Author Archives: brianhey

Hedwig Dances Keynote: June 7, 2024

Thank you, Amanda. And thank all of YOU, because without your support, Hedwig Dances would not exist. And I have to thank my own Jan, Jan Hieggelke, who is here tonight. She’s been my partner in life and in business for more than forty years, and is responsible for everything Newcity is today. 

A couple things before I start. 

Tonight is a very special night celebrating a very special dance company, one that has thrived for thirty-nine years. And it is also a night to honor two very special individuals for their contributions to dance. Later in the program, the Dance Advocacy Award will be presented to Ken Bowen, Lighting Designer. In addition to his work with Hedwig and other dance companies in Chicago, Ken is an educator, and for all of that we are most grateful. >> And the Dance Heritage Award will be presented to Alison Hinderliter, in honor of her work with the Chicago Dance History Project. Newcity recently worked with Alison on a story about the iconic Chicago nightclub Mister Kelly’s—have you seen the exhibit she curated at the Newberry Library? Amazing. 

OK. Let’s get started. 

As a journalist, I do most of my talking with my fingers, on a keyboard, and don’t get in front of audiences like this very often. But I’ve been in the audience enough to know that it is best to start with a joke. But I do not know any dance jokes. So I thought, Artificial Intelligence! A.I!  And so I asked ChatGPT to tell me a joke about a dancer. 

Here it goes, get ready:

Why did the dancer go to jail?

Because he pirouetted too close to the Barre!

Hmm… I figured probably because I’ve never been a dancer myself, I don’t get that one, so I rephrased my question and tried again. And ChatGPT responded:

Why did the ballerina bring a broom to her performance? 

Because she heard it was a sweepstakes!

OK I give up.

In any case, this spring, we attended a performance of Hedwig Dances. Company member and choreographer Paula Sousa premiered her new work, “Under My Thumbs,” a powerful, disturbing look at a world in the perhaps near future, with Artificial Intelligence at its center. It was cinematic, dystopian and singular. 

And it was made with AI. Sort of. In the talkback after the show, Sousa described how she set out to create the work in collaboration with ChatGPT. She said she’d asked it for creative guidance and then rejected all of its suggestions as wanting. 

I am breaking no news in telling you the fear of AI is ripping through the culture right now. But it can’t dance. And it sure can’t tell a joke, either. 

The power of Hedwig Dances is that of human collaboration, of reaching for inspiration across art forms and oceans to create expressions using the human body as a creative instrument. >> Pretty AI-proof, right? 

That does not mean, however, that dance as a cultural force is not without its challenges. First and foremost among them is financial. We live in a world full of dire problems, and it’s always the easy way to decide that something else is more urgent than the arts. That something else needs our attention, our money. But the reality is that the arts are a vital way for all of us—rich, poor, Black, white, brown, queer, straight—to understand, to process, to get through the daily trauma that the world throws at us. Food and shelter may keep us alive, but culture gives us a reason to live!

As you know, tonight is first and foremost a fundraiser. Your very presence here is already a movement in that direction, but if you can, please do even more in one of the many ways you’ll hear about that will help this very special dance company continue to thrive. 

Earlier this week, I invited the readers of Newcity to share a story about the value of dance in their life. 

Greg Cameron, the president of the Joffrey Ballet wrote, “My mantra is ‘we dance before we walk—and sing before we talk!’ He then recommended I sing and dance instead of talking tonight, which certainly would have been better for laughs than anything A.I. cooked up.

Also, you might know Ina Pinkney, Chicago’s Breakfast Queen. This is her story. 

I had polio at eighteen months and by the time I was three, I was already angry about the pain and the exercising required of me. My mother took me to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the hopes of inspiring me to keep exercising, and when the curtain  opened, I fell in love with Maria Tallchief and I fell in love with the ballet.

After that, when my father did my daily exercises with me and I protested, he would quietly say, “Maria Tallchief wouldn’t say ‘no more’.”  

And I kept on. 

Whatever mobility I regained was a direct result of her name being spoken. The magic of this story is that I got to meet her before I closed my restaurant. I sat across from her and told her that story. And we both cried. 

