Thodos Dance presents ‘New Dances 2016’

Waiting For What by Tenley DorrillEvery year, Thodos Dance Chicago cultivates new dance creation through its nationally renowned New Dances series, Chicago’s earliest and most extensive in-house choreography project, and always a highlight of the city’s summer dance season.


Now in its 16th year, New Dances is an annual opportunity for Thodos’s dancers to take off their dance shoes, step off the stage and call their own shots as choreographers. 


Collectively, New Dances has spawned more than 140 world premieres, launched the choreographic careers of more than 75 Chicago-based dance artists, and created a platform for 300+ dance artists to showcase their skills and build their reputations. 


Past New Dances works have subsequently entered the Thodos Dance repertory, been showcased at festivals (including Jacob’s Pillow and Dance Chicago) and been remounted by The Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.


A Fragile Acceptance by Abby EllisonAs always, Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances 2016 promises to be another wildly diverse program, boasting nine homegrown world premieres created by the ensemble’s own dancers. Performances are Saturday, July 16 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, July 17 at 3 pm at the Athenaeum Theatre. Tickets are between $14 and $40. To book yours, visit or call the Athenaeum Box Office at 773-935-6875.


New Dances 2016 will feature world premieres by TDC company members John Cartwright, Tenley Dorrill, Abby Ellison, Alex Gordon, Hattie Haggard, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Brennen Renteria and Briana Robinson. Each is making all production decisions about his/her work, from submitting written creative proposals to developing budgets to casting their works from within and outside the company. They’re collaborating with costume and lighting designers, contributing to marketing plans and scheduling their own rehearsal time.


“Members of Thodos Dance Chicago are far more than performers – they are creative artists selected to join the company based on their passion and talent for choreography,” explains TDC Founder and Artistic Director Melissa Thodos. 


“We are unique in our strong commitment to support dance creation as no other dance organization offers as comprehensive of an in-house choreography initiative to its artists as ours, in part to help assure they are fully equipped to pursue a post-performance career in dance.”


All You Need Is by Taylor Mitchell - New Dances 2015In total, 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 life with their hand-picked ensemble of dancers.


Thanks to their New Dances experiences, past TDC dancer/choreographers have gone on to set works on The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street, 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 American Dance Theater and American Ballet Theatre.


Likewise, Thodos’ artists are mentored throughout the process by a panel of high-profile Chicago dance professionals who gather for two private showings of each work to provide feedback, clarity, ideas and encouragement. New Dances 2016 panelists are: Jeff Hancock, founding member of River North and former Hubbard Street dancer; Kristina Isabelle, artistic director of Kristina Isabelle Dance Company and director of HighJinks Productions; Kristina Fluty, former dancer with Mad Shak, founder of Kinespark Consulting and a professor at Columbia College Chicago; and Zachary Whittenburg, manager of communication at Hubbard Street and former dancer with Hubbard Street, BJM Danse Montréal and Pacific Northwest Ballet.


In addition to eight exciting and diverse brand new works created from within the ensemble, each year Melissa Thodos selects a guest choreographer to create a new work for the project. The New Dances 2016 guest choreographer is Shannon Alvis, former dancer with Hubbard Street and Nederlands Dans Theater, currently on the faculty of Joffrey Academy.


For more information, visit


Photos: New works that debuted at last summer’s New Dances 2015, including (from top down) Waiting For What by Tenley Dorrill, A Fragile Acceptance by Abby Ellison and All You Need Is by Taylor Mitchell. Photos courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago.