For the spring semester at the Dance Center, there is a small cohort of dance writers viewing, discussing, and writing about each performance in the Dance Presenting Series (DPS), guided by DPS Interim Director Ellen Chenoweth. Comprised of Columbia College students and recent alums, cohort members were nominated by faculty members and applied for a position in the group. Here are a few excerpts from their writings about the recent Dance Center presentation of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, performances March 2 & 3, 2018 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago.
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Formosa
Andrea Torres Cloud Gate’s movement vocabulary fluctuated between physicalizing mountains and rivers, creating architectures that were heavy and strong, embodying swifter, wind-like movements, and identifiable pedestrian gestures such as an embrace or preparing for a fight. Their range was truly a testament to their dancers’ seemingly infinite capabilities. One of the most striking images from the beginning of the piece was when the dancers swung their torsos, side to side, as a group as if they were encroaching upon unsuspecting victims located downstage left.
Haley Dennis The sonic elements supported the execution of the dancers’ physical ability to utilize their weight and body in captivating ways. Jumps with controlled landings that echoed throughout the space, reverberating back to the viewers in ways that emphasized groundedness and strength.
I think about what it means to engulf the mind and body into complimentary practices, supporting the breath and its physical response. Floating, agile, and focused…beauty is revealed and celebrated.
When I think about the performance of Formosa…I am relieved. For a while I’ve been in a complete anti-ballet, anti-modern, anti-Western headspace. The only dances that could gratify me were those of the diaspora. This rich, Easternized dance has completely replenished my hunger for something fresh and devoid of all Western tendencies and habits. Formosa captured a culture at its purest form and splayed it out with smooth abandon.
Bodies form a flock-like entrance onto the stage. One after the other makes their debut as the dance begins. In comes various lines of dancers overlapping with their silent footfalls creating a solid rhythm with a favorable serene urgency as if they’re birds taking to the sky with light flutter of their wings. The overlapping bodies create an interwoven arrangement.
Characters begin to form on the screen. The characters have a life of their own. They interact with the spoken text (in the form of song, humming and speech forms). At points they engulf the dancers in a sea of memory and history. They seem to extend past the stage into the audience, wrapping us into a circular pattern of time.
The combination between Eastern and Western movement patterns and styles was evident throughout the choreography, but it was the control the dancers had over their bodies that stuck with me the most. There was not a single point during the performance when I did not believe one of the dancers was not one hundred percent confident with the choreography that had been set on them. This sureness that they all carried in their bodies allowed them to move with a soft strength.
Images: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan in Formosa. Photos: Liu Chen-hsiang
Earlier this year I got to read this piece by St. Louis dance educator and writer Betsy Brandt, and it resonated with me on numerous levels. St. Louis, our Midwestern neighbor, may offer lessons for our own organizing, educating, or reflecting in Chicago, within the concert dance communities or in other circles. In the movement for black lives, around gender equity, or gun control, Betsy’s call to “apply pressure to the cracks in a breaking system” seems not just appropriate, but imperative. — Ellen Chenoweth, Interim Director, Dance Presenting Series
Getting in the Way: Thoughts on dance in St. Louis since 2014 by Betsy Brandt
18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. As a devoted St. Louisan, I never considered Ferguson as a separate place from the city I loved. It was just another neighborhood, known for harsh highway speed traps and its proximity to University of Missouri: St. Louis (UMSL, pronounced “um-zull”). Crowds gathered as Brown’s body remained in the street for hours. Over the next few nights, the community’s unrest escalated, sometimes erupting into looting and alleged gunfire. The infamously militarized police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Police delayed releasing the name of the officer involved in the shooting, sparking more conflict. Armored vehicles arrived. Protesters and reporters got arrested. The Missouri Highway Patrol took control of law enforcement. Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.
I was working in New York City when all of this happened, the dramaturg on a new dance piece by Sara Hook and Paul Matteson. I spent my days in the tiny West End Theatre, nestled inside St. Paul and St. Andrew church on the Upper West Side. I even spent my nights in monastic conditions, taking cold showers and sleeping on a hard twin bed in another nearby church. It was the ultimate cliché residency experience—getting “away from it all” in order to make work. I felt very, very far away from home, and my heart ached.
