The silence in the studio greeted me well before Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, Luna Negra’s artistic director, noticed I’d slipped through the open door. A folding chair was opened for me, swiftly and quietly, and I pulled out a notepad with as little rustling as possible. Almost twenty dancers were in the room, most of them standing at center, attentively watching Diana Szeinblum contemplate their next move. Szeinblum, a visiting choreographer from Argentina, is a striking woman: razor thin with wavy blonde hair worn with the same carelessness as the shapeless black sweats that hang from her scarecrow frame. Her long face with its prominent features appears severe in concentration but breaks easily into a smile in conversation, revealing a wide grin of large, white teeth. Her spidery fingers gestured against the nineteenth-floor skyline as she explained something in spare words too quiet for me to make out.
The Luna Negra dancers had started working with Szeinblum, who was visiting Chicago for the first time, just two days prior. Fundamental material was still in development; I was watching something entirely new, creation in process. Each dancer had developed a unique phrase, which repeated with varying speed, location and ferocity. At one point they lined up shoulder to shoulder and repeated their phrases in a confined sphere. “Describe what you do with your arms,” she told them. The next time through they worked smaller, more restricted, flinging their limbs against invisible walls.
“I work in layers. I like to create an atmosphere, a place. Then populate it. I’m trying to create a strange atmosphere,” Szeinblum told me during a short break, our conversation facilitated by Sansano, who helped translate. “I’m looking for things from dreams,” she said.
Szeinblum danced under the direction of the legendary Pina Bausch in the Folkwang Tanz Schule company and the influence can be felt in Szeinblum’s use of repetition driven by a tireless engine of raw emotion. She has also worked extensively in theater; on her website, all her pieces are categorized as plays. “In theater, they look for truth in text,” she told me. “I look for how movement language can be truth. I want the dancers to feel the truthfulness of the moment.”
Ms. Szeinblum’s piece will premiere at the MCA alongside a piece by Sansano and a new work by Luna Negra’s rehearsal director Monica Cervantes. (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago, (312)397-4010. Thursday-Sunday, June 7-10 at 7:30pm. $28.