SPDW, Peter Carpenter, and Dances that Make you Go Hmm (preview)


It doesn’t appear to be a logical combination at first. One might even call them “The Odd Couple” of the October Chicago dance frenzy. But actually, it’s a match made in heaven.

Same Planet Different World (SPDW), under the direction of Joanna Rosenthal, and Peter Carpenter Performance Project, under the direction of… well, you know… come together this weekend at the Dance Center of Columbia College in a program that is surprisingly cohesive given the three choreographers’ very different aesthetics.

Rosenthal is joined by guest choreographer Netta Yerulshamy to present two world premieres from SPDW (who was recently named a grantee of a really big MacArthur Foundation initiative promoting international collaboration). Rosenthal’s process for Whiteout began last winter with an investigation of how to create new movement vocabulary through improvisation.  She found that dancers often resort to routine patterns and habits in generating movement, and Whiteout asks whether it’s possible to get an impulse purely from the body, rather than through conscious thought. Rosenthal extends the idea beyond dance, implicating a cultural whiteout in which people choose not to see or hear one another. “We’re in a massive blizzard…we’re frozen and stuck,” she said in a tag-teamed conversation with her and Peter Carpenter before dress rehearsal Wednesday night.  Paired with a white floor, exquisite use of video, white costumes, and lighting almost entirely devoid of color, the abstract concepts of cultural and creative bankruptcy also embody the title in a literal sense to create an intriguing world.  Whiteout is packed with moments that are simply stunning to watch, and the attention to detail from each of its collaborators (including Rosenthal, costumes by Vin Reed, video by LUFTWERK, set by Gordon Granger,  and lighting by Julie Ballard) are not to be missed.

Photo of Peter Carpenter by John Sisson
Photo of Peter Carpenter by John Sisson

Sandwiched between Rosenthal’s Whiteout and Yerulshamy’s lighthearted quartet is a third world premiere: the 10th installment of Peter Carpenter’s Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times. The cycle of dances began in 2010 in response to our collective freak out over dwindling resources and the economic collapse.  Rituals reminds us that there’s more to life than money, and #10 in particular explores interpersonal relationships in life and in dance, acknowledging the real identities of its eclectic and talented cast: Matthew McMunn, Lisa Gonzales, Margi Cole, and Carpenter himself. Carpenter’s work is often funny, but more funny “hmm” than funny “haha”, and this Ritual is no different in its acute ability to provoke thought.

This exciting co-presentation is the result of a MetLife New Stages in Dance Grant, but it’s not the first time Rosenthal and Carpenter have shared a stage; SPDW commissioned Carpenter’s 5th Ritual, and he appreciates the physicality of SPDW in addition to its willingness to adapt to the times, collaborate, and try new things. After all, that’s sort of what his piece is about. “We compliment each other in weird ways,” says Rosenthal…

…and it’s true.

Same Planet Different World and Peter Carpenter Performance Project share a bill Thursday through Saturday (10/10-12) at the Dance Center of Columbia College (1306 S. Michigan Ave).  Performances are at 8pm, with an additional Family Dance Matinee Saturday at 3pm.  Tickets are $26–30 available by phone at 312-369-8330 or online at www.colum.edu/Dance_Center.