With a schedule that includes curated fundraising events in New York, San Francisco and, for two consecutive years, Chicago, the Flow Show presented a fun, kid-friendly burlesque show. That’s right, one that makes kids, parents and everyone else feel a sense of acceptance about what our bodies do when we let them work in an authentic way, with what we can express emotionally, and how that can be reflected in near-athletic expressions of our personal daily struggles to survive. All of the performers were adept at object manipulation, a form of circus dance familiar to attendees of the monthly Full Moon and New Moon jams that take place seasonally across the city and, this year, began to draw record crowds at festivals nationwide. Over the past few years flow performances have found more platforms through city-sponsored circus programs in public parks, adding to the form’s visibility and increasing popularity. It is not near as often deserved. Still, the sheer enjoyment and encouragement of expression was pleasant.
Most cohesive from among the lineup was local dancer Emily Perkins, who performs under the stage name Perkulator, and who teaches object manipulation alongside circus techniques, with a cognizance of her composition of space through the dance program pyrotechniq.org. Perkins demonstrated all the thrilling athleticism of some of the community’s more stalwart figures, including the always-thrilling Ebonie Hoops, who is consistently an audience favorite at the lakefront jams, usually spinning flaming hoops on the tips of her toes while in a headstand, and always mischievously smiling.
Perkins adds an extra layer, configuring and reconfiguring combinations of silver hoops into a space-age stage performance. As she moves, it’s representative of the movement of energy at the subatomic level, radiating a pure joy at the love of movement. (Michael Workman)
Now in its fifth season, this newest iteration of Brenna Pierson-Tucker and Christopher Tucker’s Esoteric Dance Project, with its half decade of extemporaneous choreography, provides a sense of the relationship between two distinctly active, evocative historical performances plus one more, yet to premiere. Aspects of the two earlier performances, “Unsilenced Thoughts of Two Women” and “iloveyouihateyou,” will be added into this new tapestried, as-yet untitled premiere. Also on the program is “Unsilenced Thoughts,” in which the duo presents the ongoing resonances that center their shared movement experience in the music of Ani DiFranco and Tom Waits, funneled into the ears of the audience in much the same manner as physical abuse, and with the same force as vampiric cultural capitalism–commonly condemned for valuing self-survival over a shared right of survival, especially in the artistic community. Read the rest of this entry »
This event, founded by the At the Table Collective, comprised of members Lindsay Hopkins, Mike Lahood, Jessie Marasa, Lara Oppenheimer and Bryan Saner, began in December 2013 at Hopkins and Saner’s home. Originally conceived of as using dinner conversation as a method of community building through open exchange of skill in the interest of collaboration, for its November dance event, the group turns to fungi as its social model. Starting from the presumption of natural adhesions between individuals and community, and drawing on art historical derivations of dematerialization concepts, At The Table’s conversational performance forms around the idea of “mycelial” structures as a way of offering the public a handle on situating this panel discussion in the context of a living performative space between language and dance, and equality between the concept of dancer as audience participant and audience member as dance participant. (Michael Workman)
At Links Hall, 3111 North Western, Monday, November 23 at 7pm. $5-$15. Tickets at linkshall.org.
