“The Times Are Racing” an innovative art piece

by Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet’s “The Times Are Racing” is a modern repertory ballet, with five works from contemporary choreographers. The performance, taking place at the Auditorium Theatre from Feb. 12-23, displays innovation, while still maintaining artistry.

The production begins with “Commodia,” which harkens back to classical ballet, as it’s set to the music of Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella.” Although the performance has the commedia dell’arte style, the movements are decidedly modern. New patterns are made, as the shapes on the harlequin costumes fit together in different shapes as the dancers work in pairs or groups.  

“Mono Lisa” features two dancers under an array of light. Set to the sounds of a clicking typewriter, the pas de deux elicits gasps of awe from the crowd, as the couple completes acrobatics in a seemingly casual fashion. With hints of a competitive spirit, the pair provoke each other to new heights. 

“Bliss!” was created by Chicago choreographer Stephanie Martinez for the Joffrey and originally premiered in 2019. The piece flows from quiet to joyfully enigmatic throughout. There are instances of simplicity, as the male dancers’ don neutral-toned sweatpants, juxtaposed with moments of opulence featuring the female dancers’ bejeweled tutus and tiaras. That mode is reflected in the movements, as some are quiet and close, while others are fierce and bold.

“The Sofa,” with music by Tom Waits, presents a love triangle between two men and a woman, with fighting and desire, accompanied by a large yellow sofa as a prop. The lovers fight and come together with a comedic, but truthful, energy. 

The eponymous “The Times Are Racing” is a sneaker ballet, with costumes designed by Opening Ceremony. T-shirts and jackets are adorned with words such as “resist, “shout” and “defy.” The dancing is frenetic and full of vibrancy, featuring moments that resemble breakdancing and tap alongside ballet. 
“The Times Are Racing” is at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr., through Feb. 23. Tickets start at $25 and are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s box office in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, at (312) 386-8905 or at joffrey.org.

Freezin’ for a reason: Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge celebrates 20 years

by Doug Rapp

They’re freezin’ for a reason.

The 20th annual Chicago Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Chicago is scheduled for Sunday, March 1, 2020, at North Avenue Beach. “Plungers” collect donations and pledge to jump into the icy waters of Lake Michigan.

“People are excited we’ve been doing this event this long,” said Heather Kundert, executive director of Special Olympics Chicago.

Kundert said they’re expecting 4,000 plungers, a combination of nearly 300 teams and individuals. Their goal, she said, is to raise $2,020,000 for the year 2020, all of which benefits the Chicago Special Olympics organization.

For the 20th anniversary, Kundert said they’re recognizing people who’ve participated since the beginning. Long-standing team Kidd Krue has raised over $42,000 and is the top non-corporate team. Some of the polar plunge founders attending this year include Gerry Henaghan, Pam Munizzi, Ernest Alvarado, Richard McAvoy and Michael Brady.

Kundert said they also want to recognize some other participating agencies, such as Envision and Misericordia, that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“We’re excited to partner with some of our sister agencies in a different way this year,” she said.

New this year, Kundert said, will be an “Olympic village,” where sponsors and partner agencies will have different fun activities to encourage people to learn about other agencies helping out people with disabilities.

Kundert also praised the park district and the dive team on hand during the plunge. 

“We’re really proud that the city has really embraced this,” she said. “We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what we do at the scale we do it without the park district’s help and their partnerships.”

John Fahey, of Team Dan Fahey is plunging for the fourth time this year. His brother Daniel is a Special Olympics athlete, he said, who plays basketball and baseball among other sports at Mt. Greenwood Park. John Fahey said his team raised $38,000 last year but this year they’re hoping to raise $40,000.

“We know it’s a good cause…we wanted to give back a little,” Fahey said.

Fahey recalled how last year was exceptionally cold and ice had to be cleared to make way for the plungers, but it’s an experience he still enjoys.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said of running into the chilly lake. “It’s exhilarating, you get a pretty big rush. The adrenaline’s pumping. You’re yelling and screaming out there with a bunch of your friends.”

