These are uncertain times for artists. And the title of the upcoming performance by The Dance COLEctive, Margi Cole’s all-female company, reminds us of that. “’Balancing Act’ lends itself to where I feel we are right now in terms of the economy and the state of the arts in the city, ” says Cole. “And where I am and the age of the company.”
That age is fifteen—a notable anniversary for a small company and one that prompts some reflection. Perhaps the ambivalence of a major birthday during an arts-funding drought inspired Cole to explore the finer points of the interior. At any rate, two of her pieces premiering this weekend probe the parts of the brain we usually set on autopilot or choose to ignore. “Chocolates and Dynamite,” a duet choreographed with Jeff Hancock, explores self-sabotage, particularly where love is concerned. “We’re very systematic about it,” says Cole. “And we repeat ourselves several different times before we really acknowledge what we’re doing.” Ah Margi, how right you are.
Another new piece on the program was inspired by “Blink,” Malcolm Gladwell’s dissection of and impassioned case for the snap judgments we make on a daily basis—like when you first meet someone or decide between candy bars at the grocery-store counter or read the first few lines of a dance preview. Cole applied the concept of rapid-fire decision making to the choreographic process, giving her dancers four-minute increments to develop movement vocabulary and collaborate. “It was very frustrating for them,” Cole tells me. “They didn’t have a lot of time for exploration and failure. As a result, it’s pushed me in how I put material together. So often when we make choices we’re so methodical—we make a list, we ask others their opinion on it—and I think we could all operate more effectively if we went with our gut. There’s a lot of tension around making choices.” And apparently there is a lot of tension in the piece too. “Pulled Taut” is more than eighteen minutes long and Cole says that by the end, she’s uncomfortable and on the edge of her seat.
The two other pieces on the program, both new, are an introspective, text-driven work by Liz Burritt with extensive input from the dancers and another by Cole, set on a group of New Trier boys who get together each day after school to dance for fun. Funding or no, the arts go on. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn, (773)604-8452. January 20-22, 8pm. $22.