SPRINGELEVEN Review-Visceral Dance Chicago Shines at Rockwell on the River

VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO in 18 + 1 by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano; photo by KT Miller Photography
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VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO, the company that took the town by storm just over 10 years ago, has concluded its 2-weekend long Spring program with a gala and performance Saturday night, March 16, 2024. The concert dance event leading up to the festivities, SPRINGELEVEN, sold out the spacious modern VISCERAL DANCE CENTER, 3121 N. Rockwell and featured 4 mesmerizing and beautifully fulfilled pieces. The first and last performances, ATLAS, 2016 and FIXATED, a World Premiere in 2024, both by Company Founder Nick Pupillo, bookended a 2019 piece by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, 18+1, newly set on VDC, and another 2024 world premiere, Man and Machine, by Roderick George

ATLAS showcases 3 duets, reflecting the realities of relationships at 3 different points in time. The dancers converge, coalesce, encircle, renounce. In one set a lover walks away, is drawn back in; in another set, love flares, flames, is diminished, is rekindled; in another, love uplifts the other, must carry the lover, is dragged down. To throbbing sounds from The Turin String Quartet, the all black stage subtly lit by the artistry of Nathan Tomlinson, the artists danced in spare, bare, yet modest black. The overall sense is what happens in the myth of love; like Atlas who must carry the world on his shoulders, in each relationship, the dancers fall in love with each other over again, falling back, moving forth. The sense of the whole is of interlocking pieces; Pupillo’s iconic undulating arms touch foreheads, as the central drama of life unfurls. The dancers tacitly address each other, “I will marry you, carry you, step over you”.

VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO in Atlas by Nick Pupillo; photo by KT Miller Photography

Sansano’s piece, 18 +1, bebops to jazzy hot and clever Latin kitschy rhythms by Perez Prado. The whole Company (10 dancers) are dressed like Mao’s workers, in diagonally zipped grey tunics over indifferently blue chinos by Ghabriello Fernando, recreated by Zo Rose. Often dancing with their backs to the audience, using strong arms and gesturing with choppy movements, the piece is a fierce celebration, under soft lighting by Caitlin Brown and Savannah Bell. The thoroughly, triumphantly diverse Company artists wilt away into the wings, leaving One to rollick as her mama taught her, arms akimbo, hips swaying. They fade/return to the stage singly, slowly, then exude over it, while humorous self-mocking sound effects highlight stylized integrated unexpected forms/atypical gestures- a red singleted dancer freezes and explodes into joy.

Man vs. Machine gave us 7 dancers reacting, responding and defying as A1 threatens to take over their place in the spectrum. In thunder-colored and pale grey blue uniforms, the dancers are outside in the sounds of mock-stormy weather, to music by SLOWDANGER, darkly lit by David Goodman-Edberg. Their bodies stop/start/stutter, lost and found in digital space; they mimic perfect algorithms, moving together, on the floor and rising, struggling up with wide-set legs. They reshape themselves on the world that is the stage, their figures a perfection joined by each other, crafted by the Universe. It’s a vision of the future that will never be machine made, ultra athletic and intense.

VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO in Man vs. Machine by Roderick George; photo by KT Miller Photography

FIXATED brings back one of Nick Pupillo signature prop devices- a backdrop that turns floor drapery comprised of waves of fabric and light that can trap one of the full company members, but ultimately sets him free; unfurled, it covered the stage with whimsy. The dancers in spare, imaginatively cut and curved costumes by Maggie Jarecki, lit, spotlit, fully lit up by David Goodman-Edberg stand erect in impossibly canted poses, moving, running, curving space to the beat of MODERAT, FILLIPI, ZURFLUH, JAMIE XX. Demonstrating the choreographer’s consummate drive, we observe expectations of the superlative achieved in human form. As always, each member of the Company is given work that allows them to pull the absolute most out of their talents and abilities, and how exacting/exciting it is! 

Kudos to the Company: Justin Bisnauthsing, Gabriel Canepa, Nia Davis, Alessandra De Paolantonio, Tyson Ford, Leslie Marfil, Laura Mendes, Kaliana Medlock, Javares Selby, Erika Shi

VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO in Fixated by Nick Pupillo; photo by KT Miller Photography

For information and tickets to all the fine opportunities and programs of VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO go to www.visceraldance.com


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