Opposites Attract in Paige Caldarella’s ‘Off Center’

CHICAGO — Can different genres of dance co-exist in a performance space? The question isn’t new, but each attempt at an answer produces widely different results.

In her final outing as a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist, Paige Caldarella fashions a relationship between ballet and vogue, calling on her background as a Julliard trained dancer and a voguing class in Siberia with Damon Green when they were Seldoms together.



Dancers Philip Elson and Jess Duffy in ‘Off Center’ | Photo by William Frederking

Caldarella has spent the last year with dancers Green, J’Sun Howard, Jess Duffy, and Philip Elson exploring and celebrating the surprising similarities shared by contemporary ballet and vogue. Being contemporary forms that are continually evolving, each lives on the edge of control, exposing the dancers to risk and vulnerability in each performance. “Both forms require great flexibility of the body and absurd amounts of coordination in the arms and legs,” says Caldarella.

Though the celebration of similarities is well and good, I’m interested to see how Off Center handles the dissonance between vogue and ballet. Voguing is relatively new to the proscenium stage, while ballet has existed there for hundreds of years. Vogue revels in the mistakes, the mess, the fringe, while ballet thrives on rule compliance and images of perfection.

Perhaps we can both learn from each other.

Perhaps that journey starts here.

Off Center premieres Nov 8-10 at Links Hall (3111 N. Western) at 7pm all nights. Tickets are $10/$5 available at the door or online at linkshall.org

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance critic, contributing to the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Magazine. She is senior editor of See Chicago Dance. Lauren covers dance across the Midwest and writes regularly for Dance Magazine and Pointe with additional bylines in Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Teacher. Forthcoming publications include essays on ballet training in Chicago (University of Illinois Press) and Shirley Mordine (University of Akron Press). In 2020, Lauren published an opinion piece on the impact of COVID-19 on the arts in the South African journal Agenda. Lauren holds degrees in dance and kinesiology and has presented research on dance training practices at the National Dance Education Organization and the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She has co-facilitated critical dance writing intensives in Chicago and Durban, South Africa, and participated in writing residencies at the National Center for Choreography, Bates Dance Festival and JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience. Lauren teaches dance history and kinesiology for dancers, with part-time appointments at Loyola University Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University.