Photo: Emerson Granillo
Few of those who taught at the School of the Art Institute haunt this festival so much as the ghost of outré artist Barbara DeGenevieve, who died suddenly in 2014, and whose performance medium, largely a matter of reducing the body to sexuality in her boundary-pushing work, often centered within her practice on photography and video and went so far beyond her chosen, “allowed” media embodiments that she became a subject of consistent government and institutional oppression. Against that background, this ninth iteration of the program from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies, in collaboration with the SAIC Department of Performance, has a lot to live up to with regard to that reflection of the body in any kind of meaningful state, whether in motion or immobilized by inertia. With a largely lackluster showing at this year’s graduate open studios, hopefully this year’s performance works showcase will provide performance and motion studies devotees with something more than just the usual. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Molly Shanahan
As part of the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance laboratory program, Shanahan and collaborator Jeff Hancock performed this dance, in development since 2012, drawing inspiration from the Grimm folktale Hansel and Gretel. Taking place on a dimly lit stage, using mainly an array of floor lamps to illuminate the stage, the minimal use of stage lighting creates a sense of domesticity and home. Moving and heart-wrenching, the performance often counters the difficulties of its subject matter by foregrounding themes of humor, and the exchange of conscious awareness that take place in the experience of emotional attachments between people. Using recordings in which the performers self-referentially exhume the meta-considerations of humor in dance, while simultaneously performing humorously, laughing as they move, movements evoking gags reflecting the audio, the duo lend the atmosphere a sense of vulnerability to create an emotional context of pause. Read the rest of this entry »
As part of Chicago Artists Month, Hedwig Dances reprises company member Victor Alexander’s “Line of Sighs,” a luscious meditation on human connection conceived during a fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council in 2012. Alexander collaborated with set and costume designer Deborah Valoma on a set of both elegant simplicity and infinite complexity. A series of white elastic cords stretch across the performance area from head-height to floor level, creating a third plane that ties horizontal to vertical, intensifying the visual sense of both gravity and transcendence as six dancers weave patterns into space. Internal elasticity is magnified by the radiating bungees—which also serve as part of the score, their whispers when un-stretched whisking through the soundscape of clacking loom and gentle, mystical score by Arianne Brame. The work is one of both powerful, grounded athleticism and supreme, etherial tenderness. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Michael Workman
Few artists or dancers engage their subjects with anything near the capable, distinct voracity of Victoria Bradford’s punctually conceptualist, stratospherically aspirational choreographies. At a special preview of “Ghost Skirts,” performed where the full piece will be presented at High Concept Laboratories, Bradford, Lia Kohl and Jessica Cornish brazenly and boldly hold the line on those standards. Consistently structuralist in approach, the dancers present in the restrictively bilious gowns of idealized dance performers, all in bright white, perfected, markers of restrictive, distinctly physical visuality. Vivisecting this audience perception of “perfected” femininity as merely a form of adornment lends the performance the context of deconstructing the performative figure itself. Initially, both dancers appear only as skirts, following a recorded Wittgensteinian lattice of voiced instructions, followed attentively by an apprentice dancer’s movements, à la Donald Judd-like instructions to museum installers. “Draw a line following the curve dictated by the length of your arm from a point 120cm from the base of the wall” here becomes something along the lines of “execute movement, staying seated on the floor using your skeleton as the point of reference” (memory fails on the exact stated verbiage). In this, the power of despotic impartation of control evinces a form of identification within the context of the dancer’s draped body movements, an attempt at its exultation beyond the clothes given it to work within, and the limits of its costumery. Read the rest of this entry »
Scott Patterson and Camille A. Brown
The new work by the young Bessie-winning choreographer and TED fellow Camille A. Brown just finished a highly acclaimed world premiere at the Joyce Theater in New York and now travels to Chicago. Brown’s piece is a response to the flat tropes of American black girls in popular media—characterizations usually written by white men—as either angry or strong. “I have a sense of humor too,” Brown said in an interview on MSNBC. “And sometimes I need rest. But it isn’t weakness.” Read the rest of this entry »
Molly Shanahan and Jeff Hancock
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events hosts a series of free downtown dance performances through the month of November. It begins this weekend at the Cultural Center with a collaboration between Molly Shanahan of Mad Shak and choreographer/dancer/costume designer Jeff Hancock, several years in the making. Entitled “And We Shall Be Rid of Them,” the duet uses the tale of Hansel and Gretel as a diving board for themes of loss and vulnerability. Shanahan said the piece wasn’t originally intended to explore loss—more the notion of being lost—but both artists experienced a great deal of loss during the making of the piece. “We both came to a deep realization that loss is a part of life,” Shanahan said. “Maybe the benefits of some of the losses I suffered was an opening up of my sense of humor.” Read the rest of this entry »
The final installment of Khecari’s five-year performance cycle takes place this fall and brings us back to the five-by-eight-foot pit that was the set for last year’s spellbinding “Oubliette.” But not before drawing some big contrasts, playing with extremes of perception and proximity. As in “Oubliette,” only a dozen people may experience the performance at a time, but in this case the small band of audience members wander through a shifting labyrinth constructed within the soon-t0-be-developed Shoreland Hotel Ballroom, seeing performers up close, from across vast expanses, and finally very, very close, gazing down into an extremely confined space for the finale. Read the rest of this entry »