I came home. Protests, ranging from peaceful organized actions to impromptu violence, continued all over the city. Friends and family were increasingly getting involved in the protests. I started a new semester, teaching technique and theory courses in the dance departments at Webster University and Lindenwood University, both in the greater St. Louis area. Struggling to find a way to engage the students in the conversation surrounding the events of Ferguson, I constructed an assignment for my improvisation class that asked them to consider protest as a kind of improvisational score. This made sense to me. Protests are organized around actions (or inactions) that put physical bodies in specific times and places, usually with a goal or desired outcome, but without knowing exactly how it will end. You don’t know how they will turn out, and that’s the point. Sounds like an improv score, right? This is what I told my students: “Identify an action/idea that warrants protest, develop a score for how you will embody resistance against that action/idea, then do it.”
Results were mixed. A few students struggled to separate the abstraction of the score from their suspicions that I was trying to secretly radicalize them. But we got there in the end, after a few false starts and long discussions. One student decided to protest collegiate expectations of how women dress on a daily basis, going through an entire day in full homecoming/prom getup. Another student had questions about everyone’s habitual obedience to pedestrian pathways on campus, so she sat in the middle of one of the busiest thoroughfares during “passing” times between classes, just to disrupt the normal flow. Were they the most courageous or artistically inventive projects ever conceived? No. But the big takeaway? They were terrified. Their hearts were pounding the entire time, and they were each surprised by the intensity of the experience. After all, they were well on their way to professional dance careers, experienced with performances both onstage and off. But they felt vulnerable and engaged in a different way. It was scary. This wasn’t about “building” choreography or even fulfilling a traditional improvisational score. It was about breaking something. Disrupting something. That was new. And they felt it.
I wrote a blurb about the experience and posted it on Facebook. It garnered a few comments and shares, and the post ultimately drew the attention of Sara Burke, the founder of The City Studio Dance Center and one of the organizers of a series of events entitled “Dancers React to Ferguson.” She invited me to their second meeting. Discussions were passionate. The community clearly needed the event for the sake of getting together to heal as much as for charting specific plans. I remember Keith Williams, now a teacher at Grand Center Arts Academy, doing a kind of real-time devising of a dance in which one dancer would stand over the still body of another in horror. Burke, Williams, and a number of the other organizers (including Heather Himes, an alumna of the dance program at Columbia College) had roots in the Katherine Dunham company and its longstanding presence in East St. Louis. A civil rights activist as well as a choreographer and performer, Dunham’s legacy loomed large in the room. We were gathering to organize. To speak out and fight back. To build something. There was talk of a viral video, or the creation of a shared choreographic experience that could “bring everyone together.”
St. Louis Public Radio produced a piece about the meetings that was later picked up by The Dance Enthusiast. A year later, a collaborative event entitled “Dance Speaks Volume I” was presented in cooperation with the Grand Center Arts Academy Theatre Department. A few other projects popped up in the subsequent months and years, but to me, it felt like the potential energy that was in the room during those meetings was never fully realized. Now I wonder—were we trying to figure out what to build when we should have been talking about what still needed to break? In a moment of cultural trauma and upheaval, were we too eager to use our art to heal rather than choreograph and perform our dissent?
As the protests in Ferguson continued in October 2014, a team of seven community artists and organizers known as Artivists STL walked from the site of Brown’s death to the local police department, carrying a casket covered with broken mirrors. Mirror Casket, now in the collection of the National Museum for African American History and Culture, asked bystanders to confront their own reflections as “both whole and shattered, as both solution and problem, as both victim and aggressor.” It was designed to create empathy, a theme that had been passionately championed throughout those dancer meetings. But this work prompted empathy by embracing fragmentation and failure. It wasn’t trying to universalize, but individualize. It wasn’t trying to fix anything. And it was powerful. Perhaps, as Hal Foster says, the contemporary avant-garde is most effective when it “seeks to trace fractures that already exist within the given order, to pressure them further, even to activate them somehow.”
A lot of changes have swept through the St. Louis dance community in the years since, and many related directly or indirectly to conversations about race and power sparked by Ferguson. Joanna Dee Das, a Katherine Dunham scholar (with a new book on Dunham’s activism recently published by Oxford University Press) joined the faculty of the dance department at Washington University in 2016. Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd, former Alvin Ailey superstars, are also now St. Louisans, teaching at Washington University and heading up the dance program for the Center of Creative Arts. Alicia Graf Mack, another Ailey alum, is now an Artist-in-Residence at Webster University. From my perspective in academia, there is a palpable new urgency about the idea of supporting and empowering diverse research and artists of color in our educational institutions, and you can see it in increasingly diverse student populations, class offerings, faculty, and guest artists.
