There’s nothing like a good get-together with friends, especially around the holidays. You never know what can happen at these gatherings, and we are certainly curious to know what will happen when the dance artists known as The Cambrians present Chicago Dances, a special gathering of their own running December 14-18 at Hairpin Studios. This unique evening of dance includes world-premiere works by three Chicago-based choreographers and brings together six of Chicago’s leading contemporary dancers, including Visceral Dance Chicago’s Noelle Kayser. DancerMusic’s Kristi Licera recently ran into Noelle, and could not help but get the inside scoop on this collaborative evening of original works:
Kristi: Chicago Dances is quite different in the sense that it brings together some of the city’s most accomplished dance artists, whose credits range from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to renowned companies beyond our nation’s borders. Can you tell us about how you came to be involved in this project and why a show of this nature is vital to the development of dance in Chicago?
To me, art is community. The network of each person involved in Chicago Dances is so far reaching that I think it will be hard to find a member of the dance community who doesn’t feel a personal connection to the show.
Noelle: Around a year ago, I was over at Ben and Kasey’s house when Ben turned to Kasey during casual conversation and said, “Should we do a rep show?”. A few months later, I got an email saying the show was happening and asking me to be a part of it. When I saw the list of dancers and choreographers, I was incredibly excited and honored to be included among them. I’ve seen these individuals perform, taken their classes, gone to see their work, and spent time with them. The opportunity to have them all in a room in the context of a creation process is truly unique. To me, art is community. The network of each person involved in Chicago Dances is so far reaching that I think it will be hard to find a member of the dance community who doesn’t feel a personal connection to the show.
Kristi: Chicago Dances is being presented at Hairpin Studios, and the space is set up in a unique way. Can you tell us more about the performance space? What challenges do you face in this space that you would not normally encounter in a traditional theater setting, and how does it change or inform your dancing experience?
Two of the three walls are floor to ceiling windows, making the city a part of the lighting design for the show.
Noelle: Hairpin is essentially a triangle, similar to Chicago’s Flatiron building. The audience will be placed at the tip of the triangle. Two of the three walls are floor to ceiling windows, making the city a part of the lighting design for the show. The space also has columns throughout. Ben is laying the floor like spokes, running in between the columns away from the audience. The perspective this provides is really striking – it feels like peeking into the opening of a cave.
I really enjoy the intimacy of a non-proscenium performance space. When I can see people’s faces, it’s like we’re all taking part in a conversation. I find it relaxing – more human. I’m sure from a technical standpoint the space presents challenges that you wouldn’t encounter in a traditional theater. But at the same time, the space presents opportunities. The choreographers are taking advantage of Haripin’s little nooks, columns, and overall shape. They looked at the space as a built in set, and worked with it rather than against it.
The choreographers are taking advantage of Hairpin’s little nooks, columns, and overall shape. They looked at the space as a built in set, and worked with it rather than against it.
Kristi: What choreographers did you get to work with during Chicago Dances? Can you give us some insight into their choreographic and creative processes?
Noelle: Kevin Iega Jeff’s piece is a full company work. From there, we split in two. Ben Wardell, Christian Denice, and Lizzie Mackenzie worked with Ahmad Simmons. Kara Brody, Jonathan Alsberry, and I worked with Shannon Alvis. Iega’s piece is a further exploration of a work he began on Deeply Rooted’s second company in 2012. The piece deals with loss and disconnection. Iega is utilizing the depth and division of Hairpin to support the subject matter.
Shannon Alvis came in the studio with a very clear map of where she wanted the piece to go and used us to color it in.
On the topic of art being synonymous with community, Shannon has focused on three events that every living thing has in common – birth, life, and death. Working with Shannon is wonderful. Her direction is gentle yet precise. She came in the studio with a very clear map of where she wanted the piece to go and used us to color it in.
Kristi: What is your biggest takeaway from working with this group of artists? How has this experience fueled your personal growth as a dancer?
Noelle: I would say my biggest take away would observing the others during rehearsal. I learn a lot by watching the way people mentally and physically process information. I love listening to the way my cast mates and choreographers describe movement, it helps me find more articulation in my body.
Kristi: What is happening next in the world of Noelle? Are there other projects that you are currently involved in?
Noelle: There’s a lot coming up that I’m really excited about. First is The Cambrians Atlanta intensive December 27-29. Ben Wardell, Autumn Eckman, and I will be teaching class, improvisation, and repertoire. Both Autumn and I are from Atlanta. I’m excited to see my two worlds meet! Then, I am back in the studio with Visceral Dance Chicago to prepare for our upcoming tour to New York. Visceral will be performing at The Gerald W. Lynch Theater on January 18th.
Tickets for Chicago Dances are currently SOLD OUT. To learn more about The Cambrians, visit www.thecambrians.com. Learn more about Noelle’s upcoming engagements with Visceral Dance Chicago at www.visceraldance.com.