In response to the 2012 Cultural Plan, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (known to us artist-folk as DCASE) has beefed up its programming to include several new series of free performances. SpinOff is one such series, celebrating Midwest choreographers at three venues: Pritzker Pavilion, the Studio Theatre at the Cultural Center, and the Storefront Theater. At a not-too-big, not-too-small, just right 99 seats, the Storefront has been a big win lately for small and mid-size dance companies and independent choreographers.
Andrew Dinwiddie, Jeff Larson and Caleb Hammons only used about 10 of those 99 seats for the Chicago debut of CATCH, a multi-disciplinary performance buffet based in Brooklyn and featured in DCASE’s SpinOff Series. As I walked in the theater, the top row of chairs was already occupied and the rest of us sat camp-style on the bare platforms. I’m totally unsure why only the top row got to sit in chairs, but by the third piece my butt was already hurting.
Curators Dinwiddie, Larson and Hammons started CATCH 12 years ago as a way to feature emerging, fringe, under-presented performers; some of the names on the bill last weekend are all of the above. Dinwiddie and Larson played emcee while Hammons remained a wallflower for the duration of the evening. After a brief acknowledgement of the tragedies unfolding in Paris that day, the hosts managed to keep an upbeat flavor to the evening in celebration of our freedom to gather and express, well, whatever we want.
Indeed it was a grab bag of artists ranging a gamut of genres onstage at the Storefront, with some hits, some misses, and Greer Dworman. The once dancer/choreographer turned stand-up comic/self-proclaimed “Internet personality you’ve never heard of” moved to New York from Chicago a couple years ago and capitalized on her Chi-town savvy by flaunting words like pop and gym shoes, and wrestling with more than one Bulls championship t-shirts from the 90s. Dworman appears so in her element here, it’s hard to imagine she once aspired to anything other than what she’s doing now.
The other belles of the ball, for me, were different but equally cheeky solo dances from Joanna Furnans and Hope Goldman. I saw Furnans’ In the Palm of my Hand at last year’s Dance Shelter, but the joke was just as good the second time around. This was, in fact, the perfect audience for a serious dance performed with a wagging, floppy dildo rubber banded to Furnans’ hand, and the spot I was sitting (aching butt or no) provided the perfect vantage point as she lunged at me and cast that dildo right over my head. Hope Goldman’s movement is cut from the same cloth as Furnans, but the results are strikingly different. It’s as though both women are given the same mise en place, but they create entirely different dishes. Dressed up in tiny shorts and a sequinned gold blouse, Goldman’s smart use of gesture, mixed with classical dance technique, mixed with just the right amount of weird is spot on.
Interestingly, Iowa-based Taryn Griggs and Chris Yon share Goldman’s affinity for sequins, and for playful gestures. The two made sharp walking passes interspersed with Spartan Cheerleader-esque gestures, but managed to keep a completely straight face the whole time. Griggs and Yon’s use of repetition was enough to get the point across without being annoying. Justin Cabrillos and Minneapolitan Chris Schlicting also employed repetition. Lots and lots of it. Cabrillos spent a good deal of time juggling the air, while Schlicting let a slow series of hand swipes across his hips grow, and grow, and grow, and then it was over. Cabrillos, however, got to the end and placed a cherry on top with a magnificent pass of dancing. I’ll have more of that, please.
Witch Hazel and J’Sun Howard rounded out the program. The dressed up duet of Ariel Zetina and Imp Queen call themselves Witch Hazel. In a short interlude accompanied by exceedingly loud music, I managed to get that they have websites, and not much else, but it’s hard to avoid appreciating 6-inch eyelashes and equally high heels. Howard’s quintessential vogue-infused style was present in a quartet of dancers who seem to have probably been improvising. While the first section was tedious, I could watch Howard’s long-time dancer Damon Green dance shirtless with his head in an illuminated globe of foliage any day.
Exactly. It sounds like you’re getting the hang of CATCH. I don’t have any idea what CATCH is like in Brooklyn, but I assume that the DIY, rough-around-the-edges feel is intentional – as intentional as the sort of brilliant line-up of artists who don’t automatically appear to go together. In fact, the only thing tying these people together is that they live in or are from Chicago, and considering this show was put together by three guys from Brooklyn, I’d say they pretty much nailed it.