Hedwig Dances is thirty-nine years old this year. Next year will be the big four-oh and big plans are afoot! I cannot tell you how amazing an accomplishment that is, and how important their place is in Chicago’s world-class dance community. 

Newcity is just one year younger, at thirty-eight, and over the years writing about dance has become a core part of our identity, so much so that today we cover it every week, more so than any other publication in Chicago.

You don’t get to thirty-eight or thirty-nine years without earning some scars along the way, and I expect we at Newcity share many of them with Jan Bartoszek and her collaborators. But we’ve all made it this far, and we’re stronger than ever. 

If you had asked me back in 1986 when we were starting out if I thought I’d still be at it nearly forty years later, I would have laughed. No way. I get bored way too easily. 

But here I am. And here is Hedwig Dances, too. 

Seeing, reading or watching a great work of art is not entertainment. >> It’s life.

When you open your eyes, ears and spirit to a night at Hedwig Dances, you’ll find yourself transformed, in ways both big and small. I can describe the nuts and bolts of what I see when I watch dance but I can’t describe what it is about dance that does this. It’s certainly not artificial intelligence. It’s spiritual intelligence. 

It’s just everything. 

My Coronaviral Curriculum, Not Necessarily in Any Order

Series I’ve Watched Since Quarantine Began:

  • The Roosevelts: An Intimate History/PBS (in process)
  • Last Week Tonight/HBO (ongoing)
  • The Last Dance/ESPN
  • Westworld/HBO-Season 3 (in process)
  • Love is Blind-Season 1//Netflix
  • Euphoria-Season 1/HBO
  • Narcos: Mexico-Season 2/Netflix 
  • Silicon Valley/HBO-Season 6
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm/HBO-Season 10
  • Hillary/Hulu
  • Divorce/HBO-Season 3
  • Big Little Lies/HBO-Season 2
  • Zooey’s Extraordinary Playlist/Hulu-NBC-Season 1-2
  • Run-Season 1/HBO
  • Ramy-Seasons 1-2/Hulu
  • The Deuce-Season 3/HBO
  • Mrs. America/Hulu 
  • We’re Here/HBO (in process)
  • America to Me/Hulu (in process)
  • The Man in the High Castle-Season 1-2/Amazon (in process)
  • Normal People/Hulu 
  • Killing Eve-Seasons 1-2/Hulu
  • The Imagineering Story/Disney Plus (in process)
  • Succession-Season 1-2/HBO Max 
  • Watchmen/HBO Max
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark/HBO Max
  • Insecure-Seasons 1-4/HBO Max
  • Schitt’s Creek-Season 1-6/IMDB-TV
  • City So Real/National Geographic
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion/HBO Max
  • Industry/HBO Max (in process)
  • I Hate Suzie/HBO Max
  • Dream of Italy-Season 1 (in process)/Amazon
  • The Flight Attendant/HBO Max
  • How To with John Wilson/HBO Max
  • Love Life/HBO Max
  • The Mandalorian -Season 1 (in process)/Disney Plus
  • WandaVision/Disney Plus
  • This Is Us-Season 5/NBC
  • Allen v. Farrow/HBO Max