Non-academic institutions are responding too. Dance St. Louis, the major presenter in town, geared its 2016 New Dance Horizons program to focus on the work of black choreographers, including Bebe Miller, Robert Moses, and Dianne McIntyre. The McIntyre piece got particular attention, featuring performances by the aforementioned Ailey dancers. The Modern America Dance Company (MADCO) produced a show entitled “FREEDOM” in 2017. Featuring the choreography of Cecil Slaughter, Nejla Yatkin, Jennifer Archibald, and Gina Patterson, the program was inspired by a collaboration with the civil rights archive at Washington University’s Olin Library.
There are many other makers and movers who are responding to issues of race and power in the St. Louis dance landscape. I point to Dance St. Louis and MADCO’s programming as not the most “important” examples, but rather as two clear instances of work being done by existing dance institutions, privileged with established organizational and financial support. These kinds of changes, like those occurring inside of academia, are operating well-inside of sanctioned constraints, often to the point of being incentivized by well-intentioned funding organizations.
I suspect that a more substantial and lasting wave of change in the St. Louis dance community is likely to come from outside of the safely established power players like MADCO and Dance St. Louis. Work stemming from a spirit of disruption and intervention may threaten established funding structures, audience loyalties, and artistic expectations. Doesn’t that sound a little more like resistance? Like dissent? In the first of a series of recent articles about St. Louis for Art in America, James McAnally offered a generous overview of local visual artists whose work is rooted in social practice. A number of these artists, including St. Louis native and Webster-trained dancer Katherine Simóne Reynolds, are using performance as one of their media of choice. Local institutions are also increasingly bringing in performance-based artists from outside of St. Louis, and again, an exciting number of black artists have been involved in these projects. Lygia Lewis’s Bessie-award winning Minor Matter came through now-shuttered White Flag Projects as a work-in-progress in 2016. The AUNTS performance platform took over the Pulitzer Foundation in April 2017, featuring (among its many overlapping performances) Jennifer Harge’s powerful solo cussin and prayin. Leslie Cuyjet brought a revamped version of her duet Fossil through the Luminary last summer as part of Alexis Wilkinson’s exhibition about time and corporeality.
This past September, three years after the initial protests in Ferguson, I was again in New York City working as a dramaturg on another project. Coincidentally, I was working with the same collaborator, out of the same theatre, and sleeping in the same hard twin bed. Back in St. Louis, a police officer was acquitted in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Protestors blocked highways, gathered at the courthouse, marched the downtown streets, shouted “no justice, no peace,” threw rocks at the mayor’s house, got in fights, got arrested, prayed, and held hands.
When I got back home a few days later, there was a protest walkout scheduled at Webster University. I went. In the crowd, I saw half-a-dozen dance majors in their leotards and tights walking the line and chanting as we shut down a public intersection. I walked a few feet behind them, trying to give them space to do their thing and attempting to keep my mama-bear instincts in check as the police loomed menacingly, putting on their bulletproof vests. Later, I asked the dancers how it felt. It was different than they thought it would be, they said, even in the light of a sunny day in a familiar location. Ever-obedient “bunheads,” they were keenly aware that participating in organized disruption felt different than performing on a stage. They knew they were applying pressure to the cracks in a breaking system. They knew the stakes were high. They felt it.
Remember Mirror Casket. It took muscle. It forced the witness into an acknowledgement of their own immediate corporeality, reflection, and participation. It showed the cracks. We need to remember this as we envision the future of dance in St. Louis. We must clearly see what systems are crumbling and resist being surprised when and if they fall apart. The traditional role of the presenter, the administrative machinations of the sanctioned non-profit structure, the generationally and demographically-lopsided distribution of artistic programming and funding, and the very who/when/where/how of our performances are all up for grabs. There are plenty of cracks that still need to widen and plenty of questions that still need to be asked. We should figure out how to get in the way, and we should do it. And it will be scary. When we do, we’ll feel it.
As part of the Process v. Product Festival, we are featuring writings from three Chicago dance/movement artists exploring their processes. Jane Jerardi has the second of our featured writings on process.
on beginnings by Jane Jerardi
When I was at the beginning of studying choreography, I worked with a teacher who would tell our class these confounding aphorisms that at first, didn’t make sense. Things like: “The worst thing for a new project is a good idea.” (…what?) But, pretty much ever since then, I remind myself of that statement whenever I start a new project.
