Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak’s ongoing “Stamina of Curiosity” project dives deep into the underwater caves that form when one person performs for another, and her curiosity uncovers phenomena at the microscopic level. “There’s something that takes over before a performance, ” Shanahan says, describing the inspiration for the current iteration of “Stamina,” entitled “Virtuosity of Forgetting.” “No matter how much we welcome vulnerability, a change takes place in the body when you consider being witnessed—a cross section of exhilaration and panic. In rehearsal, there’s always the presence of the infinite ways a movement can be done and openness to the reality that anything could happen. In performance, this collapses down to the sense of ‘one right way’ and that we’ll get it right or wrong. When performance is reduced to a binary, we experience loss, because we’re keeping something from the witness.”
Shanahan is a dance scholar, finishing her PhD at Temple University in Philadelphia and working remotely with Chicago-based Mad Shak dancers Kristina Fluty, Benjamin Law and Jessie Marasa for the last three years. The group has been working together on the “Stamina” project for seven total. Shanahan says that the ensemble has reached a place where they have a shared movement language and can “discover new tonalities of that language.” Those who have seen past productions know that Mad Shak-ese is a fluid and spontaneous form of communication, a stream of consciousness format in which one idea flows into the next in endless curling and rippling ribbons of motion. “Virtuosity of Forgetting” dissects what happens to that improvisatory language under the imposition of memorized choreography and the alchemy of an audience.
The title of the piece refers to the coexistence of memory and forgetting, that, as Shanahan puts it, “when we remember something, we forget something else.” The group uses games to explore this in rehearsal. Shanahan gives an example: “In ‘Restart Mark’ I place a spatial constraint and we begin to move across the floor. When someone thinks they won’t remember what they did, they say ‘restart.’ The game trusts that people will say what they need and have the freedom to do odd or idiosyncratic movement. It asks that we remember but acknowledges that we’ll forget.” Investigation of the way our bodies store memories, the way we forget on the level of the superficial mind but remember in our muscles and bones, has proven to be a profound experience for the Mad Shak crew. Shanahan says, “We thought this piece would be one where our sense of humor came out more, but there’s a poignancy that has surprised us all.” (Sharon Hoyer)
At Links Hall, 3111 North Western. Friday-Sunday, December 19-21 at 7pm. $10-$40. Tickets at linkshall.ticketfly.com.