Movies I’ve Watched Since Quarantine Began

* means I’ve already seen it before

  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor/HBO
  • Panic in the Streets/DVD
  • Moon Over Miami/DVD
  • Saboteur/Blu-Ray
  • Shadow of a Doubt/Blu-Ray
  • Chocolat/DVD*
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco/Amazon Prime
  • Never Rarely Sometimes Always/Amazon Premium
  • Icarus/Netflix
  • Sophie’s Choice/HBO
  • Juliet, Naked/Hulu
  • Transit (2018)/Amazon Prime
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)/Blu-Ray*
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire/Hulu
  • Ema/Mubi
  • All About Eve/Amazon*
  • Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind/HBO
  • 306 Hollywood/Amazon 
  • The Man With the Golden Arm/MUBI
  • The Southerner/MUBI
  • Downton Abbey/HBO
  • The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)/DVD
  • On the Record/HBO Max
  • Gloria: In Her Own Words/HBO
  • Rope/Blu-Ray*
  • Rear Window/Blu-Ray*
  • Uncut Gems/Netflix
  • Da 5 Bloods/Netflix
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind/Blu-Ray*
  • Palm Springs/Hulu
  • Every Little Step/Amazon
  • Once Were Brothers/Hulu
  • North by Northwest/Blu-Ray*
  • The Last Waltz/DVD
  • Knives Out/Hulu
  • The Assistant/Hulu
  • By Sidney Lumet/Amazon Prime
  • I Am Not Your Negro/Amazon Prime
  • Malcolm X/Blu-ray
  • At the Drive-In/Amazon Prime
  • Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins/Hulu
  • The Hero/Amazon Prime
  • La Dolce Vita/Blu-Ray
  • Long Gone Summer/ESPN Plus
  • I Used to Go Here/ChiTown Movies Drive-in
  • Judy/Blu-ray
  • Tenet/Showplace Icon
  • Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine/Music Box Virtual Cinema
  • The Late Shift/Showplace Icon
  • Time/Amazon Prime
  • The Trial of the Chicago Seven/Netflix
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm/Amazon
  • Other Music/Amazon
  • The Booksellers/Amazon
  • The Sunlit Night/Hulu
  • Borg vs. McEnroe/Hulu
  • A Very Charming Christmas Town/Lifetime
  • Christmas A La Mode/Lifetime
  • Feliz NaviDAD/Lifetime
  • First Cow/Showtime
  • Laura/DVD
  • Let Them All Talk/HBO Max
  • Nashville/Blu-Ray
  • All That Heaven Allows/Blu-Ray
  • Why Must I Die?/Blu-Ray
  • Mangrove/Small Axe/Amazon
  • Lovers Rock/Small Axe/Amazon
  • Wonder Woman 1984/HBO Max
  • Red, White and Blue/Small Axe/Amazon
  • The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart/HBO Max
  • Black Art: In the Absence of Light/HBO Max
  • BUtterfield 8/HBO Max
  • Nomadland/Hulu
  • Little Things/HBO Max
  • One Night in Miami/Amazon
  • The United States vs. Billie Holliday/Hulu
  • Judas and the Black Messiah/HBO Max
  • Sound of Metal/Amazon
  • Minari/Showplace Icon


Books I’ve Read Since Quarantine Began

  • Woodcutters/Thomas Bernhard
  • Severance/Ling Ma
  • The River at Night/Kevin Huizenga
  • Fake Love Letters, Forged Telegrams, and Prison Escape Maps: Designing Graphic Props for Filmmaking/Annie Atkins
  • The Modern Magazine: Visual Journalism in the Digital Era/Jeremy Leslie
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist/Adrian Tomine
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less/Greg McKeown
  • City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago/Gary Krist
  • Once I Was Cool/Megan Stielstra
  • In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing/Walter Murch
  • American Rose-A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee/Karen Abbott
  • The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich/Timothy Ferriss
  • The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company/Robert Iger
  • Paul at Home/Michel Rabagliati
  • King-Cat Classic/John Porcellino
  • Map of My Heart/John Porcellino
  • Perfect Example/John Porcellino
  • Mental Traveler: A Father, A Son, and a Journey Through Schizophrenia/W.J.T. Mitchell
  • The Book Tour/Andi Watson
  • Bookstores/Horst A. Friedrichs and Stuart Husband
  • The Talented Miss Farwell/Emily Gray Tedrowe

10-10-10: The Kindness of Strangers

We finished the race, 26.2 miles, albeit a tad slower than we hoped. But given the heat, and Jan’s consistent problems with running in high temperatures, I was more than happy. Around mile 20, a bank clock read 87 degrees. Race officials, who’d started the race “code green” for optimal running conditions, had switched to code yellow and then, for the last six or so miles, code red. But I will never say anything other than “glorious” about eighty degrees and sunny in Chicago in October: I’ll take this over last-year’s fifty-degree-cooler day any time.