It’s less that it’s a bad idea to have ideas.
It’s more that it’s actually perfectly okay to not have any idea.
In fact, in the realm of performance, this might be preferable, lest you get too attached to your really brilliant, yet right now, very imaginary idea.
Most of the work of making a dance or performance is going to the studio and the ritual of getting to the studio. This sounds ridiculous, but I find it true. There’s a method to being in a process. Which, what does that mean? It’s permission to give yourself authority to take time and use free time to let your mind wander about making – be it a dance, a song, a film.
Because no one will ever tell you or give you permission to make. You have to convince yourself it’s a good idea to be making anything at all. Or, maybe it’s more reverse psychology – you have to convince yourself that it’s not a bad idea. And by you here, I mean me. Let’s be honest: I have to convince myself it’s a good idea. That’s half the work right there.
It would be nice to think that this gets easier. But, so far in my experience – which to be fair, may still be limited – this does not get easier, only more familiar.
Once I start, there is something to work with. And, then you can convince yourself that you’re still not making anything at all – you’re just playing with something or kind of doodling, or improvising, or changing, or editing. You get kind of curious about it and then you’re on a roll.
My convincing myself it’s a good idea involves:
very long warm-ups I love warming up…I could spend an entire rehearsal warming up. Sometimes I realize this is an elaborate mode of procrastination. But, sometimes the procrastination serves an odd purpose: you start breathing, you’re a bit less distracted, you feel the back of your body that you’ve been ignoring all day, and weird ideas come into view. You get curious and you start.
collaborating with other people You’re obligated to show up, because they showed up.
going for walks This could just be around the block or through the park, but mostly to disrupt the usual routine and to allow my mind to wander.
switching mediums to something I know nothing about Sometimes I write or jot down things I see in the world and pretend I’m a writer. The notes eventually become lists. The lists become writing, or scores. The less I know about the medium I’m working in the better – because then it’s okay that it’s terrible.
weird rituals There’s a lot of ritual to making – elaborate set-ups to get yourself to start (see also: warming up).
short daily acts
Take a particular photo or write every day in response to a prompt.
improvising I video myself improvising and then watch the improvisations and then teach myself the improvisations. I find it difficult so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this. I usually only manage to learn a little. But, I really only need a little.
showing up especially when you don’t feel like it.
In other words, I find making is a lot about getting out of the way. Sort of in a stubborn way. Convincing the parts of you that want to procrastinate and the part that thinks your ideas aren’t very good – to tell them to just slowly step back. And, you keep going despite them, while they’re there waiting in the background.
Then once you have something – that’s usually kind of terrible – you at least have something which is certainly better than nothing. And then you start to negotiate with it and then get weirdly into it and wonder about it and expand it, change it, or manipulate it and multiply it, or teach it to a friend, and get them to change it into something better. And then, you start having strong opinions about it – that it needs to be a certain way and you’re not really sure why but you’re fairly convinced of it.
And then, the project has somehow become bigger than you and you’re just following its lead.
And you’re still not sure if you’re worthy – or your ideas are any good, but you do it anyway for some reason. It’s weirdly addictive.
And despite it all – you realize that what’s beautiful about this is that you can make something without really much of anything at all. There are dances waiting to be made, photos waiting to be taken with your phone, your dollar-store notebook waiting to be written in, music waiting to inspire. Your art is as worthy as anyone else’s and we certainly need it. More ismore. You might not believe quite how abundant you are, but that would be a mistake. Because you are.
Above: Jane Jerardi in again (again) Photos: Matthew Gregory Hollis
This blog entry is part of the Dance Center’s Process v. Product Festival (March 28-April 7). This two-week festival examines how concert dance presentation can be a document of process rather than a consumable product. Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak and Bebe Miller Company headline the festival through a series of performances, artist discussions, panels, workshops, and more. The Process v. Product Festival invites dance-makers, dance lovers, and other artists to reflect on the process of creation. Learn more about the festival.
What comes to mind when you think of your homeland? If you were to create a dance that was a love letter to your homeland, what would it look like?
Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre Lin Hwai-Min has created an evening-length work dedicated to the island of Taiwan, Formosa. The new work, which will be performed at the Harris Theater on March 2 and 3, celebrates the multicultural history of the island nation.
