COLEctive Notions Plays with Memory, Femininity, and Nostalgia (review)

The Drucker Center can be a challenging space (speaking from much personal experience), but the interplay between a “casual Sunday night get-together” and the refined manner in which Margi Cole puts up a show deemed it a fitting venue for The Dance COLEctive’s mentor project COLEctive Notions.

photo of The Dance COLEctive by William Frederking
photo of The Dance COLEctive by William Frederking

Three world premieres from Dance COLEctive company members Olivia May, Katie Petrunich, and Shannon Edwards were rounded out with an audience experiment from Margi Cole’s in-progress project for Dance: A Moving Canvas called Audencia. Being a close observer in their rehearsal home brought an additional layer of intimacy to the personal subjects on the program – subjects that seemed centralized around femininity and antiquity.

May’s No Leaves, Tall Trees opened with three women in vignettes, playing cards, shuffling books, knitting… ultimately creating an underlying sound score for four dancers dressed in ivory lace with black underthings, whose interlaced partnering and spacial weaving seemed to represent the memories or fantasies of the women in the vignettes. The dancers often came so close to me that our toes nearly touched, yet the disengaged performances led me to further believe that these are etherial beings not belonging to us.

Petrunich’s Running Parallel cast a similar sepia glow over the stage (thanks, in part, to the lovely lighting from Jacob Snodgrass); the duet for two women was dressed all in beige, much like the first piece, and set to a score of scratching records and Ella Fitzgerald. The costuming suggested an antiqued heteronormative relationship (like the dance version of The Notebook), but mirrored movement patterns led me to see two facets of the self in an exploration of the feminine and masculine. The fact that the dancers were similar height and build, and sporting auburn hairdos, contributed to this notion (pun intended). Though Running Parallel displayed moments of intimacy, it didn’t read as a love story, but rather a journey of finding balance in the expression of self.

The second half of the program played in a more abstract head space. Chronicles of Nostalgia (choreographed by Shannon Edwards) used the personal memories of the dancers to create a collage of movement and text. Perhaps it was my vantage point behind the dancers, but the attempt to visit a deeply emotional place fell flat, as when Katie Petrunich crouched alone onstage crying. The pleasant stage presence and maturity of dancer Maggie Koller was apparent in this work, as in No Leaves, Tall Trees, and her long tenure with the company shows – in a good way.

Collectively (or, COLEctively?), it was a good outing for The Dance COLEctive, and ended on a satisfying note when the audience was permitted to play with Cole’s improvisational structure in Audencia. Cole’s transparency about her process, and the footnote of, “I have the coolest job in the world!” demonstrates her true dedication and passion for what she does. I had hoped I would see that sort of passion come through in the dancing; I kept waiting for an all-out, athletic effort from the dancers and it really never got there. The visceral nature of TDC’s process perhaps doesn’t lend itself to high kicks, but how exciting it would have been to see some full-out technical dancing and piercing performances from a foot away.

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.