Each year, Chicago and New Orleans-based jazz musicians and dancers gather to improvise in the annual Instigation Festival. As the name suggests, Instigation playfully pops up in all kinds of settings, some wholly unexpected. This weekend’s experiments in sound and music take place in the South Merrill Community Garden, Hyde Park Music Festival, as well as Chicago jazz standbys Elastic Arts, Links Hall/Constellation and Hungry Brain. Founders Marie Casimir and Steve Marquette shared background on the festival and what to look forward to this year.
Tell me a little about the origin of Instigation Fest and the Chicago-New Orleans partnership.
Steve Marquette: The festival came out of a really fertile period of cross-pollination between Constellation, where I worked, and Links Hall, where Marie worked, where music and movement artists were regularly working together in new and exciting contexts. We bonded over our deep love for the music and cultural traditions from New Orleans and the common bond they share with Chicago’s creative arts communities—namely, taking the materials of the present day, and. through improvising, creating something wholly unique to the place and moment—and decided to bring those communities together for a week of collaboration in each city.
Marie Casimir: Steve has a love for all things New Orleans and developed strong relationships with improvising musicians from NOLA touring Chicago. New Orleans has always felt like a kin connection for me as a Haitian-American who sees the cultural ties between my birth country, a city that reminded me of home, and my adopted home in Chicago. We brought old and new friends together to take creative risks at multiple venues across Chicago and magic ensued. We shared a similar non-verbal language. This magic has transpired for the past eight years in bars, music venues, museums, backyards and even Lake Michigan.
The co-creation of improvisational music and improvisational dance makes this festival unique.
Casimir: Dance festivals and music festivals tend to exist separately. There might be some crossover but it is not an ongoing practice. The continued collaboration between our core group of artists who participate regularly creates a sense of trust and lends to deep observation and listening between artists across mediums. We know each other well and for the new performers who are often invited to join, they fall right in place because it’s safe, it’s exuberant and it’s a real good time. Same goes for audiences who are watching highly skilled improvisers at their most free.
What are some highlights?
Casimir: We are back at Links and Constellation this year with a double bill on September 22. We like our origin story, so this evening honors that initial spark. On September 23 we take it to the South Side with a community movement and daydreaming workshop and performances at South Merrill Community Garden from 11am to 1pm. No experience necessary!
Marquette: The first-time duo performances occurring each night and the premiere of “The Communal Book of Howling” a piece by Aurora Nealand for the Instigation Orchestra co-presented with Hyde Park Jazz Festival.
Casimir: It’s a fest within a fest, like a Russian nesting doll.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Casimir: We are proud of the festival and the eighty-plus artists we’ve brought together over eight years. We are inspired by the projects that have spawned by providing space for artists to create and have good hang.
Instigation Festival at Elastic Arts, Links Hall, Constellation, Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Hungry Brain, South Merrill Community Garden. September 21-24. Info at instigation festival.com.