Chicago Repertory Ballet, Chicago’s newest professional dance company, is having it’s premiere performance this week.

What makes someone start a dance company?  What kind of dancers is the director of Chicago’s newest professional dance company looking for?  And what’s up with that eyeliner pencil?

CRB’s artistic director Wade Schaaf kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer these and other burning questions.  Wade danced professionally for ten years in Chicago and around the country, performing with Thodos Dance Chicago, River North Chicago Dance Company, State Street Ballet Santa Barbara, Omaha Theater Ballet and Ohio Ballet. As a choreographer his pieces have been performed by The Omaha Theater Ballet and in the Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances Program.

What made you decide to start a dance company?

I started Chicago Repertory Ballet because I’ve been looking for greater artistic freedom to create on a larger scale.   When I retired as a performing dancer I had a tenacious appetite to choreograph but I wanted to express myself according to my own wishes and not according to someone else’s needs.  I was also passionate about bringing my vision for a dance company to life; being able to focus not only on the contemporary choreographic voice, but also incorporating storytelling into dance.

What do you look for in a dancer?

Right now I don’t have “company dancers” per se-since CRB is working on a project to project basis I have a company of collaborating artists.  Having said that, I look for very specific things in my dancers.  The people that work for me have to be smart and intuitive about movement.  My choreography is really all over the map stylistically, and I’m most interested in versatile dancers who actively demonstrate that they can do more than “just one thing”.   I need my dancers to try and understand where I’m going in the creation process and come with me choreographically.

Do you have a pre-show ritual or superstition?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this one. I have a mole under my right eye. When I’m performing, at EVERY performance, I always darken that mole with eyeliner pencil. I’ve been doing it for years now, and wouldn’t set foot on stage as a dancer without it.

Do you have a favorite piece in your upcoming show?

Asking me to pick a favorite piece is like asking a father to pick a favorite child… it’s impossible.   I will say that I’ve been working very hard on one of my latest pieces, “Peoplescape:Juxtaposition”. I’m very excited to see this one get it’s ‘sea legs’ if you will!

Any favorite guilty pleasure?

My favorite guilty pleasure song is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”.  It’s always good… all the time.

What’s your favorite non-dance activity?

Right now my favorite non dance activity is spending time on my new photography habit.  I love observing, and photography is an extension of that for me.

Check out Chicago Repertory Ballet’s premiere performances September 21-22 at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts.   For tickets or more information visit the CRB website at