Photo: Marc Hauser

Lord of the dance: Eddy Ocampo

Eddy Ocampo sweeps one leg behind the other, arches his lean frame sideways, and tosses his arms over his head as if he’s waving at someone. “It’s an E, for Eddy,” he says, using the alphabet image to coax a group of dance students into the unusual pose, which, like many of his signature movements, blends lyrical jazz with accents from Filipino folk dance-a visually jarring and strangely beautiful combination uniquely his.

After more than a decade as a primarily Chicago-based dancer and choreographer, Ocampo, 36, seems to be peaking. In November and December, his work dominates the program at Dance Chicago, the city’s biggest dance festival (at the Athenaeum Theater in Lake View; 773-935-6860 or, culminating in his major première, Change of Season, on December 2nd and 3rd. “I’m talking about life seasons, those moments after changing jobs, losing relationships, or moving,” he says of the piece, which showcases seven performers from the local company Thodos Dance Chicago. In late summer, an agency in Los Angeles signed Ocampo to a deal that will help him break into lucrative commercial choreography. And in early November, he was inducted into the national Filipino Hall of Fame, partly in recognition of his 2001 Black Binasuan, an homage to traditional Filipino candle dance.

Raised in the southwest suburbs by parents who immigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s, Ocampo grew up watching MTV and hooked into dance as a teenager, studying music videos and replicating the moves in break dancing competitions at South Side clubs like the Prime and Tender, at 63rd and Harlem. “I had a great worm,” says the trophy-winning Ocampo, referring to the classic break dance maneuver. His street dance prowess ultimately spurred him to try more traditional forms at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he attended college. To the dismay of his parents, an engineer and a nurse who wanted their son to study medicine, he decided to pursue dance full-time, eventually cultivating success as a choreographer about town, dancer, and teacher. Says Ocampo: “She wasn’t happy then, but my mother’s happy now.”