Kundert said many of the participants like Fahey have a personal connection to the Special Olympics but many plungers just want to help out. 

“Really they’re just all trying to get behind the city of Chicago and what we’re doing and what we do for these individuals,” Kundert said. “They really believe in supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities.”
To register as a team or individual or to donate, visit https://sochicago.org/chicago-polar-plunge/.

Romance for the ages: From couples who made it

by Mat Cohen

No one knows love more than the people who have been pierced by Cupid’s
arrow and withstood the test of time.

Two couples in the Streeterville neighborhood offered their stories and advice for others.

Bill and D Clancy, married 60 years, went on the most epic first date you can imagine, and Roger and Jeannette Becker are high school sweethearts who have been married for 56 years.

Both know a thing or two about the ways of love.

D, who goes by the first initial of her maiden name, met Bill when she was 10. She was seven years younger than her future husband and friends with his niece.

Bill’s and D’s families are from Chicago and knew each other.

“The reality is we both really knew each other’s families for a long time,” D said. “I think sometimes newlyweds have problems with families and we never had that, but we both already knew each other’s families really well.”

And everyone thought they’d be together, especially after their first date years later.

“Our first date was more than 24 hours,” D said.

They went to a lecture, to dinner and then out dancing, which is enough to last three dates, but there’s more.

Bill crashed on D’s couch for a few hours of sleep, then they attended 6 a.m. mass the next morning, drove north to visit his brother, and finally back home.

They’ve always had fun together, which continued when they had kids in the 1960s.

“Bill and I had so much fun with our kids,” she said. “And that’s not true for everyone.”

They took a month-long road trip along the California coast and camped in a van along with four kids and a dog.

“I don’t think too many people do that,” D said. “I’m not sure if we were wise or not, but it was great. Now that we’re older we still have a lot of fun as a family. We’re not smothering, but we still have a good time together.

“The ability to laugh at things helps your relationship, sometimes people take things too seriously.”

High school sweethearts Roger and Jeannette Becker started dating their junior year after Roger asked Jeannette to the prom, partly because of her shiny hair.

“There was kind of a click,” Roger said. “A fit that developed more over time. I went away to college, but we saw each other close to every weekend. And we got married right when I got out of college.”

Jeannette agreed, “It was really meant to be.”

When Roger joined the army, travel and distance were introduced to the relationship.

“It takes work to have a good marriage, and by that I don’t mean it’s a struggle,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to pay attention. It’s a miracle that people can change in compatible ways. Both of us are different people than we were back in high school, but we’ve been lucky the changes have been compatible. We’re still best friends and plan to stay that way.”

The Beckers grew up close to St. Louis and moved to Chicago in 1996. The move filled them with newfound energy. Roger teaches a current events class and joined a gentlemen’s club, and Jeannette stays active at church and various seniors groups.

“(Chicago) has so much energy, it revitalized us,” Roger said. “We take advantage of what Chicago has to offer. We like to go out to eat and do many other things together.”

For the Clancy’s, Chicago is not their permanent home. Having Florida to escape to during winter helped the marriage blossom from the start.

“Another thing that was wise of us,” D said. “Bill hates the cold weather, so after we got married we moved to Florida over the winter and into May. I think starting out life with each other there, we got a chance to know each other better. We got off to a really great start.”

Through thick and thin, the couples have grown together, mourned losses together, and loved deeply together.

But of course, there is always some luck involved.

“We’ve been lucky,” Jeanette said. “I got a really great guy.”

House of Modern Luxury

Gentleman’s Cooperative a collection of services, activities in one downtown spot

by Mat Cohen

One of the most interesting spaces in Chicago combines style, confidence and luxury to create a haven in the middle of the city.

The Gentleman’s Cooperative, located at the penthouse of 111 W. Jackson Blvd., includes a barbershop, pool table, full bar, master tailoring, customized suits, a private cigar deck and corporate event space. 

