A “Monument”al Weekend with The Seldoms (preview)

I’ve always admired The Seldoms, but for me the turning point happened when I Prancercized with them in a cold basement while waiting out a tornado in Edwardsville, IL. Ok, that’s kind of a long story, but prancing aside, The Seldoms were in Edwardsville to show an edited Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead as part of XFest at Southern Illinois University.  Having seen Exit a number of times during its tenure at the Dance Center of Columbia College last year, I knew the audience was in for a treat, but perhaps more importantly, the experience of watching it again reminded me of the transient nature of dance.  It also reminded me that Artistic Director Carrie Hanson is a really, really good choreographer.

I had a moment of, “Oh YEAH, I totally forgot about the sassy pancakes!” and another of “Wow, this seems really different to me, but equally awesome.” Whether the changes were inspired by time and evolution or the constraints of touring and performing in a theatre half the size, Hanson isn’t afraid to revisit, reimagine, remount, and redo her choreography.  There’s a saying in the dance world that goes something like:

“Nothing is original.  Everything you could possibly do has been done before by somebody else, or will be done better in the future.”

So why not be that person who does it again, and better?

Carrie Hanson and Jonathan Meyer in the original 2008 Monument at Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, credit William Frederking
Carrie Hanson and Jonathan Meyer in the original 2008 Monument at Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts, credit William Frederking

Weekend after next, The Seldoms will present another redo: this of the 2008 Monument at Stage 773.  In the midst of another big new project that’s in the works, it makes a lot of sense to excavate an older piece, but after seeing a run-through last Friday in their new rehearsal space at Pulaski Park (established through an arts partnership with the Chicago Park District), I asked Hanson:

Of the more than 20 works you’ve made with the company, why this one?

Monument marked a critical transition in Hanson’s choreography. Issues-based, relevant, thought-provoking, highly athletic dance theatre are the now trademarks of her work that began with Monument.  A statement on the man-made sculptures produced through human consumption and waste, Monument is a quite appropriate epitaph to the more recent Exit Disclaimer, and while many choreographers might look at a five-year-old piece and let it deliberately rot in the archives, Monument is still current.  The process of making it was rewarding and enjoyable to the dancers, and it’s – well – it’s a really good piece. Hanson uses a careful combination of literal gestures with brilliantly executed abstract dance phrases, and in doing so makes “weird modern dance” make sense.  The dancers’ manipulations of objects, costume pieces, and each other are enhanced by the unique and challenging space they’ll be performing in (the thrust at Stage 773), giving the audience a sense of depth that may not have revealed itself on a traditional procenium stage.

I never got the privilege of seeing the original, so whatever the reasons were for bringing Monument back to life… thanks for that.

The Seldoms present Monument Sept 26-29 (Thurs-Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm) at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont, Chicago). Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students and seniors, and available at the Stage 773 box office, by phone (773-327-5252) or online at stage773.com

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.