Breaking News! My new Dance documentary featuring Ann Reinking, Melissa Thodos and the company of Thodos Dance Chicago premieres Thursday, February 23, 10:30pm on PBS-WTTW11!

Amost exactly one year ago, I began designing, producing, and directing FOURTEEN original short films for a brand new Thodos Dance Chicago’s  story ballet called The White City: The Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The stage performance (developed and choreographed by the always inspiring team of Artistic Director Melissa Thodos and Tony Award® winner Ann Reinking) received critical and audience acclaim, and was recently named Best Dance of 2011” by the Chicago Sun Times.

As part of the core creative team, I was neck deep in the production from the very beginning, and along the way I filmed the heck out of every free moment I had.  One year later to the day from when we began this process, I locked picture on a brand new documentary created from those hours of film,  which I call Beneath the White City Lights: The Making of an American Story Ballet.  For those of you in Chicago, I’ll be premiering the film on Thursday, February 23rd at 10:30 PM on Chicago’s WTTW11.

I’ll try to post more info soon, but for the latest information,make sure to visit

Teaser Trailer for “Beneath The White City Lights”

In honor of tonight’s Chicago Premiere of “The White City” the folks over at Kai Harding have  just posted the first Teaser Trailer for my new behind-the-scenes/performance film “Beneath The White City Lights” which shows off just a taste of some of the fantastic Thodos Dance footage we’ve been capturing along the way!  Of course, all of this pales in comparison to seeing the show live on stage, so I hope you make it to the Harris Theater tonight at 8PM… you’ll be glad you did!

When: 8 p.m. March 4th, 2011
Where: Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.
Price: $20-$60; call 312-334-7777 



The story behind the Thodos Dance “THE WHITE CITY”

The White City, the new Story Ballet I’ve been working on with broadway legend Ann Reinking and Chicago choreographer Melissa Thodos, is finally live and on stage!  The show features spectacular direction and choreography from Melissa and Ann, the amazing Thodos Dance Chicago dancers, incredible live music from the Carpe Diem Quartet, awesome period costumes by Nathan Rohrer, brilliant lighting design by Nathan Tomlinson, and over 48 minutes of original film projections by yours truly!  For those of you unfamiliar with the story of  The White City, I thought a little background on our interpretation might be helpful.  And because I can, I’ve included some fun pics of the Thodos Performers in character, to give you a little more context.  Enjoy!

In 1893, Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world, over a million people strong, and The World’s Columbian Exposition (commonly known as The White City, for its brilliant white buildings and Greco-Roman construction) was its Crown Jewel.  Thousands of trains visited the city each day bringing new visitors, and new inhabitants, who were looking for a better life.   Chicago’s Worlds Fair brought opportunity to many… For Carter Henry Harrison, the charismatic and beloved Mayor of Chicago, the White City brought Fame, Glory and Respect, as all the World’s eyes focused firmly upon the midwestern metropolis, and all his people thanked him for it.


Wade Schaaf as "Mayor Harrison" from THE WHITE CITY

Numerous artisans took up residency in the city drawn to the renaissance of form and function occurring within the city, including the brilliant Architect John Root, who was eventually charged with leading the design itself.  His vision for the White City was the driving force behind the most significant construction project of the 19th century, but he was doomed to never see it come to life… He died of pneumonia nearly two years before the fair opened its doors.


Jeremy Blair as "Root" from THE WHITE CITY

Roots inspiration also led to numerous firsts, including the hiring of the first female architect educated in the united states, Sophie Hayden, who would design her first building as part of The White City.  Unfortunately, the process was so ultimately traumatizing, she would never design a building again.


Mollie Mock as "Sophia Hayden" from THE WHITE CITY

The brightness of the White City was such an inspiration, but was not without its share of hardship and darkness too. Thousands of immigrant laborers poured into Chicago looking for work…. And one of these, Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a deeply troubled newspaper distributor, quickly succumbed to the darkness.  His unhealthy fixation upon Mayor Carter Harrison, combined with psychological delusions, led to Prendergast eventually assassinating the Mayor on the eve of what should have been the White City’s triumphant closure.


