Punk-rock ballerina Karole Armitage’s company Armitage Gone! Dance makes its Chicago debut this week at the Dance Center of Columbia College. The company will perform “Time is the Echo of an Axe within a Wood and Ligeti Essays, ” the first two sections of Armitage’s Dream Trilogy.
You returned to the U.S. in 2005 after about ten years in Europe, choreographing for ballets and operas. What prompted you to come back?
I wanted to work with a group of creative, determined, adventuresome dancers. We’re so marginalized in the U.S., we have special convictions. It’s really for the quality of the dancers that I came back. [Armitage Gone! Dance] started with one experimental piece, and continuing made sense.
How do you feel the world of American dance has changed in the time you were gone?
Well, I visited a lot throughout that time. But the biggest changes have been cultural. Consumer culture and packaging of celebrity culture became more extreme. Everything is more homogenized; magazines aren’t writing about dance as much and dance has become more homogenized to try and survive.
Can you talk a little about how dreams influence you?
I didn’t use dreams as a point of departure. I think of the stage as a place to put a condensation of the world on view. I was thinking first about psychological time. What people see on stage is not about realism, it’s about our internal life—a more poetic way of encountering the world instead of a narrative, naturalistic way. Dreams are what motivate us, how we would like our life to unfold. Even if they’re not something we can achieve, we all need to dream. Dreams are a sign of beauty and potential.
How do David Salle’s sets work within these pieces?
We worked carefully to calibrate how sets, costumes, lighting work in cohesion to take the audience into a dream. In “Time,” the beaded curtain suggests two zones of experience, the conscious and subconscious. The costumes have a metallic sheen, reflecting light. Light is the idea binding things together. In “Ligeti,” the bare tree suggests an ice storm, beautiful and fragile. The way these elements work together is a unique experience. I think art should always be unique—an expression of the individual. (Sharon Hoyer)
Armitage Gone! Dance at The Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 South Michigan. This production is now closed.