Elements Ballet presents In the Garden of Atlantis
Elements Ballet, led by Artistic Director Mike Gosney and Executive Joseph Caruana, shares with us an evening of watercolor and photography exhibits, compelling readings, interspersed fashion shows, and stunning dance pieces at Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square.
We are welcomed into a warmly lit space. Feelings of anticipation for what could be in store for the evening fill our thoughts. As more guests arrive, jubilant conversations begin to drown out the energized music. A full spread of delicious refreshments provided by Hearty Boys and a selection of wines, cocktails, and nonalcoholic beverages keep us quite content as we freely move around the space, admiring artwork by watercolor artist Chloe Feldman Emison and photography shot by company photographer Topher Alexander.
Fashion and Dance mélange
The program commences with the first runway show, Wildflower. Clothes by Amara Black are modeled by Elements Ballet dancers. Black's clothing features crisp and vibrantly colored dresses that are reminiscent of springtime flowers. Expecting to see dancers strut down the catwalk, we are pleasantly surprised with fluid, improvised movement instead. As the dancers and designer, Amara Black, take their final "strike-a-pose" and exit, we turn our attention to the performance space just behind us. Nine dancers take their places for The Moon Harvest, choreographed by Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana; the first excerpt of Atlantis, The Ballet. Alexa Grae reads an excerpt from Miata Boayue's companion novella, evoking themes of the powerful and the powerless.
Attired in neutral, bare-minimum clothing, the full musculature of the nine bodies are revealed. Music by Vangelis from Mythodea plays as four female dancers begin a fluid phrase chock full of extended limbs reaching and taking in the space around them. The remaining dancers join in. The simplistic yet provocative phrase is repeated in different facing in canon. The music crescendos and the full-bodied movement continues to draw us in.
The group, as one entity, takes the choreography to the floor - crawling and reaching. Our gaze is invited to follow their journey which soon reveals a pas-de-deux between a female and male dancer in the midst of a circular formation. The pas-de-deux breaks from the formation for a brief moment but the group latches on to bring out focus to the female dancer. The dance culminates in the cumulative effort to partner her - encircling and holding her in a sacrificial manner.
Dance of the Therian
As the evening progresses, more themes of Atlantis are revealed to us. The second runway show, The Blessed Isle, features clothing by Mary Jo Ernst of MJ Ernst Couture. The metallic colors and silky texture of the fabric gives the clothing more of a "high-fashion" vibe. The clothing, like Black's, is also reminiscent of garden foliage. Again, improvised movement is utilized. However this time, slightly more full-bodied and valorous.
We then make our way to gather around for the second piece, Dance of the Therian, choreographed by Tiffany McCord and Callie Croom. Once again, an excerpt is read from Boayue's novel:
"...His mind raced with memories of the queen's wrath. How much or how little he revealed of himself could cost him his life..."
Emmanuel Ramirez, barefoot and bare-chested, takes his place on stage and music by Vangelis from Mythodea trickles in. Capturing our attention immediately, he takes a deep lunge; his arms reaching and writhing multi-directionally almost as if they are searching for answers. He moves as if he is trying to tell us something; something in him is trying to escape. The choreography reveals Ramirez's vulnerability and there is no questioning his whole-hearted commitment to embodying the movement.
Cosmic Warriors, the third and final runway show, features clothing by Sky Cubacub/Rebirth Garments. The clothing presented is quirky, bold, and futuristic. Dancers model the clothes once again but instead of improvising down the space-limited catwalk, the performance stage is utilized. Moments of ferocity are witnessed in each of the dancers. The improvised movement is forceful and bold which is rightfully tailor-made for Sky Cubacub's clothing.
The final piece, The Soldier and the Slave, choreographed by Mike Gosney with music by Vangelis from Mythodea, is a sensual duet between dancers Megan Walsh and Brennen Renteria. Walsh enters the space 'en pointe' with her fearless technical ability and full, lengthy extensions while Renteria watches from aside.
Synchronized movements bring the pair together as they dance to a serene harp and strong operatic vocals. Brennen spins, dips and lifts Walsh, guiding her effortlessly throughout the space. The pas-de-deux ends exceptionally close in proximity, as if to say, "here we are; here is our story."
Some might say, the required humbleness and susceptibility to criticism is a necessary evil when an idea is presented publicly for the first time. Each artist, each dancer, and each work of art presented themselves with confidence and poise. It is amazing how many elements and collaborations played a role in this creative process. With more rehearsals, continued research of interdisciplinary arts, and feedback from peers and supporters, this writer firmly believes that Elements Ballet Company is well on their way to successfully creating their full work, Atlantis, The Ballet.
Dancers in The Moon Harvest: Lydia Carpenter^, Hannah Duncan, April Falcon, Dani McGowan, Emmanuel Ramirez, Brennen Renteria, Liz Stillerman, Skyler Sward^, and Megan Walsh.
^denotes company apprentice
Photos credited to Topher Alexander
Watercolors by Chloe Feldman Emison
Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”. Watch this video preview of the story here—
About the Author
Tuli Bera is a performance artist based in Chicago. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has performed in works by Earl Mosley, Jennifer Archibald, Endalyn Taylor, Catrina Choate and Johanna Meyers. Bera is currently a dancer with Project Ishti led by Preeti Veerlapati and Kinnari Vora. Most recently she danced in their new work, "Prakriti" which premiered at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival. She is the director of J e l l o: performance series housed by Links Hall and Elastic Arts which provides opportunities for Chicago artists to show their work. For more information about The Series Website.