Visceral Dance Chicago joins the lot for #chidancemonth (review)

By on April 14, 2014

In a month that is veritably packed with dance, on a weekend that was equitably packed with dance, Visceral Dance Chicago (VDC) offered up a two-day program at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. This would be VDC’s first attempt at a full-length evening; the fledgling company presented a mini-show last fall debuting work by Sidra Bell and Artistic Director Nick Pupillo. This past weekend would expand to include world premieres by Robyn Mineko Williams and Monica Cervantes.  The humble Pupillo stood onstage in front of a modest audience (by Harris standards) sharing his musings: “As I  watched from backstage last night, I said to myself, ‘That’s my company…'” Where a brand new company gets the resources and connections to present 10 great dancers at the Harris in premieres by three world-class choreographers is beyond my scope of understanding, but for the sake of everyone involved, and us adoring dance fans, I certainly hope they can keep it up.

Visceral Dance Chicago in Changes by Monica Cervantes. Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Visceral Dance Chicago in Changes by Monica Cervantes. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

In a way, VDC is still establishing what it wants to be. It’s a little bit Hubbard, a little bit Luna, a little bit River North Dance Chicago, in part due to an eclectic cast of impressive dancers and a line-up of choreographers who have worked for those companies. I imagine that as VDC continues to evolve it will develop a foothold and strong identity, and even though this program was a grab bag of styles along the spectrum of “contemporary,” all but the last piece on the program (Pupillo’s impressively dancey Impetere) seemed to be about relationships and their various idiosyncracies.

Sidra Bell’s landings, chasms improved on a second viewing, but the star of the evening was Monica Cervantes’ Changes. Cervantes’ unparalleled sensibility for authentic, human moments is intermingled with brilliantly constructed movement phrases. It left me a bit nostalgic for Luna Negra, but also assured that the future is bright. In the final moments of the piece, two simultaneous duets are going on across the space from one another. A pillow stuffed with micro-beads breaks open (intentionally), leaving little white pearls all over the stage. Under Brian Sidney Bembridge’s exquisite lighting the beads create a beautiful effect as the dancers scatter them around – like a modern day Song of the Wanderers. In this blogging gig, I have the pleasure of seeing lots (lots) of dance. Sometimes it all starts to blend together, but every once in awhile there is a moment that is really special. It is those moments that remind me how dance is a magnificent, ethereal art form. As that pillow and those dancers spilled their guts out onto the Harris stage…. that was one of those moments.

Marissa Horton and Karl Watson in Changes by Monica Cervantes. Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Marissa Horton and Karl Watson in Changes by Monica Cervantes. Photo by Todd Rosenberg


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