Three years ago, Chicago Dancing Festival founders Jay Franke and Lar Lubovitch already had a smash hit on their hands: a free weeklong fest that hosted companies from around the country and attracted crowds topping 1,500 at some performances. But they weren’t satisfied. “We felt that in order to truly grow dance in Chicago, we needed to invest by commissioning work,” says Franke.

One product of that decision can be seen on August 22: Transition Zone, a piece by Ron De Jesus, a Hubbard Street Dance alumnus and founder of the local dance company that bears his name. He tailored the piece for Benjamin Wardell and Michel Rodriguez Cintra, the dancers behind the Nexus Project, a grassroots company dedicated to the male duet.

Transition Zone plays off the power and strength of Wardell, another former Hubbard Street dancer, and the aerial expertise of Cintra, honed while training with the contemporary dance ensemble Hedwig Dances. The two men have an athletic, visually playful partnership that lands somewhere between break dancing and modern dance. “They really connect, and it’s not homoerotic,” says De Jesus. “I find that beautiful.”

Go: Transition Zone premieres August 22 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.
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