Beginning with a pop-up shop, co-owners Mike Berntsen and Chris Flores have been offering luxurious services to local professionals for more than six years.

“We help to maximize our clients’ personal and business impact,” director of business development Rich Moran said. “I think we do that very well.”

The space is across from the Chicago Board of Trade, making it easy to feel Chicago’s heartbeat through its windows.

“We are in such prime real estate,” Moran said. “We are constantly surrounded by the best executives in the state. It makes it easy for our clients to come in. Our location is everything.”

The Cooperative offers a barber and stylist membership, a master tailor and professional clothiers, as well as master barbers and stylists. Not to mention a luxurious event space to host corporate gatherings.

“Our clients work hard and we are big believers in taking time for yourself and taking a load off,” Moran said. “People work hard and people deserve to take care of themselves.”

Away from the hustle, tucked in his own quiet space, is master tailor Mousa Hazare. The room is draped with fabric, scattered with sewing machines and popping with all colors of the rainbow.

Hazare was born in Mongolia, moved to Pakistan when he was six years old and comes from a family of tailors, including his father and four brothers. He got his start at eight years old working for his dad’s shop in Pakistan. Seven years ago he moved to the U.S.. and after a year in San Diego, he came to Chicago.

Hazare, 33, is a key member of the Cooperative team and goes the extra mile for clients.

“I have the confidence they will get the things that they are really looking for,” he said. “My job is to make sure everything is perfect. If the manufacturers did something wrong I’m here to fix that. Most of the time they get the garments perfect, but sometimes there are some minor tweaks. And we want perfect.”

Hazare’s favorite part of the job is working with clients while taking measurements because he says that’s the easiest part of the process. However, he enjoys problem-solving and calls himself an ultimate problem solver.
To learn more about the space visit https://gentsco-op.com/ .

Treating yourself has never been so active

by Mat Cohen

River North has become a haven for luxury workout studios.

From the Red Room of Barry’s Bootcamp to the cryotherapy at GOAT Climb & Cryo and the infrared heat of Yoga 2.0, the neighborhood has plenty of top-of-the-line fitness options to treat yourself to a new kind of workout in 2020.

Yoga 2.0 opened its doors in May of last year at 215 W. Ontario St. The loft-style studios, located on the second floor with artistic murals in the lobby and Limitless Nitro Brew on tap, has taken yoga to the next level.

“Considering the area, there isn’t really something like it that exists for yoga,” director of content and branding, and Lululemon ambassador Manny Garcia said. “People have different experiences, but there really isn’t one for yoga, and we wanted to make it.”

Yoga 2.0 found the best products to offer, including filling the room with triple-filtered humidity that’s cleaner than tap water.

“Every detail was thought out for the entire studio, from our rental mats being the best mats on the market, to the EO products in the bathrooms,” Garcia said. “And when it comes to the class experience you have to reserve the mat space, so that takes the pre-class stress away. Everything is done for you.”

GOAT Climb & Cryo, which opened in June, sits right across the street. The studio uses versaclimbers to provide a full-body workout, as well as Cryotherapy to offer innovative recovery sessions. Being so close allows the studios to work together.

“It builds a community,” Garcia said. “So many of our students take class with us, but might also go boxing, or pilates in the area. It’s such a fitness forward community, which makes our typical student outgoing and want to socialize.”

On Thursdays, GOAT members get to take class at 2.0 on discount and members from the yoga studio get Cryotherapy on discount.

Mayweather Boxing and Fitness, a new gym opening this month at 219 W. Hubbard, will be offering the gold standard of fitness just like its leader, boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. This is the first franchise in Chicago, but there are plans to open three more.

The space will have treadmills, rowers, strength equipment, as well as boxing equipment. There will even be virtual reality set up where you can be trained by Floyd himself, box against him, or partake in a number of different workouts.

A big reason the franchise wanted to be in River North was the mix of residential and business buildings in the area.

