquez are the eight Thodos members premiering new works at New Dances 2017. Their mentors are Kristina Isabelle, artistic director of Kristina Isabelle Dance Company and director of HighJinks Productions; Margi Cole, founder of The Dance COLEctive and on faculty at Columbia College Chicago; Billy Siegenfeld, founder, artistic director, choreographer, book-writer, vocal arranger and performing member of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project; and Zachary Whittenburg (former longtime professional dancer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and now Communication and Engagement Director at Arts Alliance Illinois.)


Traditionally New Dances also invites a guest choreographer to contribute an additional new work. This year, in celebration of the final year of the project, company founder and artistic director Melissa Thodos will return to her passion for new work and set a world premiere.


“Members of Thodos Dance Chicago are far more than performers – they have always been creative artists selected to join the company based on their passion and talent for choreography as well,” explains Thodos. “One of our hallmarks is our strong commitment to support dance creation. No other dance organization has offered as comprehensive of an in-house choreography initiative as ours. We’ve done this in large part to help assure that when our ensemble members conclude their performance career, they are fully equipped to pursue a post-performance career in dance.”


To prepare for New Dances 2017, each dancer/choreographer is given a three-month development period with more than 30 hours of studio time – unprecedented in the field – to bring their choreographic vision to full life. They’ve already submitted creative proposals, developed budgets and handpicked their cast of dancers from within and outside the company. Now they are scheduling and overseeing rehearsals, meeting with costume and lighting designers and contributing to marketing plans.


In sum, over the past 17 years New Dances has collectively launched the choreographic careers of nearly 80 Chicago-based dance artists, spawned more than 150 world premieres and created a platform for hundreds of dancers, both from within and outside the company, to showcase their skills and build their reputations. Many New Dances works have gone on to become part of the Thodos Dance repertory, been showcased at festivals including Jacob’s Pillow and Dance Chicago, and been remounted by Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.


Thanks to their New Dances experience, TDC ensemble members also have gone on to choreograph locally and nationally for River North Dance Chicago, Goodman Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Dutch National Ballet Project, Dance Kaleidoscope, Atlanta Ballet, Dance Works Chicago, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Idaho Dance Theatre, Grand Rapids Ballet, Giordano Dance Chicago, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble and the second companies of Alvin Ailey and American Ballet Theatre.


To book tickets to New Dances 2017, visit Visit for more information on Thodos Dance Chicago.


Photo: Hattie Haggard’s Show A Little Taste was premiered at New Dances 2016. Photo by Ben Licera.