INSIDE: Aerial Dance Chicago’s “Higher Ground” With Hannah Rosenfeld
Like all great dance, they sculpt movement into the unspoken voice of inner thoughts …
Aerial Dance Chicago occupies time and space differently from the way that other dance companies do.
They occupy space differently, because the choreography they conceive, and the dance they perform, is not bound by a stage — it explores an extra dimension of vertical imagination and design. With that added space, they can find new perspectives on the way that choreography can explore movement. Like all great dance, they sculpt movement into the unspoken voice of inner thoughts, but for Aerial Dance Chicago, those thoughts take on an even more vivid defiance of life’s limitations.
In a way, they also occupy time differently from other dance companies. Their productions are of necessity even more carefully planned and prepared than other concerts. An encyclopedia of exact detail has to go into each moment when dancers move not along the ground but across the air, and each Aerial Dance Chicago performance requires a long, precise process of preparation.
Aerial Dance Chicago occupies their own unique space, and they have for many years; the thirty-three works in their repertoire extend seamlessly back to 1999. This year — on Friday and Saturday July 26th and 27th — they bring to Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts their latest production, Higher Ground. We asked Aerial Dance Chicago Company Dancer Hannah Rosenfeld to give us an inside look at what we’ll see. Here’s what she told us:
Such tiny details will change the angle that is required to mount or spin a piece of fabric and also changes the amount of energy that is needed to do the choreographed movements.
Johnny Nevin: You’ve been in the world of aerial dance for long enough now that it probably doesn’t seem quite so different to you. But for audience members who haven’t been to a choreographed aerial dance performance – and experienced the uniquely engaging reality of three-dimensional choreography — could you perhaps tell us a little more about the aesthetics and practicalities of this art?
Hannah Rosenfeld: Absolutely. Aerial dance can often bring a certain type of picture into the minds of audience members — that of acrobats, circus performers, and daredevil stunt artists. Our work at ADC, although it does have the same rigorous training and techniques as the circus artists, has a much greater focus on elevating the traditional dance floor into the air and creating — as you said — the ultimate three-dimensional choreography.
The addition of aerial apparatuses presents a unique challenge to our dancers and choreographers. We rehearse for two to three months for a full-length show such as this one, a longer period than some other traditional dance companies. This extra time is required to get used to the unique rigging specifications of each piece. Entering into the theater and transferring our ropes and silks into a new space can dramatically alter our carefully rehearsed pieces — an inch of difference in height of spacing feels like an entire foot for us on stage. Such tiny details will change the angle that is required to mount or spin a piece of fabric, and also changes the amount of energy that is needed to do the choreographed movements. Luckily, all of the dancers are also trained in improvisation, a technique that becomes necessary in the air. Since there are so many factors to deal with, we have to be doubly prepared for things to not go as planned.
The question is, how do we live with strength and courage, in a world that changes with every step.
Johnny: What can you tell us about the actual Higher Ground program in particular? There is a theme that runs through several of the pieces that explores the challenges of having to let go of some things in life. Can you tell us more about these ideas and the pieces that explore them?
Hannah: Higher Ground is a mixed bill of plotless dances. However, there is an overarching theme that connects the pieces — the inability to find certainty in life. I was able to speak to a few of the choreographers about how their pieces relate to this concept, and their answers ranged in inspiration from the loss of a close friend to a traumatic injury that flipped their lives upside down. All of them seemed to deal with coping with major life changes. Some of the dances communicate a longing for something that can’t be, and others have a sense of quiet acceptance. This analogy directly relates to the “groundless” quality of our aerial work.
There is a wonderful quote in our printed program that directly relates to this idea: “It’s not about finding solid ground, because the truth is there isn’t any. The question is, how do we live with strength and courage, in a world that changes with every step.”
Aerial Dance Chicago will present Higher Ground at Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts on Friday July 26 at 8pm and Saturday July 27 at 7pm. Tickets are available online from Aerial Dance Chicago.