“It was a no-brainer for us to look at the neighborhood,” franchise owner Sara McSpedon said. “I think there’s (workout studios in the area) because the mix between the residential and the business, it’s very rare to find a neighborhood within downtown Chicago that has so much of both.”

If you’re in the area and you’d like some more options, you can also visit Studio Three, Shadowbox, Row House, Studio Lagree, Kick@55, Solidcore, CycleBar and many more.

Pamper your pet this winter

by Mat Cohen

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs need 30 minutes to two hours of exercise a day, depending on size and breed. Although they don’t say much about pampering, our best friends could use some luxury as well.

When it’s dark at 5 p.m. and below freezing in the middle of the Chicago winter, luxury pet services providers are there for your pooch.

When people get away to warmer places, dog resort Paradise 4 Paws has locations next to O’Hare and Midway. It offers massage therapy, a spa, grooming and 20,000 square feet of space.

There’s also A La Carte Services to spoil your furry friend. For example, its Taste of Paradise package offers peanut butter and frozen treats. The Let’s Play package includes an outdoor hike and the Heavenly Pampering package offers personal cuddle time.

Paradise 4 Paws works with Pooch Hotel, which has locations in the South Loop, Lincoln Park and West Loop. Morgan Fontes, general manager of the West Loop location, said demand for their services increases during the winter.

“We see a big increase for the majority of our services offered, but generally our highest margin is within our grooming services,” she said. “Most of our parents have more family visits over the winter due to (the holidays) and they all want clean dogs to have at home.”

Streeterville dog walker, Jennifer Jakubiak, has a strategy to brave the winter months.

“Proper gear,” she said. “I have down jackets, boots, everything you can possibly imagine to truck in this weather. It’s hard though.”

Jakubiak uses a dog-walking app called Rover and has four dogs to entertain everyday in the cold.

“It takes a lot to have a dog in the city just because it is a lot of responsibility,” she said. “But they love me and I love it.”

Dog owners who don’t have access to an extreme, cold-weather walker can use daycares, winter coats and booties, all feeding the pet industry. The American Pet Products Association estimated the industry to be worth $75.3 billion in 2019.

Dan Rubenstein, CEO and founder of Pups Pet Club, said the winter months are just as hard on dogs as on humans.

“If you’re cold, imagine what your dog is feeling,” he said. “You have layers of sweaters, and jackets, and gloves and your dog is completely exposed.”

Pups Pet Club, which opened a Streeterville location at 316 W. Illinois St. last spring, gets an influx of participants in the winter. Rubenstein has advice for dog owners.

“Use your apartment hallways without destroying them,” he said. “But ultimately, your dog still needs an hour and half of exercise per day.”

As winter lingers, the dogs coming into Pups Pet Club are about ready to burst, just like humans, Rubenstein said.

“In the winter months we kind of hibernate, so when we have an opportunity to get out to the gym or on vacation somewhere warm, we really explode with all this energy and enthusiasm.” 

City Pets, at 432 E. Grand Ave., offers grooming, daycare and winter products. Owner Lisa Harper sells Saltsox Winter Boots to help protect paws.

“We’ve tried all different brands and we like those because they’re durable and they stay on the best,” she said.

Stay ‘inn’ luxury this February with local hotels

by Stephanie Racine

Don’t have time to get away this winter? Take a staycation at one of Chicago’s best hotels. 

The Ivy Hotel, 233 E. Ontario in Streeterville, offers an at-home getaway for Chicagoans. The hotel has spacious and apartment-size rooms, with rainfall showers and deep-soaking tubs. The hotel is offering a special staycation deal for Illinois residents. With a state ID, rooms are 10% off for one night, plus a dessert of choice from the hotel’s restaurants. Options include Divine Lounge’s Carrot Cake or Cookie Sundae. With the discount, a studio queen starts at $98. For information, visit ivyhotelchicago.com.

