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“Vessels Bearing” by Xiang Xu (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

From the performers’ dazzling technical skill and emotional conviction to the sophistication and complexity of each choreographer’s work, this program of four world premiere works was remarkable on many levels.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Chicago with three different lineups, including an opening program that captures its illustrious history with an absolutely fascinating, generation-shifting juxtaposition of two pieces.

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Hubbard Street Dancer Alicia Delgadillo and Malpaso Dance Company Artistic Director Osnel Delgado in “Ocaso” by Osnel Delgado. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

A stunning program interlaced the formidable talents of dancers and choreographers from each company, suggesting that the two, if not quite identical twins, are the very closest of kissing cousins, different only in some distinctive rhythmic impulses.

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Front, from left: Eric Ferring, Alice Coote, Brenda Rae and Kyle Ketelsen in Lyric Opera’s production of “Ariodante.” (Credit: Cory Weaver)

British director Richard Jones has attempted to yank Handel’s rarely mounted Baroque opera into a more modern era by devising a wholly gratuitous, meaningless and needlessly coarse vision of the work. I just didn’t buy it.

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English National Ballet. Alina Cojocaru in Akram Khan’s Giselle © Laurent Liotardo

Akram Khan’s “Giselle” is a hypnotic stunner that injects a primal scream into a story of romantic betrayal and class warfare whose mystical element has long captivated audiences.

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Flamenco dancer Jesus Ortega in the opening program of Instituto Cervantes’ Chicago Flamenco Festival. (Photo by John Boehm)

From flamenco to contemporary to ballet, dance takes over Chicago area stages this month. 

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This feverishly verbal play, now receiving its world premiere at Lookingglass Theatre, poses some epic, cosmic questions while capturing the more familiar aspects of family relationships and identity crises. But it supplies no answers. 

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Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Orchestra’s first performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer William Schuman’s “Symphony No. 9” (Le fosse Ardeatine) in a year that marks the 75th anniversary of this World War II tragedy in Italy. (Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The CSO’s current program features two radically different pieces: American composer William Schuman’s haunting “Symphony No. 9” and Mozart’s glorious “Requiem in D Minor.”

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Anne Thompson (Sharlene), Heather Chrisler (Jaycee), Hayley Burgess (Clarice) and Becca Savoy (Sam) in the world premiere of “Twilight Bowl” by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

“Twilight Bowl” is a telling depiction of a crucial transitional period in the lives of a cross-section of young women who are at once lost and found in the American heartland.

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Esteban Schemberg and Cruz Gonzalez Cadel in in Teatro Vista’s world premiere of Stephanie Allen Walker’s “The Abuelas.” (Photo credit: Joel Maisonet)

Stephanie Alison Walker’s new play serves as a chilling reminder of a particularly horrific period in Argentina’s history when, from 1976 to 1983, that nation was under the thumb of a brutal military dictatorship.

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Giorgio Berrugi and Albina Shagimuratova in “La Traviata” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Credit: Lyric Opera of Chicago)

The beauty of this production goes beyond the absolute glory of Giuseppe Verdi’s impassioned, vocally demanding score. And while the voices are uniformly superb, so is the almost conversational style of acting.

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From left: David Alan Anderson, Kelvin Roston, Jr. and A.C. Smith in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at Writers Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

The harmonies, dissonances and inflections of the conversations among the four men who form Ma Rainey’s fractious band are something of a spoken-word blues opera in this Writers Theatre revival.

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Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in the Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This haunting, visually fascinating interpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s massive 1877 novel serves as the latest evidence of the unique ability of the Joffrey to turn dance into riveting, multi-dimensional theater.

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Sandra Marquez and Yasen Peyankov in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s groundbreaking play – now receiving its Chicago debut at Steppenwolf Theatre – arrives at a moment when a whole new tsunami-like wave of feminist rebellion has gathered force.

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Blake Hammond, left, and Jake Morrissy in “The Producers” at Paramount Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

For all its retrograde tropes, Jim Corti’s envelope-pushing (yet entirely faithful) take on Mel Brooks’ 2001 musical feels more contemporary, necessary and dangerously funny than ever before.

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Nina Stemme in Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra.” (Credit: Cory Weaver)

Lyric Opera’s production of “Elektra,” last seen here in 2012, has found its ideal cast this time around with singers whose spectacular, powerhouse voices are matched by superb acting skills.