Nora Sharp and Haydee Souffrant: seeking syncronicity

CHICAGO — Links Hall’s white space was packed to the gills Sept. 18 for the last of three performances of “Belonging,” as is usually the case in choreographers’ first attempts at a concert. The split bill shared by Nora Sharp and Haydée Souffrant was as full as the audience, with well over an hour of work between them and plenty to chew on.

Nora Sharp has been seen regularly since her arrival on the scene a few years ago, diving head first into curation, program development, and performance despite a late start in dance. A classically trained musician, Sharp’s keen sense of sound and rhythm lay the foundation For Our Purposes, a quartet set to an original score composed by her brother, violinist Sam Sharp, and performed live by an 8-piece ensemble. The rich, beautiful score juxtaposes Sharp’s movement, which for the first third of the piece is mostly just walking. Simple but clever, each pass of walking grows in energy, tugging at the music, not totally conforming to it. It’s a partnership that almost reminds of Copland and Graham – playing between dissonance and resonance, with a keen eye on the details. I appreciated the dichotomies of For Our Purpose‘s beginning more than its end: a sweeping dance phrase that turns into a full-on menage. It is in these moments that Nora Sharp’s novicity peeks through; her dance can’t quite keep up with the score.

Nora Sharp’s “For Our Purposes” (left) and Haydee Souffrant

Coincidentally, both works on the program are about being in sync, though Souffrant’s is actually called that. Sharp’s quartet seeks to find individuals within unison dancing, while Souffrant seeks unison with herself. Her solo, In Sync, describes prior experiences with sexual trauma and arthralgia (joint pain) though recorded text and mostly literal movements and gestures. She is accompanied onstage by an alter of sorts: candles and books surrounding a full length mirror covered in a sheet until In Sync‘s conclusion. Souffrant rubs her chest and writhes her hands on her thighs, pacing nervously from one end of the room to the other. It’s a painful story, but not one that feels overly cathartic or invites sympathy. In the end, Souffrant appears to win the battle with herself as she uncovers her mirror – and her infectious smile – and sees herself honestly… perhaps for the first time.

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.