The Park Hyatt has sumptuous food and spa experiences in February for downtowners looking for an escape. The Chef’s Counter Tasting Menu at The Park Hyatt restaurant NoMI is an exclusive and decadent experience. With just four seats at the counter, the chefs prepare an eight-course meal right in front of you. Menus change every 4-6 weeks and focus on one food group. The current focus is alliums—think garlic, shallots, onions and leeks. The offer is available for $145 per person on the reservation website Tock.

The Park Hyatt’s spa has a “tasting menu” of their own. Pick three spa treatments, each lasting 45 minutes, for a well-rounded relaxation experience. Options include facials, massages and body treatments. Pricing starts at $410 and treatments can be booked by calling the spa at (312) 239-4200.

Hotel Julian is offering romantic “Cultured and Cuffed” packages, during “cuffing season,” a slang term used for the colder months when love tends to bloom. Each package is based on a famous Chicago couple. The Barack and Michelle Obama package includes tickets to the Art Institute and an in-room champagne toast. Hotel Julian suggests their Smart TVs, using personal streaming accounts, to view “Southside with You,” the biographical film based on the couple’s early years. 

The Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone package is based on the Hollywood comedic pair, who met at a writing class in Chicago in 1998. The deal includes Second City tickets and pre-comedy show cocktails at Hotel Julian’s restaurant, ALK. To book one of the packages, email info@hoteljulianchicago.com

The Loews Chicago Hotel staycation offer is for the whole family. The hotel encourages visitors to “get snowed ‘inn’” with them. The package includes valet parking, 20% off restaurant and room service and two free cocktails. For the kids, enjoy one free movie rental (up to $19.99), hot cocoa, a decorate-your-own cookie set created by Loews’ pastry chef and a kid’s pop up tent and “campfire.” Book between Feb. 7-12 and the package will include two free tickets per family for the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Visit loewshotels.com/chicago-downtown. 

No winter break for the marine unit in Chicago

by Doug Rapp

In the summertime, you see police boats and helicopters cruising the shoreline. But during the winter, although the lakefront is desolate—save for a few hardy joggers—it doesn’t mean the marine unit isn’t working.

“During the winter, we still see a fair amount of activity on the lake as the marine unit is still responsible for various Homeland Security checks, lakefront and river patrols and emergency rescues of individuals that may fall in or be discovered in the lake,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief communications officer with the Chicago Police Department.

“It’s also when the officers within the unit complete much of their mandated departmental training,” he said.

Sgt. Eddie Beltran, training and dive coordinator for the marine unit, said winter can be just as busy as summer. 

People end up in the water “all the time,” he said. “It doesn’t change because of the weather.”

Beltran cited a recent incident when a park district salt truck slid into the lake near Oak Street beach. The two employees escaped the truck before it submerged, according to ABC7 Chicago, and the marine unit helped recover the vehicle.

Beltran said the group also does ice training in the winter to simulate rescues when the lake and river are frozen. 

“It’s different with the ice.” he said. “We always tell people there’s no such thing as safe ice. People walk out on the ice and it’s possible they could fall through and get themselves in trouble.”

A 12-year veteran of the marine unit, Beltran said all officers are certified divers and their equipment is able to handle the brutal Chicago winters. They wear “drysuits,” which are completely waterproof, along with full face masks. 

“It protects us from contaminants but also protects us from exposure,” Beltran said. “It’s pretty good in the winter…we’re completely encapsulated.” 

Music Journalist turned Owner of The Goddess and Grocer, Debbie Sharpe says feeding 300 people is nothing

By Elisa Shoenberger

Debbie Sharpe came through Chicago on Paul McCartney tours while working as a caterer. “I met some people and I thought, ‘Oh nice place to stay,’ and so I just decided to stay,” Sharpe said.

Sharpe opened her own business, The Goddess and Grocer, which provides both ready-made and made-to-order food in several locations in the city. She’s even licensed out the name Goddess and The Baker to stores, including a recently opened location on 44 E. Grand Ave.

