Inside Ebenezer Lutheran Church, one finds the home of mission-driven Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble (CDE). From military uniforms, to prison jumpsuits, to posh dinner party attire, we are taken on a multi-faceted journey of storytelling—some are personal, some are borrowed.
Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Gives Us Performance with a Purpose
At the core of its mission and vision, CDE strives for “Performance With a Purpose”. We were able to see the connection in purpose to the performance especially in the form of a post-show panel. This panel featured the cast and members of the REVOLUTION Newspaper, including a former incarcerated member, Roosevelt. We were free to dig deeper into the intentions of the pieces. When asked about Rooseveltʼs connection to the piece highlighting the prison complex, HOPE he replied, “There is no hope in prison.”
HOPE, directed, devised, and choreographed by Adler tackled a winding, tangled, complex subject: our prison system. Also, taken directly from true stories, four men (David Goodloe, Carlos Lopez, Ben Locke, and Eric McCarter) come to the stage accompanied my 4 mesh dark walls, reminiscent of a prison cell. We feel the restrictions of activity as monotoned, booming voice directs from overhead - “Sit. Stand. Move.” Limited resources of education are consumed and interspersed. We hear letters to loved and lost ones read. We are eventually let into the realizations and conversations of the men doing time. Then, the paradigm shifts to women’s treatment and the harmful patriarchal cycle. Just as the title suggests, we end on a hopeful note, and push for truth-seeking and solidarity.
The adherence to CDEʼs mission of telling stories and unifying voices was appreciated by this fellow storyteller. The performance aroused questions of how to best tell the borrowed stories of our most marginalized voices.
The other performances in Chicago Danztheatreʼs Art in Response attempts to tackle issues such as domestic strife, PTSD (both war and domestic violence related), and simply relating to one’s peers in an intimate setting.
In Artistic Director’s “I bet you think this dance is about you”, we see a somber, yet romantic slow dance with a young woman in a formal gown and a phantom partner. Poet Rupi Kaurʼs words of Milk and Honey, in the poetess’s fashion, dripped from her lips as she proceeded to let us in on her journey through past and present partnership. It was particularly moving when we could see Maslanka flinching at her phantom partner’s touch, fearing it was “him”.
In the 2006 piece Unraveling Bill by Executive Director, Elizabeth Adler, we’re taken through moving story of a sister’s interaction with her fallen brother, soldier. We learned that this dance is based on a true story from a friend of Adler who graciously granted permission for its telling in this performance.
The finale piece, Maslankaʼs Chapter 3: The Dinner Table lightened the mood with quirky choreography re-creating a dinner party.
Art in Response is most recommended for those looking to engage with our communities and ask honest questions about the state of our society. Strict voyeurs, sticklers for exceptional dance technique, and seekers of escapism-- perhaps this is not your production.
To learn more, please visit the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble website.
Photos: Anna Gelman
About the Author:
Brittany Harlin is the founding artistic director of Chicago Urban Dance Collective and 2017 recipient of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award. Her influences are Hip Hop and Modern Dance Pioneers. In addition to company work, her dancing and choreography has been featured at Ragdale Foundation, Links Hall, Elastic Arts, Aragon Ballroom, DRAMA Duo Music Productions, Black Ensemble Theatre, and Hip Hop International.
Brittany’s focus is Hip Hop, Modern, Funk Styles, Waacking, and House, combined with growing knowledge of somatics and kinesiology, all through the concert dance lens. Her goal is to bring dance education to a place of complete body awareness, spiritual expression, and connection. Brittany hopes to establish her practice in expressive therapy, creating opportunities, and inclusiveness.
Her teaching artist pedagogy & philosophy are weighted in respecting the integrity of the vernacular movement, by sharing what she’s been taught from respected community members - and stopping exactly there. She relates those concepts to personal natural movement, and the energy of the dancers she’s working with. Her goal is to create solidarity between diverse backgrounds, conducive to the essence and intention of The Hip Hop Socio-Political Movement. Harlin’s passion in dance extends to her community as she has launched her most recent endeavor of teaching professionalism and industry standards to aspiring professional dancers.
When Brittany isn’t dancing, she is supplementing her work with her passions for poetry and songwriting. She’s been referred to as a fawn and a hippie on multiple, separate occasions.