Mr. Lin Hwai-min uses typefaces of Chinese characters as material for the projection design and poetry as part of the soundscape. Three years in the making, Formosa blends music by contemporary composer Kaija Saariaho, musician Liang Chun-mei and singer Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw.
When Cloud Gate last performed in Chicago, the Reader raved: “…the dancers’ movement might be grounded and glacial, almost imperceptible, or it might be quick and airborne, but it’s always breathtaking.”
Mr. Lin has announced that he will retire from his company by the end of 2019, leaving behind a remarkable legacy. His many awards include Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture and a lifetime achievement award from the American Dance Festival.
Catch the Chicago premiere of Formosaat the Harris Theater on March 2 and 3. Tickets available now.
Banner and in article: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan at artist Sir Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Photo: Lindsay Schlepper
Above: Cloud Gate founder, Lin Hwai-min. Photo: Liu Chen-Hsiang
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Ellen Chenoweth as Interim Director of the Dance Presenting Series.
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago announces the appointment of Ellen Chenoweth as Interim Director of its Dance Presenting Series (DPS), effective September 11, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Chenoweth assumes responsibilities previously held by Bonnie Brooks, who departed May 31, 2017. During the coming year, the Dance Center will launch a national search for a permanent director.
The Dance Presenting Series showcases contemporary dance artists of regional, national and international significance, offering Columbia students opportunities to learn from world-renowned performers and understand the rigors of the discipline. As director, Chenoweth will oversee all aspects of the DPS—implementation of the 2017–18 season, curation of the 2018–19 season in consultation with Dance Department Chair and Interim Theatre Department Chair Peter Carpenter, personnel management, finance and administration, partnership with internal and external constituents, fundraising, marketing, education, audience development and public advocacy. She also will collaborate on developing curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students.
Said Carpenter, “Ellen thoroughly impressed the Dance Center team. She has a substantial background in arts management that reaches across curation, development, marketing and financial management. Her experience in—and passion for—finding innovative ways to connect audiences to dance will be invaluable to the Dance Center in the coming year.”
Chenoweth is currently director of development and communications for Pig Iron Theatre Company. She previously worked as a freelance arts administrator with choreographers in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. She was a program development consultant for the American Dance Institute (ADI) for two years, helping evaluate and document its residency program, the ADI Incubator. During four years at the Dance Exchange, she was instrumental in its transition when Founder Liz Lerman left the company, serving as managing director for two years following the transition. She began her career in arts administration at the Kennedy Center, where she worked with iconic artists such as Suzanne Farrell and Katherine Dunham through the Education Department’s Performance Plus program. Chenoweth holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Rice University and a master’s degree in dance from Texas Woman’s University. She completed a graduate certificate at Wesleyan University’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, where she focused on Philadelphia performance history. Chenoweth is also the executive director for thINKingDANCE, an online dance journal based in Philadelphia.
“I am thrilled to join the Dance Center, with its rich legacy and the unique opportunities it offers by integrating a professional dance series into a first-class educational institution,” commented Chenoweth. “I look forward to getting involved in the Chicago dance community as well as partnering with the faculty, staff and students at Columbia College Chicago. We have a thrilling season ahead, and I anticipate meeting fans and friends of the Dance Center with great excitement in the coming weeks.”
Read more about the upcoming Dance Presenting Series…
Bonnie Brooks Announces Departure from Dance Center
CHICAGO—Bonnie Brooks, Presenting Series Director and Lead Curator for the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and Columbia College Chicago Dance Department Associate Professor, has announced her departure, effective May 31, 2017.
Brooks concludes 18 years of leadership with the Dance Center and the College, serving as Dance Department Chair and Series co-curator from 1999 to 2011. She was appointed Lead Curator of the Presenting Series in January 2015 and Presenting Series Director in August of that year. During that time, Brooks worked closely with Dance Center staff to strengthen international relationships and broaden outreach to academic and public audiences. Prior to joining Columbia College Chicago, she served as president and executive director of Dance/USA, the country’s principal service organization for dance, from 1990 to 1998. Her activities with the Chicago dance community have included serving as a board member of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park when it opened in 2003 and Audience Architects from 2012 through 2014 and, with colleagues from Links Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, co-founding the Chicago Dancemakers Forum.
“Bonnie’s contributions to the Dance Center are as substantial as they are wide-ranging,” said Chair of Dance Peter Carpenter. “From serving as department chair to being a thought leader as a tenured faculty member to leading the Presenting Series, she has left an indelible mark on this organization; we look forward to seeing her continued contributions to the field in the months and years ahead.”
