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Contemporary dance showcase returns with world premiere

Danceworks 2023 focuses on nostalgia, relationships and connection through the power of dance
Danceworks is back on the Louis Theater stage after at two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Justin Barbin

Danceworks, the annual celebration of movement and contemporary dance is back on-stage at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Danceworks 2023: Nostalgia for the Night” will take place one weekend only, March 3-5, at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

This year’s showcase features a world premiere among four original dance performances by guest Chicago choreographer Molly Shanahan along with Northwestern University dance faculty Thomas F. DeFrantz, Erin Kilmurray and Melissa Blanco Borelli, who also serves as the director of the dance department and the production’s artistic director.

“This year’s theme, ‘Nostalgia for the Night,’ was inspired by Latin American showgirl and cabaret culture,” Blanco said. “However, the performances expand beyond the nightclub space.  The show asks how dancing together — fiercely, ferociously and fabulously — allows us to work through our angst, melancholy, joy and desire and find support and fulfillment with those who dance with us and might be feeling the same too.”

Danceworks 2023 program

“Foreshadows of the Flesh”

This world premiere performance was created by Northwestern dance students along with guest choreographer Molly Shanahan, artistic director of Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, a Chicago-based dance company. The piece emerged from a week-long creative process workshop of movement exploration, performance research, and group invention and experimentation.


Originally created by Erin Kilmurray and Kara Brody, this performance is a fierce duet between two women that celebrates and agitates power dynamics through perceptions of partnering and play in a dark-gritty-queer-fight-club-framework.


Surf music from the 1960s is reconceived for this original piece choreographed by Thomas F. DeFrantz. The music serves as the basis for femmes and allies who discover power among each other as they dance through their thoughts of relationships gone wrong.


Choreographer Melissa Blanco Borelli sets this piece backstage of a cabaret and considers the emotional and physical labor of the show girl and their shared camaraderie. What happens behind the scenes of the show world is what Borelli hopes to share. The piece is inspired by the Golden Age of Mexican cinema’s Cabaretera genre, the documentary “Bellas de la Noche” (2016), and the many women who danced, pranced, cried and laughed on and off cabaret stages.

Dance department faculty member Jeffrey Hancock serves as costume designer for “Danceworks 2023: Nostalgia for the Night.”

Performance are slated for Friday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 4, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 5, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available online or in-person at the Wirtz Center Box Office, Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., located in the Barber Theater lobby at 30 Arts Circle Drive or by calling (847) 491-7282.

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.  

For Journalists: view the news release for media contacts