New, new, new: Dance, art and a restaurant

“New.” There’s just something enticing—something promising—about that word.

Last week, we got a triple dose of new, starting Monday with a lucky find in the Chicago Reader.

New Dance. There’s plenty of wonderful dance to be had in Chicago. The always exciting Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has been a fixture here since its founding in 1974. And the Joffrey Ballet made Chicago its home in 1995. Numerous smaller companies also flourish here.

But where do all the new dancers and choreographers come from? Where do they build their skills and try out their ideas? One answer is Dance Chance, a new program produced by DanceWorks Chicago and hosted at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Once a month, Dance Chance offers three rising choreographers 15 minutes each in a one-hour program to share some of their latest work. The final 15 minutes provides an opportunity for the artists and audience to discuss the performances. At the end of the show, three new choreographers’ names are drawn from a fish bowl for the next performance—hence the “chance.”

The choreographers for the April 14 performance were Christopher McCray, Monique Haley and Dario Gabriel Mejia. Their works and styles were all quite different, but all quite polished. And their dancers did the works justice, displaying poise, grace and amazing athleticism.

Most of the audience of 50 or so seemed to be made up of other dancers and choreographers. And everyone was thrilled to witness all this exciting new work. I know we were. And we’ll be back for the next performance May 12.

New Art. Twice a year, the students of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago get a real gut check on how they’re doing, in the form of a two-day sale of their wares.

The Spring Art Sale last Friday and Saturday featured the work of more than 120 current students, all for sale, in the school’s historic ballroom on South Michigan Avenue. The work was diverse—a mix of jewelry, paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, multimedia and even fashion. Some of it felt like the kind of stuff produced for class assignments, but some was genuinely exciting, work that gave you the sense of a young artist actively pursuing his or her vision. And the prices were quite reasonable—sometimes even bargain basement.

There were of course any number of things that caught our eye. But in the end, we narrowed it down to this piece of ceramic sculpture by Erin McGarry. Not sure if it says more about us as ornithology lovers or pigeon haters.

New Food. Does anyone need to be told that the restaurant business is a risky one, that more new restaurants fail than succeed? So it’s that much cooler to see a wonderful place like mado get off to such a great start. When we went there on Friday night after the art sale, it had been open exactly two days. I know it takes a while to work out all the little bugs in any new endeavor, especially a restaurant. So I was prepared to overlook them. Only none happened. The food was impeccable; Marion called the lamb loin with toasted garlic and olives, cooked on their formidable wood grill, the best lamb she’s ever eaten. Of course everything our party of four ordered was perfect. The service was friendly and welcoming, the atmosphere relaxing and conducive to conversation.

mado is owned by a husband and wife team of self-professed green-market dorks, Rob and Allison Levitt. Their menu states simply, “At mado, we strive to use responsibly raised local products; mado proudly supports Chicago farmers’ markets.” And they mean it. When we ordered ramps as one of our appetizers, we were told that the farmer was stuck in traffic on his way to the restaurant with them. Our server later let us know they’d arrived; even though we were mid-entrée by then, we ordered some. It was worth the wait.

As impressive as the food was, so were the affordable prices. By the time the four of us were done, we’d ordered four appetizers, four entrées, four sides, four desserts and two coffees. The grand total before tip was a modest $125. They don’t have a liquor license yet, so you can bring your own wine, making meals an even better deal.

If you’d like to know more about mado and Rob and Allison Levitt, there’s an excellent article in a recent issue of New City Chicago. The article is why we were there on the second night they were open. The food is why we will be back again and again.

mado 1647 North Milwaukee, 773/342-2340

2 Responses to “New, new, new: Dance, art and a restaurant”

  1. Ballroom Dancing Shoes Says:

    The issue of how dancers and dance companies use their blogs is critical. I agree 100% with Leigh that anybody who is serious about building a successful blog should carefully consider the “public persona” they wish to create. It will take time and energy. Using the example of promoting an upcoming performance, the question is how does a dance company write about it in their blog? I think the goal is to provide value to readers. Maybe you educate them, maybe you discuss the intentions of the choreographer or maybe you seek feedback and suggestions. But you definitely don’t post a blatant promo piece and leave it at that – although you should highlight upcoming performances that is the goal in the end. For the most part, I avoid blogs that just list upcoming classes and performances – to me the people/organizations publishing this marketing material are using blogs, but they are not blogging in any meaningful manner.

  2. The taste of spring: Seasonal fava beans and pasta — Blue Kitchen Says:

    […] New, new, new: Dance, art and a restaurant. Find a triple helping of cool new stuff, at WTF? Random food for thought. […]

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