As we experience Erin Kilmurray’s Search Party, we can’t help but groove in our seats (or standing spots) The dancers set up the space like an intimate arena where they compete with and care for each other. If you thought you’d never see a handstand contest take place in a performance before, think again. Kilmurray’s dancers shatter the expectations of concert dance performance while pushing themselves to the extremes of their technical abilities.
In the intimate setting of the Edge Off Broadway, the audience can see beads of sweat dripping off of each dancer.
The dancers also see us, the audience members, surrounding them. They confront us at various moments during the show, acknowledging that we see them, commanding energy from us as they have laid everything they’ve got on the floor for us. We cheer them on from the sidelines, fueling them for their next feat.
The buzzer sounds, two dancers raise their hands. It’s their time to step into the arena. Upbeat, driving tracks play through the speakers, the lights are low. Blue, purple, and pink hues shimmer off of the dancers’ costumes as they execute their technical and athletic prowess. The supporting dancers grab rolls of neon orange and green tape and lay out boundaries, lines, and X’s in different areas on the dance floor. One eventually is placed on the wall, and the team of dancers works together by any means necessary to reach it.
A Pivot Arts Festival Triumph
Triumph fills the arena. The crowd goes wild.
A stunning duet is one of the highlights of this party. The rest of the cast sits around the arena, like the rest of us audience members, as these two navigate themselves, each other, and the space. Confronting the audience at each turn, we can feel their exhaustion as they turn around and proceed to the other side of the stage to repeat. The comradery displayed in this section is palpable; we feel the effort, support, and push to get through the task at hand. Being there for each other is key.
A soloist takes the stage as the classic house tune Deep Inside fades in through the speakers. She is in her element, something is moving through her body. She is deeply connected to the movement, the music, the spirit deep inside her. She arches backward, looking toward the ceiling as if her body is suspended from something above. We can’t help but feel what she is feeling, something deep inside.
Moments of unity placed throughout the piece--running back and forth across the stage, building a human ladder to hit that X on the wall, and pushing through to the final section of strong, empowering choreography--remind us of the equality that exists in this team. Yes, they work together in different relational dynamics, sometimes competing, sometimes uplifting each other, but at the heart of it all they work together. And they can’t do it without the support of the audience witnessing this experience with them.
Search Party makes, crosses, destroys, and recreates borders, to tear down. These dancers show us that with great physicality comes tenderness and care, empathy, and thus equality. They break the boundaries between audience and performers, they literally draw lines with that neon tape, cross them, and thus defy their meanings. We are all equal in this work. We are all equal in this life. Let’s work together.
Choreography: Erin Kilmurray
Performing collaborators: Alyssa Gregory, Camila Rivero Pooley, Dee Alaba, Kaitlin Webster, Maria Blanco, Tia Monet Greer
Production design + technical director: Bran Moorhead
Costumes: Samantha Allen
Sound design: Misha Fiksel
Photos by William Frederking
For more about Erin Kilmurray, visit Erin Kilmurray’s website.
Click here to read more stories about the Pivot Arts Festival 2019 now concluded.
Read more dance reviews by dancers in the Picture This Post Round-Up, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”. Watch this video preview of the story here —
Sarah Stearn, a native of Chicago, is a dancer and videographer. She has recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance, and is excited to be back in the city. Currently, she works with Tuli Bera as an administrator for J e l l o Performance Series.