Emily Stein, associate director of Chicago’s Zephyr Dance, holds folded pieces of paper in the palm of her hand and discretely passes them out to a group of ten people who are settling into their folding chairs in the auditorium at Holstein Park. “Now don’t show your neighbor,” she says. Everyone carefully unfolds the slips of paper to find out what is written inside (mine says “the forest”). “I want you to keep this word in mind while you are watching the performance,” Stein says.
The only thing that is possibly more secretive than these little notes is how everyone found out about this event in the first place-which is mostly through email or word-of-mouth. The all-female Zephyr Dance collective has been hosting open rehearsals three times a year which allow the public to view the group’s performances-in-progress. “We gear them to be smaller groups so that people can respond to it more,” says Michelle Kranicke, Zephyr Dance’s founder, of the previews.
The collective is rehearsing a performance that will be featured in their upcoming show at the Epiphany Church in June. Tonight is Stein’s chance to showcase her latest project, “Collaborative Solos.” The main theme is “this tree is a dance,” she says. Stein, Kranicke and two additional dancers, Andrea Cerniglia and Anne Kasdorf, each interpret this theme in their own way.
“You don’t go to the symphony and ask ‘What did that C-sharp mean?'” Stein says after the performance, as the audience is invited to critique the work. “So it’s definitely about getting people to not be afraid of enjoying dance.” (Katie Fanuko)