Fifth Season, Visceral Dance Chicago Review – A Visceral Experience

Noelle Kayser and Barnes Braeden in Pick a Chair, Photo: Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017
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Launching its fifth season, Visceral Dance Chicago performed at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on September 16, followed on Saturday, October 7 by a performance at Harris Theater in Millennium park– the Company’s home theater. The performance was varied in every respect, music, lighting, costuming, themes, emotions, and performers. Each piece was unique but all were compelling and energetic, the dancers skilled and remarkable.


My personal experience with modern dance dates back many years to a time when I was young and took dance classes from Anne Barlin who had studied with Martha Graham.  My evening with Viceral Dance Chicago demonstrated how far modern dance has come and how much it has to offer, especially in the hands of Visceral.  In the works for this program, I was struck by the range of the music, from the classic of Mozart to the far out modern reaches of Hoffman.  Lighting and costuming also become an integral part of the dances, heightening the impact. This evening there was a very vocal and enthusiastic audience, showing that this company is building a loyal following.

Caitlin Cucchiara  in Minor Threat, Photo:Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

The program began with Montreal-based Mark Godden’s Minor Threat, an incredibly technical ballet which showcases each of the dancers’ versatility and strength. [Choreography to Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor No. 20] Mark Godden’s “Minor Threat is a delicate and vigorous creation, graced with vernacular episodes that are as grounded and as heavenly as its score”. My companion and I noted that the gorgeous, classical music worked perfectly with the flexed body parts with the contrast of new and old seeming to be just right.



The next piece was Nick Pupillo’s She Three, which brings three of Visceral’s female dancers to the forefront in this technically masterful and harmonious work. The lighting by Brian Sidney Bembridge’s was integral to She Three.  It was intriguing and captivating. Music by Goldmund was rhythmic rather than melodic. The three dancers in this piece contrasted to the larger a larger cast in the other numbers.

Noelle Kayser, Braeden Barnes, Joel Walsham in Ruff Celts,Photo by Todd Rosenberg
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

I was blown away by Ruff Celts with choreography and costumes by Marguerite Donlon, lighting design by Nathan Tomlinson and music by several Irish and German composers. This piece was charming and humorous with a dark overtone and a bit of magic.  It was so different than anything I have previously seen and my companion and I loved it.


The world premiere by Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Recipient, Danielle Agami followed. With an original composition by Glen Kotche, drummer from groundbreaking American rock band Wilco, Agami’s Pick a Chair delves into the simple workings, habits and attitudes of everyday life in an exploration of the ordinary. One can see in this work the influence of Gaga, the movement language developed by Ohad Naharin of which Agami is a proponent.

Visceral in Danielle Agami’s “Pick a Chair”, Photo:Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Pupillo’s most recent creation Synapse (2017), commissioned for Visceral Dance Chicago by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance with support from the Pamela Crutchfield Dance Fund through the Imagine Campaign, is an LED-light immersive experience that has stimulated the Chicago audience with a responsive interaction of music, dance and lighting. Electrical energy joins together the driving house beat of Darryl Hoffman’s work with the technicality and provocativeness of Visceral Dance Chicago. The sounds of heart beating, breathing, and electricity impacted at a deep level.  Leaving the theater, my companion and I knew we had had a positive, powerful, visceral experience.

Paige Fraser in “Synapse”, Photo:Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Founded in 2013 by Artistic Director Nick Pupillo, Visceral Dance Chicago is a contemporary dance company dedicated to a bold and progressive world of movement. In less than three years, the company has developed a diverse and respected repertoire. With works by distinguished choreographers Sidra Bell, Mónica Cervantes, Robyn Mineko Williams, Brian Enos, Banning Bouldin, Harrison McEldowney, Fernando Melo, Marguerite Donlon, Ohad Naharin, and Pupillo, Visceral Dance Chicago continues to challenge audiences’ expectations.  In January of 2015, Visceral Dance Chicago was named one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch, recognizing the company’s accomplishments and potential in the national community. “Visceral Dance Chicago breathes life into the Chicago arts community with their ability to intertwine complex human emotions with the raw beauty of dance and physical movement.” (Chicago Stage Standard)

“Synapse” Photo: Todd Rosenberg © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017




Photos: Courtesy of Visceral Dance Chicago


For more information, go to the Visceral Dance Chicago website







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