Editor’s Note: For insights into both BLACKBIRD and Aerial Dance Chicago in general, please read the Picture this Post preview - Aerial Dance Chicago Presents BLACKBIRD Preview- Interview with Artistic Director Chloe Jensen
Sometimes catapulting in the air just with long javelin like poles, sometimes atop swings a la Cirque du Soleil, often tangling and untangling from silks while moving up and down and then allowing them to billow, doing aloft pirouettes as the silks vortex, or held atop fellow dance troupers’ arms, and more—
—Aerial Dance Chicago makes you twitch with a vicarious urge to fly.
It’s dimly lit. The title and explanations in the Picture this Post preview interview say this work is inspired by blackbird metaphors. At several points the dancers seem to be a flock, with many newly emerged from eggs, or perhaps insect pupae. At one point their fingers are curled like claws.
Abstract as the work is, you too might find your imagination integrating the work in different directions. For this writer, with the recent Thai cave rescues still in imagination, it was easy to imagine caves with bats. This was especially so when the score veered to a sci-fi flick sound with whistles and other worldly pitches.
The music is actually used very much as it is in film—with the tempo and volume signaling a step up in the action, or presaging a particular emotive accent. For this writer, the lack of variety in the score was a bit challenging, making the piece feel longer and drawn out, even when it wasn’t Philip Glass at work.
It didn’t take long though, in the darkened Ruth Page Theater for an appreciation of the awesome creative spirit at work in the Blackbird choreography. Aerial dance has an existential demand on the audience that you suspend attention on the props of ropes, silks and such to clear the view for the dance in the air moves. Though Blackbird is built around the specific aerial apparatus, choreographers Chloe Jensen, Karen Fisher Doyle and Tracy Von Kaenel help us tune out the apparatus in the room with touches large and small. Fluttering veils and colors spotting costumes here and there (Costume Design: Duoduo Wang) add to the moving kaleidoscope feel and blurred boundaries between props and dancers. Focal points are trained upstage while dancers position for their mounts up ropes backstage, and similar.
The precision of two pairs of dancers perched atop swings—somewhat reminiscent of synchronized swimming—were the show stoppers prompting cheers from the audience. There seemed to be no shortage of teen aerial dance wannabees in the crowd. For this writer, though, the stand out moments were more when the entire ensemble was on stage creating a moving landscape in a portrait view.
In very short order, you take for granted the way in which these POWERFUL! eleven dancers make the rigorous demands of the aerial dance art form seem effortless.
Here are fearless young women so obviously strong and at ease in a world that literally keeps them hanging by threads...
They can lift themselves up and fly solely from their own power.
There’s a t-shirt slogan somewhere in here. Isn’t this THE description and art form any feminist would want for their daughters?
There is one more performance TODAY at 5 PM. If you miss it, check out the Aerial Dance Chicago website for information on classes and future performances.
Choreography: Chloe Jensen, Karen Fisher Doyle, Tracy Von Kaenel
Company Dancers: Alanna Kletcke, Hannah Rosenfeld, Libby Westra, Heather Zimny, Dani Bitout, Lisa Caldwell, Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher Doyle
Apprentice Dancers: Clara Morna Freitas, Chelsea Prokop and Saskia Ferrara
July 15th at 5:00 PM
Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60610