This is something you have to experience to believe: running the Chicago Marathon with a partner can truly be fun, and it was. The neighborhoods explode with character, whether it’s the Wonder Women cheerleaders in drag in Boys Town, the booming salsa music in Pilsen, or the Chinese dragon kicking it in Chinatown, the entertainment along the way makes the tougher elements, like the pain and fatigue, bearable. Continue reading

10-10-10 Minus 1: A Family Affair

3.5 miles, last run before the big one.

My daughter Erica and her fiancée Fievel flew in last night to cheer us on tomorrow.

We went to the Expo today and, well aware of the risks of spending too much time puttering around the aisles, proceeded to spend four hours. Who can pass up complimentary cut-up Luna bars and mini Greek yogurt sundaes? It’s an astonishing experience in its own right, seeing the masses of humanity all joined together in the common cause of shopping for official t-shirts or the latest trick in running shoes. Actually, this year’s highlight was Nike’s runners’ wall, a massive edifice that lists every runner’s name. Like the Viet Nam Memorial, sort of, except for the self-absorbed rather than the self-sacrificed. We were really psyched to find our names together at the edge of the wall. Continue reading

10-10-10 Minus 2: Caught Up in My Shorts

New Balance's 9 inch Road Short

So I decided to stick with the training program and not run today. All of this barely running, and my legs are feeling creakier than ever. Jan said she’s feeling the same and brilliantly observed that we’ve been off our daily dose of the i vitamins (ibuprofen, that is). I hope that’s all it is. I didn’t feel much in the swing of it today, since I didn’t run, so I surfed Twitter a bit to see how folks were buzzing about the race. The buzz is, simply, hot. My earlier elation about the weather is, well, a bit more tapered, now that the high is forecast at 85, not far off the ill-fated high of 2007. Not a problem for me, but Jan and hot running are not so friendly.

I found, on the Twitter, this couple from Australia who are running their fiftieth marathon together here on Sunday; they’ve turned it into a gig of sorts ( That’s some quality time together. I’ll be lucky if Jan wants to ever run one again after Sunday.

I think I’m gonna have to bail on the black shirt; maybe even go sleeveless. I’ll figure that out tomorrow. But I know I’m wearing my gray Saucony shorts. Suitable running shorts are by far the most challenging running gear to find. I don’t do the short shorts (think Bill Clinton on a jog), but I prefer the medium short length. I’ve tried the slightly longer, baggier style, and while I like the look, I get chafing problems on long runs over ten miles. New Balance just sent me these super long, super baggy shorts that look like they belong on the basketball court (I’m guessing they’re popular with suburban dudes who sport goatees). I’ve worn them a few times on shorter runs and they’re pretty comfortable so far but I dunno, I’ll likely switch them over to hoops. Nike also gave me some shorts last fall, with a Spandex-style lining. They seemed cool but the lining is too tight and  I can’t really wear them much.Give me a shirt in my size and I’ll wear it. Give me shorts in my size, and it’s hopeless. Continue reading

10-10-10 Minus 3: Dress for Success

New Balance Heathered Short Sleeve

Was supposed to rest today but couldn’t resist a little 5K. This weather is borrowed sunshine.

The weather forecast for Sunday is solidifying: Low 58/High 80 as of this writing. Gorgeous! I can pretty much finalize the wardrobe at this point, and it won’t be much. Shorts, short-sleeve shirt, shoes and socks.

Runners have more shirts than they can wear. It’s usually the giveaway for most races; it’s often the easy Christmas gift for a runner. The shirt is where the runner asserts personality. The race t-shirt exerts experience and sometimes exoticism if the race is off-the-beaten path (even metaphorically; I get the best comments when I wear my turquoise finisher’s shirt for the SF Women’s Half Marathon). Though most races know to give out wicking shirts rather than killer cotton, the fit and cut can be all over the map. And the graphic design, well, in some cases, embarrassing. Fortunately, most bigger races give out pretty good shirts. I’m partial to the old Chicago Distance Classic and new Rock N Roll Chicago editions, in addition the SF shirt mentioned above and the 2009 Chicago Marathon shirt. Continue reading

10-10-10 Minus 4 It’s the Shoes

From this year's Nike Chicago Marathon line

Four miles this morning. Glorious weather. I’m getting giddy with excitement; I don’t think I felt this way last year. It might be the cold weather then (I hate cold weather!), but it also might have been some nervousness about my first marathon. No butterflies this time.