Australian-born Sharpe started off as a music journalist and ended up going to England working for Adam Ant’s manager. She ended up working in the catering company for a year and thought “I can do this myself” and that’s what she did.

Sharpe wanted to open an Australian deli. Fifteen years ago she could not easily find a good sandwich. “I was used to having a food store you could get sandwiches at and you could get prepared foods that you can just take home and reheat and not bother about going to the supermarket,” she explained. 

Sharpe still caters to the musicians, working big shows like Lollapalooza or Michigan-based Electric Forest. “I love the bigger the numbers, the better for me ‘cause I like the challenge.” 

The biggest event Sharpe ever catered was over 2,000 people in Lenin Stadium for the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. They had just fed about 1,000 people but realized there were many more people waiting in line to be fed. She told her staff, “Oh no, we are so not done.”

On a considerably smaller scale, The Goddess and Grocer caters for Teatro ZinZanni, the downtown cabaret circus show. She was asked to cater for the show long before the show found the space in the Cambria Hotel Building. 

Each night, they serve 300 people but Sharpe noted, “Catering 300 people is nothing for me. But you’ve got to get 300 dinners in 22 minutes with a dance routine. It really adds a new level of difficulty.”

Sharpe’s staff are an important part of the show, she explained.  “They sing, they dance, they move props,” all while serving food. 

The Goddess and Grocer features a popular and immensely Instagrammable Rainbow Cake. Asked where it originated, Sharpe said, “We’re not sure. We just think one of our pastry chefs made it one day.” While it’s not exclusive to the Goddess stores, Sharpe recommended Goddess’ version. “I just think ours tastes really much better than everybody else’s because of the buttercream frosting.”

Police want to keep Streeterville residents safe

by Stephanie Racine

Streeterville police want to work with residents to help keep them safe.

After a slew of violent muggings and surprise carjackings in Streeterville at the end of December and beginning of January, 18th district police held a community meeting on January 11 to discuss safety tips, plus the efforts being made to combat crime in the area.  

Officer Theresa Kelly led the talk, with help from Detective Colin O’Shea. They both emphasized the notion of being aware. 

“Maintain awareness of the people and circumstances around you,” said Kelly. 

A gut feeling of feeling in danger is oftentimes a sign of fear, according to Kelly, and trusting that gut feeling is often wise.

Detective O’Shea noted that using a phone while you walk can be dangerous and unsafe in several ways. 

“Stealing a phone is an instant $100 to $200,” said O’Shea. 

Paying too much attention can also make you unaware and make you look like an easy target. Shoulders are hunched, attention is on the phone and hands are occupied. 

O’Shea and Kelly also warned residents to be wary of any solicited donations—it can be a sleight of hand trick to steal something. If you want to help the community, research what official charities are in the area, and donate or volunteer there. 

“Carry as little on you as possible,” said Kelly. 

Kelly and O’Shea recommended carrying portable alarm systems that make a loud noise when pressed. They are available for under $10 on Amazon, but Kelly reminded the crowd to keep the alarm in your hand—not in your bag or pocket—so it can be easily accessed. 

Keeping a purse or bag on your weaker shoulder is advised by Kelly and O’Shea. Having your stronger hand free is recommended. Cross-body bags should only be worn under coats—thieves will take victims down in their attempts to steal purses. 

Many residents were grateful for the advice, but wanted to know how the police are going to respond to these attacks.

Commander Daniel O’Shea was also present and he assured the attendees that they had asked for more resources from the city, including more officers, both uniformed and plain-clothed. 

Alderman Brian Hopkins said he was working with police to make sure they would get those resources. Hopkins said he had received a phone call from the Mayor’s office approving extra police resources in Streeterville during the meeting. 

Police reminded the crowd to always call 911 if they see anything suspicious. They also reminded residents to attend CAPS meetings to further discuss ongoing crime in the area. 

The next CAPS meeting for Streeterville is on at 6 p.m., March 5, at Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Ave.

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