Josh Manculish as "Prendergast" from THE WHITE CITY

Others, like diabolical serial killer H. H. Holmes, thrived in the shadows, preying upon the many single women who had come to the city with its promises of hope and a better life.  The charismatic Holmes lured as many as 200 unsuspecting women back to his mazelike “Murder Hotel”, where he would imprison them within secret hidden chambers, to suffocate, torture, and kill them in the foulest of ways.  It would be years before his crimes were finally discovered, but once discovered, he was quickly imprisoned, and took his last breath at the end of a noose in 1896.


Brian Hare as "Dr. H. H. Holmes" from THE WHITE CITY

But it is the heavenly allure of the city, the fixations of hope, of art, and of mans capacity for change, as a physical environment that remains firmly ensconced within the minds of man.  And all this began two years before the fair gates opened, back when the great Chicago Architect, John Root, assembled “The greatest gathering of Artists since the 15th Century…” In his living room.


The Thodos Dance Cast of THE WHITE CITY in the Opening Scene: "The Architects"

This is where the Thodos Dance “White City” story ballet begins, as Root must take each idea, ego, and design from the world’s most brilliant architects, and focus them into one coherent vision for what would become the greatest World’s Fair ever seen, THE WHITE CITY.

The show is really spectacular, and tickets are on sale now for the Chicago Premiere, so check it out!

When: 8 p.m. March 4th, 2011

Where: Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.

Price: $20-$60; call 312-334-7777 or visit

Introducing THE WHITE CITY


The White City

The Chicago press just caught wind of  THE WHITE CITY, the wonderful NEW Thodos Dance Chicago stage production featuring incredible original choreography by Ann Reinking AND Melissa Thodos, music by amazing American composer Bruce Wolosoff, and film design by… Chris Olsen!  (Wheee!)  It’s such a thrill to be involved in a full blown theatrical stage show again, and I am REALLY looking forward to this! 

From the official press release:
“Based on actual events surrounding the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, The White City:  Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 is an ambitious story ballet in one act complete with period costumes, film design and video projection by Chicago filmmaker Chris Olsen and a libretto in the program.  Ann Reinking and Melissa Thodos are setting the piece to composer Bruce Wolosoff’sSongs Without Words”, which will be performed live on stage by the Carpe Diem String Quartet.  All of TDC’s 12 ensemble dancers will perform to tell the story of the legendary 1893 World’s Fair through contemporary dance.  Characters range from Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr.; Harrison’s assassin, Patrick Prendergast; John Root, one of the key architects of the Chicago World’s Fair; and Dr. H.H. Holmes, the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure Fair victims to their death in his home.   

The White City will premiere on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 8 p.m. at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, Illinois), then reprise on Friday, March 4 at 8 pm at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, (205 East Randolph Drive, Chicago.)” 

This is going to be so much fun. 

If you have a chance, check out the Dec. 3rd print editions of the Chicago Sun-Times (which features a great image of TDC dancers Brian Hare and Jessica Miller Tomlinson on Page 37), and the Chicago Tribune, or read them both online via the following links: 

Chicago Tribune, Theater Critic Chris Jones blog post, 12/2/10 

Chicago Sun-Times,  in print w/large color photo 12/3/10,thodos-CST-120310.article 

For info on Thodos Dance Chicago, please visit:

And as always, stay tuned for the latest info, as the fun has only just begun!


FOSSE:PRELUDE available on YouTube!