The Dance Center is seeking an interim director for the 2017–18 Presenting Series, announced earlier this month. The 44th season, which opens in September, features the Chicago debut of choreographer Cynthia Oliver’s COCo. Dance Theatre; the return of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan and companies led by American choreographers Reggie Wilson, Doug Varone and Bebe Miller; and Chicago companies including Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak and the choreographers participating in Elevate Chicago Dance. Subscriptions go on sale June 5 and single tickets go on sale July 5 at colum.edu/dancecenterpresents.
The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago is the city’s leading presenter of contemporary dance, showcasing artists of regional, national and international significance. The Dance Center has been named “Chicago’s Best Dance Theatre” by Chicago magazine, “Best Dance Venue” by the Chicago Reader and Chicago’s top dance venue in 2014 by Newcity, and Time Out Chicago cited it as “…consistently offering one of Chicago’s strongest lineups of contemporary and experimental touring dance companies.” Programs at the Dance Center are supported, in part, by the Alphawood Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for the Arts and Culture at Prince, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Irving Harris Foundation, Arts Midwest Touring Fund and the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Special thanks to Friends of the Dance Center for their generous contributions to the Dance Center’s work.
To close our 2016-17 performance season, the Dance Center is excited and honored to bring yet another new choreographic voice to Chicago audiences: Liz Gerring Dance Company of New York City. Throughout the season we have offered four companies—Tere O’Connor Dance, Ballet de Lorraine, Malpaso Dance Company, and now Liz Gerring’s troupe—that were previously unseen in a full evening presentation on a Chicago stage. This dive into new voices and artistry has refreshed us in countless ways, and lays the rail for more as we anticipate the 2017-2018 season.
Tonight, we welcome the ensemble and Liz’s 2015 work Horizon. Collaborating with composer Michael J. Schumacher, visual/lighting designer Robert Wierzel and costume designer Liz Prince, Gerring contemplates, in this work, a theme of density. Performed in a tightly-framed architectural environment of bright and changing light, the seven dancers take us into a journey of layered dance phrasing and multiplicity of action that is highly inventive and at the same time harkens back to the spatial concerns and rule-breaking of Merce Cunningham and the more formalist early post-modern choreographers. Gerring’s choreography requires extensively trained dancers who can turn on a dime and dance together in one phrase and independently the next, always in seamless transition. It is challenging for the dancers and invites the audience to plunge right in and stick with the activity itself.
Gerring analyzes situations steely-eyed and moves quickly to deploy her forces. Her invigorating new piece “Horizon,” which the Liz Gerring Dance Company unveiled at Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater last week, is a dance for heroes. —NJArts.net
Abstract dance, or dancing as subject, offers no story narrative to follow and no external “meaning” to figure out or apply to the experience of watching. On the other hand, and in the words of choreographer Margaret Jenkins, we believe that “movement can be its own narrative.” With the work of Liz Gerring, we have the opportunity to track the movement narrative on all of its direct and winding paths, capture the fractured moments, follow the dancing together and dancing apart, and experience the choreographic journey in whatever ways resonate fully for each of us. Is this like traversing a crowded airport on a Friday afternoon, or watching a soccer game, or walking with a friend through an open field….or perhaps all of the above, at various points?
Kinesthetic watching invites us to open our imaginations to new ways of experiencing dance, and to applications that are far more freeing than “just” following a story. Of course, too, you can make up a story or series of stories about what is happening as you watch. On the other hand, there is pleasure enough, sometimes, in simply seeing remarkable dancers on the stage, doing beautiful and surprising things. This we will have in abundance tonight.
We thank Liz and the dancers for bringing their work to us in Chicago. And we wish all of you, our patrons and members of the Dance Center family, a happy hiatus until we see you again when we open our Fall, 2017 season in September. Meanwhile, dance on and dance happy, everybody.
Director and Lead Curator
Dance Presenting Series
Liz Gerring Dance Company • Horizon
April 6, 7 and 8, 2017 • 7:30 p.m. Buy tickets
Banner: Claire Westby, Molly Griffin, Brandon Collwes in Horizon. Photo: Miguel Anaya
Above: Liz Gerring dancers in Horizon. Photo: Miguel Anaya; Claire Westby in Horizon. Photo: Thaddeus Rombauer. Brandon Collwes and Claire Westby in Horizon. Photo: Thaddeus Rombauer