As we sit in the comfortable seats of the Edge Theatre, we feel a sense of intimacy. The proscenium stage is close, and we are able to sip our drinks of choice. This was the kick-off to Separate Thoughts, Shared Spaces, a collaboration between Project Bound Dance and Esoteric Dance Project that combined films, live performance and more to please.
Project Bound Dance’s The One Hour Project started the evening off with six 60-second dance films created by blind-dates between dancer, choreographer, and videographer. They had just met and had only one hour to create their film. Each film explores a different subject, place in the city, or circumstance. We see a dancer exploring the sand on the beach of Lake Michigan. Another is taking us through her day digging through dumpsters and smashing beer cans. And another dancer maneuvers herself among blue ping-pong balls on the floor of her apartment. We may each have interpreted the films differently--there is room to do so.
Following the films, we see the first live dance piece, Random Acts of Phrasing, Dog, Fox, Lazy (Excerpt)(2016) choreographed by co-founders Brenna Pierson-Tucker and Christopher Tucker utilized Merce Cunningham’s chance procedures and Trisha Brown’s alphabet cubes as a way to create choreography with no expectation of the outcome--whatever emerges, is. In this case, the title describes what emerged: each of the three dancers emulated Dog, Fox, and Lazy, respectively, which was especially apparent in Lazy, as we hear the word “lazy” in the track playing by Captain Beefheart & His Band accompanied a dancer leaning on the walls lining the stage, sliding down and across the floor with little effort. This is dance that makes us smile and laugh. It is humorous and playful.
Excerpt 1 (2014) choreographed by Ashley Deran and Ericka Vaughn Byrne continues in the vein of dance as storytelling. Here, a dance throws herself through space with a big leap as if over a puddle. She pretends to catch raindrops in her hand and continues taking us through that day we got stuck in a thunderstorm. Somehow our clothing is dry—and we realize that performer Rachel Molinaro has mainly soaked us in humor with this solo drenched in movement and story-telling.
Another solo, A Theory on Staying, presented in the second act, used text and movement in a different way. Directing her attention toward the ceiling, where the sound of her voice over the speakers was coming from, Emily Loar’s gestural, disjointed movements emphasized what we heard over the speakers: words of self-acceptance through a dark time in life. Comparing the parts of her to the seasons, she wants to know herself from every angle, at any time of the day, month, or year. The lighting suggests a living quarter type space, and a chair accompanies her, even if she is across the room. With the last words “...and again we fall…”, the audience’s only glimmer of color throughout the piece turns purple, and slowly fades to black.
A Superfluity of Movement, Section of Silly Walks (Excerpt)(2017), returned to the opener juxtaposition of dance and film, in this case by placing the dancers on stage in front of a film playing as the backdrop for the scene. The dancers seemed like curious characters in colorful garb outside in a park on a sunny day. Their movements ebbed and flowed, syncing into unison and branching apart from each other as they wandered playfully through the environment. The dancers would find themselves exploring far parts of the stage in one moment, and in the next moment two dancers would be holding the third above their heads. The backdrop of a sunny day in the park added to a sense of play, curiosity, and wonder for the world. Choreographers, and co-founders of Esoteric Dance Project, Christopher Tucker and Brenna Pierson-Tucker leave a comment in the programs that “It is an overabundance of ridiculous activity and meant for enjoyment,” which this writer, and perhaps many others, could agree with wholeheartedly.
In After the Nickel Runs Out from Esoteric Dance Project, three women explore the lives of Vaudevillian Peep Show performers. Excitement running high during the first moments of the piece, the dancers pose with enthusiasm for the audience, changing positions every few seconds but never breaking intimate eye contact with the audience. As the piece progresses, their movements become more strong and dynamic during break-out dance sections, and less and less interested in the audience when they meet to pose again. The three women refuse to pose and instead stand up tall side-by-side, hand-in-hand, dignified and non-compliant with how the music requests them to pose, ending this dance--a dance of resistance. We feel respect and appreciation. Based on the audience’s reaction, it seems the be the show-stopper of the night…
Then, in the darkness of the theatre, next the audience hears a ringtone of a phone. Is someone’s phone going off? We hear a buzz-buzz, as if a phone is set on vibrate. Various phone sounds continue to build in the darkness, as if a phone is blowing up with notifications. Purple lights flood the stage as a steady, pulsing beat emerges, and we see six dancers in black in the center of the stage. One dancer begins a set of gestures, and another catches on, then another, and another, until all dancers are moving within their own timing, still connected by the driving pulse of the music. The movement intensifies with pulsing driving the dancers. The electric purple lights create a feeling of being in a dance club at some moments. We are left with a final image of the dancers walking about the space with their hands in front of their faces as if using a phone, their eyes glued to it at attention. One by one, each dancer falls to the ground scattered about the stage. One lone dancer stands in the far back corner of the stage, repeating the same gestures as the beginning. The pulsing stops. The dancer continues the gestures for the next minute, which feels like an eternity that this writer wishes would never end, as the lights fade to black.
Project Bound Dance and Esoteric Dance Project Leave Us Wanting More
This piece, as the whole evening’s performances, was intimate and engaging. We are left wanting more.
For those of us curious about local Chicago dance and collaborations Separate Thoughts, Shared Spaces was a perfect fit. In this writer’s view, the whole evening was a well-curated mix of dance media--live performance and film, and the use of text and movement in dance.
The collaboration between Project Bound Dance and Esoteric Dance Project was a pleasing combination of dance pieces and dance films that offered a new perspective on dance collaborations themselves.
Photography by Matthew Gregory Hollis.
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—
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.