Fosse:Prelude PosterWow, it’s been a grand year with Fosse:Prelude!  From the initial inspiring lunch with Melissa Thodos of Thodos Dance Chicago at Vong’s Thai Kitchen last Fall, to the first days of production working with Ann Reinking and the dancers, to the national tour the film took as it accompanied “the Fosse Trilogy” performances last fall, to its Film Festival Premiere this past weekend at Big Bear Lake… it’s been quite a ride!  And, while I’ve seen the film a number of times, I still enjoy the exuberance Melissa, Ann and the dancers have for the material. That being said, I’m admittedly still wrestling with the idea of expanding the film into a much more robust program, to dig in and really show off the dance magic that occurred during “The Fosse Trilogy”.  The film was never designed to stand apart from the live performance, but was in fact created to give context to the live performance that was to follow, so very little actual dance was shown during the film itself.  With the hours of incredible dance footage I have at my disposal, you can see why I’m itchy to remake this film to stand on its own.  But until I do, here’s your chance to see the film in its original form… Enjoy!


If you can’t see the video, Click here to View:

(Or here’s the link: )

Project Gallery – FANCY

I’ve never maintained a very “purist” view of photography.  Yes, I can often be found with a 35mm still camera in hand, but my personal fascination has always been in the capture of “motion-over time-with design.” As such, I’ve moved fluidly between cinema and still cameras for over 20 years, using motion picture cameras very early on to capture strings of images at up to 60 frames per second, then taking the resulting hundreds of feet of film first into the lab, next into the editing suite, and finally into the darkroom, to print down into amazing still images, born of motion.  Today, with Digital Motion Picture Cameras like the RED, I am able to work even faster, and with greater flexibility.  For today’s Tuesday Gallery, I’ve extracted a series of stills from my latest film “FANCY”, shot with the RED digital cinema camera, delivering them in the same manner as “the good old days”, only without all the darkroom mess. Enjoy!

“FANCY” coming to the Moondance Film Fest!

Moondance LogoAfter the upcoming Bumbershoot screening in Seattle, FANCY will turn east and head for the mountains – Boulder, Colorado in fact – for the Moondance International Film Festival!  FANCY will play as part of the shorts program on September 24, 2010 (8:40 pm), at the Hotel Boulderado (Aspen), 2115 Thirteenth street, Boulder, CO 80302.  I’ve heard great things aboout Moondance, so I hope you can make it out to join in the fun and help support our fancy little film…

For more information please visit:

“FOSSE:PRELUDE” at the Big Bear Lake Film Fest

FOSSE-PRELUDE poster image


In case you haven’t heard, my latest doc “FOSSE:PRELUDE” (featuring one of my personal heroes, dance legend ANN REINKING) is set to premeire at the Big Bear Lake Film Fest.  Filming this was by far one of my favorite filmmaking experiences, and Ann is even more amazing in person than you could possibly imagine.  The film was shot in the fall of 2009 when Ann partnered with Chicago choreographer Melissa Thodos to combine three historic Bob Fosse dances (Mexican Breakfast, Tijuana Shuffle, and Cool Hand Luke) together with original Reinking choreographic transitions as a new unified presentation called THE FOSSE TRILOGY.  The result is “FOSSE:PRELUDE”, a short documentary designed to accompany THE FOSSE TRILOGY during its performance season, and which is now making its standalone film premiere at the Big Bear Lake Film Festival (California), on September 17th – 19th, 2010.  The film is presently scheduled to play as part of the documentary shorts block on September 18th, 2010 @ 12:30 -2:30 PM, in the “Perfoming Arts Green Room”.

For the most up to date information, please visit:


Here’s a slew of pics taken during production on FOSSE:PRELUDE featuring dance legend Ann Reinking, iconic Chicago choreographer Melissa Thodos, and the talented performers of  Thodos Dance Chicago .  I have to admit I was pretty gobsmacked by the opportunity to work with Ann, but adding in Melissa and her amazing dance company made this one of the highlights of my career.  This project also happens to be where I first met Mollie Mock (“Fancy”) and Brian Hare (“Cad”) , and their amazing grace, strength, and agility on camera during the Fosse rehearsals was a key factor in my decision to cast them in FANCY. Enjoy the pics!

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