In a piece called "Skinny Jeans," which opens MegLouise Dance's Nearly Nude: Deconstructing Beauty, 10 women put on their pants. Says artistic director Megan Pitcher, "At first they're staring them down, very animalistic, almost crawling and pouncing, before attacking them to force what isn't possible to be possible" - to put on those jeans, which are simply too tight. "A lot of women have a pair of jeans in the closet three sizes too small, and they keep them there for the day when they can fit into them again." Nearly Nude deals with women and body image - the media's bombardment of impossible shapes and sizes, as well as "what we do to ourselves." The eight pieces in the work take up different pieces of the puzzle, using different dance styles. One has "a little bit of a spoof of [modern-dance pioneer] Doris Humphrey," while others are more like jazz. Pitcher is one of three choreographers who worked on Nearly Nude, which debuted in smaller form at Cincinnati's Fringe Festival last summer and will be performed in a fully realized production this weekend in Cleveland Public Theater's Big [BOX] series. Her collaborators are Kalindi Stockton and Sara Whale. "Contrary to the title," says Pitcher, "there are different costumes for each piece." Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday in CPT's James Levin Theatre (6415 Detroit Ave.). Tickets: $15. Call 216.631.2727 or go to cptonline.org.
It's about time. That's what we have to say about Apollo's Fire appearing at long last - after 16 years of performing in Northeast Ohio churches - at a church recycled into an art gallery, Josaphat Arts Hall (1433 E. 33rd St.). Jeannette Sorrell, with soloists Meredith Hall and Sumner Thompson and the Apollo's Singers Chorus, will use the former church, which houses Convivium 33 Gallery, for its production of Henry Purcell's baroque opera masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas. It's the story of Queen Dido of Carthage and the shipwrecked Trojan Aeneas, who falls in doomed love with her. Its most famous aria is Dido's lament "When I am laid in earth," which has been used by bands whose music deals with suicide, from Nine Inch Nails to the goth group Qntal, as well as in several movies. The one-hour, three-act opera is augmented on the program by selections from Purcell's "Ayrs for the Theatre." The first performance is at 7:30 tonight at First United Methodist Church in Akron, followed by five performances Friday through Tuesday at Josaphat Arts Hall. Tickets: $25-$60. Call 216.320.0012 or go to apollosfire.org.
Many of the Northeast Ohio artists whose work is included in Spaces' show Flash Forward have been reviewed in these pages. They're art-school graduates who, having competed their training, are now out in the world - or at least around these parts - developing and propagating their ideas of beauty, truth and communication. Artists in the show include Jon Nathaniel Cotterman, Dragana Crnjak, Yumiko Goto, Ann Hanrahan, Mike Jones, Jaime Kennedy, Kelly Urquhart, Amy Kreiger, Peter Philip Luckner, Lorri Ott, Glenn Ratusnik and Jennifer Schulman. The media they work in are as diverse as the artists: colored resin, intaglio prints, porcelain, glass and more. It opens with a free reception at 6 tonight. Spaces is at 2220 Superior Viaduct. Call 216.621.2314 or go to spacesgallery.org.
People said some extravagant things about Mahalia Jackson. Born into poverty in New Orleans in 1911, her mother died when she was 5, leaving her to be raised by an aunt. She sang her way from church choirs to a contract with Decca in the late '30s. But it was 10 years later that she began a string of multi-million-selling hits on the Apollo label, including "Amazing Grace" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain." One historian said, "God touched the vocal chords of this Great Woman and placed a special elixir to sing for His honor and glory!" She sang on the National Mall during the 1963 March on Washington that culminated with Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. She also sang at MLK's funeral. The Cleveland Playhouse (8500 Euclid Ave.) tells her life story in Tom Stolz' Mahalia: A Gospel Musical, opening at 8 p.m. in the Bolton Theatre. Kent Gash directs. Tickets: $42-$51. Call 216.795.7000 or go to clevelandplayhouse.com.
August Wilson's play with music, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, is named for a real woman - the early-20th-century blues singer Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett "Ma" Rainey - and a real dance, the flapper-era sensation the black bottom, named for an old Detroit neighborhood. The 1982 play takes place in a Chicago recording studio, where a band is waiting for its singer and the musicians are dealing with racism - in the music industry as well as society as a whole. Sarah May directs a production opening today at Beck Center for the Arts (17801 Detroit Ave.). Angela Gillespie-Winborn stars in the title role, supported by Michael May, Anthony Elfonzia Nickerson-El and Robert J. Williams. Performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 22. Tickets: $17-$28. Call 216.521.2540 or go to beckcenter.org.
For at least a few more years, the N-E-W Trio, formed at New York's Juilliard School in 2006, will remain just what the name implies. But that name means something else that won't wear off, as long as the personnel remain the same: It stands for the group's members - cellist Gal Nyska, pianist Julio Elizalde and violinist Andrew Wan. They come to Cleveland for an 8 p.m. performance as part of the Cleveland Chamber Music Society's series. On the program: Mozart's Trio in B-flat major, K. 502; Ravel's Trio in A minor; Michael Brown's 2006 Piano Trio, written for the N-E-W Trio; and Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 49. Tickets: $15. They perform at First Unitarian Church (21600 Shaker Blvd., Shaker Heights). Call 216.291.2777 or go to clevelandchambermusic.org.
Early music in the Mediterranean region melded Christian, Moorish and Jewish influences in a rich combination of rhythms and moods. The Rose Ensemble spans four centuries of that musical cross-pollenization in its program Cantigas From the Land of Three Faiths, performed at 7:30 p.m. in Case Western Reserve University's Harkness Chapel (11200 Bellflower Rd.) as part of the Chapel, Court and Countryside series. Artistic director Jordan Sramek has mixed Arab-Andalusian dances, Sephardic laments, Spanish villancicos, Hebrew chants and Galician spiritual cantigas. Tickets: $27. Call 216.368.2402 or go to music.cwru.edu.
Oddy Fest presents yet another evening of staged readings and other performances. Among them: a scene from Oscar E. Moore's A Royal Mess, which deals with King Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves' struggle with a language barrier; Timo Aker's Euphorication, which has a bit in common with the pill-popping happiness of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, as corporations give the populace "euphies" when things get rough; and Matt Greenfield's The Life and Death of King Edward VII, in which the pre-WWII King of England marries an American divorcee. Come early for Ryan Ferren's musical warm-up and stay late for a reading of Greenfield's "Ode to Cleveland." Performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 28, and Wednesday, February 18, at Heights Arts Studio (2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights). Tickets: $10. Call 216.926.8641.