Jan and I went over to the Nike showroom this afternoon to see the line of gear designed for this year’s race. Since Nike’s a major sponsor, they design a full line of shorts, shirts, jackets, etc. and it’s different every year. It sells out, some even at the pre-race expo, I’m told. I found out the hard way last year, when I wanted to get a Chicago Marathon running shirt as a Christmas gift for my Seattle-based daughter, Erica, who’s taken up the sport on her own volition. Not a sign of such at Niketown, a mere two months after the race.

The first year Nike sponsored the Chicago Marathon, 2008, they sent me over a bunch of the shirts and I loved them. They still remain among my favorite running shirts—design, fit and comfort—in fact, I wore the long-sleeve version in last year’s marathon. (Ironically, the only marathon shirt I have to commemorate the marathon I actually ran is the official shirt. But there’s some poetry in that, I think.) Continue reading

10-10-10 Minus 5 Life Interferes

Got up and finished writing this review of Rachel Toor’s fine running memoir, then three miles again.

A beautiful week, isn’t it? I think runners from elsewhere may be rolling into town. Why? At Starbucks this morning, busier than usual during my off-peak visit. A couple of guys are standing and talking, with coffee, blocking the line. The door opens. Boisterous greetings, along the lines of “Oh boy, are you running?”

I am jealous. I want to hang out at coffeehouses this week and greet fellow runners. Instead, my day was deadline. Except for my half hour running and the daily necessities, I worked from 6am past 10pm. But no more deadline days before the race.

The Chicago Marathon is now sending a daily email with race details. I should read them closely but assume everything’s like it was last year. I may be sorry. Today we got the one that explains the color coding for race conditions that was implemented after the 2007 race, when temperatures hit the high eighties and the race was shut down early. This year, we’re code green. So far.

Green is good.

10-10-10 minus 6 Vested Interest

Ran three miles today in some of the coldest air since the summer. Taper’s got me worrying about gaining weight this week. I’m pretty sure I’m heavier than I was when I ran last October. I think that’s why I’m getting slower. That and I’m getting older. I’m not happy about this. I can run a marathon, but I’m heavier, slower and older than I was. Is this progress?

Primal considerations hold sway now. What will I wear (the weather, the weather), what will I eat, how can I make sure I’m sleeping OK? The more you think about things, the harder sleeping will be.

What I will wear is starting to shape up. Though I needed it today, I won’t need my vest. If you’re just starting out running, you need shorts, shoes, socks and shirts. And a vest, a thin shell that protects you against the wind and the cold. I have jackets, long-sleeve shirts and assorted other warmer gear, but nothing gets more wear than the vest. Mine is a bright yellow Brooks number that I got as a Christmas gift when I started running. My son is embarrassed for me when I wear it. Way too bright for his taste. Continue reading

10-10-10 minus 7 What if I Get Injured?

This is it: the countdown week till the marathon. The weather is starting to look like it might even be on the warm side next Sunday, which I normally love, but is not great for Jan.

No run today, but I played in my weekly basketball game. I had an unusual (for me) panic this morning, when I started worrying about injuring myself at hoops. Though guys, younger guys, seem to get injured in our game at the rate of one every other week or so, I’ve never had any problems worse than a seriously jammed finger. So I’ve never even thought about things like this, but it hit me this morning what a letdown it might be for Jan if I couldn’t run as planned with her. (And what  a devastation it would be for me: I’m really looking forward to the race this year and accomplishing this together.) I decided to take it easy. Injuries seem to strike late in the game, when everyone’s fatigued so I dropped out early, after about seventy minutes ( we play about two hours).

I’m reading “Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running” by Rachel Toor. On the bus home after basketball, I read chapter 17 (the book is divided into 26 chapters, natch), which starts out, “Run long enough and you will be injured.” Good karma, I thought as I read that chapter, on injury, that I left basketball early. Continue reading