In this week's newsletter: Cupcakke, Sea Level: Above and Below, Wired to Wear, Legends of Hip Hop, Giordano Dance Chicago, and more
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{ Chicago Guide }

March 21 through March 27, 2019

Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention

Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention Photo: HILARY HIGGINS FOR CHICAGO TRIBUNE

HIP-HOP

1. Cupcakke

This local artist’s earliest songs established her reputation as a campy and freaky provocateur, taking feminist raunch à la Lil’ Kim or Trina to its most bugged-out extreme. Turns out that was a shallow read — over the past few years, and especially on last year’s Ephorize and Eden, the 21-year-old, born Elizabeth Harris, has proved herself to be Chicago’s most fearless MC in both subject matter and style, with formidable bars to silence any doubters. Still, just because she can rap her ass off doesn’t mean she won’t lead the crowd in a rousing communal sex moan.

3/21 at 8:30 p.m. $18. Thalia Hall. eventbrite.com

DANCE

2. Sea Level: Above and Below

Hedwig Dances, one of the most visually rich groups in local performance, hosts an event commanded by two of its members. Taimy Ramos and Rigoberto Fernandez Saura split the bill: Saura tackles the “above” part with a piece that examines contrasts, like heavy objects on a fragile surface. Ramos’s A Flor de Piel (Skin Deep) looks at destructive human emotions such as betrayal as a means of exploring art’s capacity to promote healing.

3/21, 3/23. $10–$25. Ruth Page Center for the Arts. hedwigdances.com

DESIGN

3. Wired to Wear

If you’ve ever contemplated that your smartphone is an extension of your body, then this futuristic exhibit will make your head spin. The Museum of Science and Industry explores the ways in which technological innovation and the human body intersect, from jetpacks to hats that change colors based on your emotions. Plus, you can try on some of the pieces, such as the SpiderSense vest, which vibrates when someone (or something) approaches you.

3/21–Spring 2020. Free–$32. Museum of Science and Industry. msichicago.org

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HIP-HOP

4. Legends of Hip Hop

This showcase isn’t using the word “legends” lightly — you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive lineup of bona fide rap greats this year. The tour corrals ’80s and ’90s pioneers from the West Coast (pimp storyteller Too Short and funky Renaissance man DJ Quik) to the Dirty South (Cash Money OG Juvenile and a full Mount Rushmore of Houston rappers, from Bun B to Scarface to 8Ball & MJG). If there were ever a time to cash in your aging-hip-hop-head tokens, this is it.

3/22 at 8 p.m. $52–$125. Credit Union 1 Arena. ticketmaster.com

DANCE

5. Giordano Dance Chicago

Marinda Davis’s pieces have been featured on Dancing With the Stars and World of Dance, but her early days were spent assisting Gus Giordano. For this series, Davis creates a new work for his company informed by her history of managing her numerous autoimmune disorders. Joining Davis’s composition are Ray Leeper’s Soul, Brock Clawson’s film-noir-inspired Sneaky Pete, and more.

3/22–23. $15–$75. Harris Theater. harristheaterchicago.org

ART

6. Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell

A vast retrospective of this Mexican American photographer, who died last year at age 58, doubles as an homage to her life. Aguilar was known for shooting compassionate portraits of her contemporaries in Los Angeles’s LGBTQ and Latinx communities. Largely self-taught, she explored ideas around identity, the body, and acceptance. In her later years, Aguilar often photographed tender self-portraits amid desert landscapes — her physical shape echoing a nearby boulder or tree branch.

FREE 3/22–8/18. National Museum of Mexican Art. nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org

ROCK

7. Jeff Tweedy

Maybe you’re experiencing Tweedy burnout, due to the nonstop publicity surrounding the Wilco frontman’s recently released memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), and accompanying solo album, Warm. Except that album is really good! Watch him perform it and presumably other material at this relatively intimate hometown concert.

3/22 at 8 p.m. $75. Vic Theatre. ticketfly.com

EXPO

8. C2E2

At the 10th annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, the city’s most passionate pop culture enthusiasts will descend on McCormick Place in elaborate capes, masks, and makeup. Fans can rub shoulders with the artists, actors, and technicians who helped create their obsessions. Among this year’s panel participants: David Tennant and Matt Smith from Doctor Who; Paul Rudd and Alicia Silverstone from Clueless; and William Zabka, who infamously played Johnny in the Karate Kid movies.

3/22–24. $10–$85. McCormick Place. c2e2.com

convention

9. Chicago Tattoo Arts Convention

At this celebration of the alternative and fringe, all forms of body artistry are welcome (even “Mom” tattoos). Hundreds of body-ink professionals from around the world will set up shop just outside O’Hare, including special guest stars from the competition shows Ink Master and Best Ink. In between getting full sleeves done, attendees can pop into any of the burlesque, contortionist, and human suspension demonstrations happening in conjunction throughout the weekend.

3/22–24. $20–$40. Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. villainarts.com

OPERA

10. Renée Fleming 25th Anniversary Concert and Gala

The no-introduction-necessary soprano casts a houseful of operatic friends (Sondra Radvanovsky, Susan Graham, Lawrence Brownlee, and Eric Owens, just to pull a Tiffany-level luxury quartet) in a concert celebrating a quarter century since her first appearance at Lyric. Speaking of luxury, gala at the Ritz to follow.

3/23 at 7 p.m. $69–$199. Lyric Opera House. lyricopera.org

You Should Know

Rashada Dawan

Up next in our series of interviews with notable, in-the-know locals: Rashada Dawan, 37, actress and native Chicagoan. Dawan stars in Djembe! (now running through May 12 at Apollo Theater Chicago), a family-friendly, interactive musical about the history of the West African djembe (pronounced jem-bay) drum and its wide-ranging influence on musical genres, from jazz to K-pop. Plus, each audience member gets their own djembe to play throughout the show. Here, Dawan discusses her local roots and how she prepared for her role.

How would you describe Djembe! to someone who’s unfamiliar with it?
First of all, it’s interactive: Everyone gets to play an actual djembe drum, throughout the show. It tells the story of how the beat of this djembe drum has transcended all cultures. In the end you see how this drum represents how our humanity holds us together.

You sing in multiple languages for this show, how did you prepare for that?
Well, I’ve been told that I have a pretty distinctive Chicago accent and so when they said I’d be singing in German I was like, I don’t know how to do this. But the cool part about this entire production is everything has been handled with such respect. But we had people come in from all over the world, like Cuba and Senegal, to teach us how to pronounce things authentically. And I reached out to my Facebook community for help. I just didn’t want to be offensive, and I wanted to make sure that I did my best to respect the languages and speak them properly. Even though the audience may not understand, I have to know what I’m saying.

You tried living in New York and Los Angeles. What brought you back to Chicago?
I was born and raised on the South Side, and I still live on the South Side — Chicago is home, and it’ll always be home. I know people say if you can survive in New York, you can make it anywhere, but I think it’s the same in Chicago. Nothing will beat what it feels like to perform at home. I’ve experienced the energy in places like Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Seattle, but Chicago has such a different mix of crowds. We see if we like you or not, and once we embrace you, then we will show you love in a multitude of ways. — Rachel Burns

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