When Kia S. Smith, founder and executive artistic director of South Chicago Dance Theatre, gathered her collaborators for a show that blends surrealist poetry, improvisatory opera techniques, new music and dance, she hadn’t intended to make a piece about feminism. But Smith says of “Cartography of Peace,” premiering online Saturday, June 26, “It’s not where the work started, but it’s where it ended.”
“Cartography” started, not surprisingly, as a reflection on the turmoil of the last fifteen months. “The title came from this place of constant chaos we’re in with the pandemic and socio-political issues we’ve had over the last year,” Smith says. “It’s an all-female cast of dancers and musicians, and I realized as I was making it, the work is about feminism and how I, as a woman, find peace and empowerment, and having my voice heard. For me, that’s what peace is.”
The cast includes soprano Joelle Lamarre, who Smith—a passionate music fan who got her start choreographing for opera—met at South Shore Opera Company of Chicago; and violinist Alexandria Hill, who secured permission to play a score by up-and-coming New York-based composer Jessie Montgomery. Notably, all these collaborators are Black women at the top of their games playing on fields that have long been dominated by white men.
“Cartography,” Smith’s second evening-length work for SCDT, weaves structure and spontaneity, set scores and improvisation, all inspired by surrealist assemblage, the technique of incorporating everyday objects into a work. A surrealist poem by Smith provides connective tissue and an overall trajectory to the piece.
21C Museum Hotel, a Louisville-based chain of boutique hotels and contemporary art galleries that opened a Chicago location on Ontario Street shortly before the pandemic, donated performance space to SCDT. After its streaming premiere, “Cartography” heads virtually to Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
“Cartography of Peace” streams Saturday, June 26 at 7pm. $15-$100. Tickets at eventbrite.com.