Even beyond that, Stewart began to consider how the dance community itself could support other important communities, which led her to the idea of a concert in support of The Make a Wish Foundation.
Imagination is the essence of great choreography. Each of the choices that choreography brings together are made out of it, from the individual imagination of a dancemakers’ vision to the shared imagination of the dancers and designers who bring it into reality.
Even among choreographers, Jacqueline Stewart is unusually imaginative. What she can imagine in dance covers an immense range, from the intimate duet of two dancers huddled around a single light in It’s Not Enough to Close Your Eyes, to the rich and colorful social satire of Jiffy Pop, and everywhere in between. With her founding of Jaxon Movement Arts, her multi-platform perforrmance company, she expanded what she imagines dance to be even further, embracing an even broader integration of visual and movement arts.
Now, she’s taking all of this to another level, with her production of Dancing to Dream. Dancing to Dream is the result of Stewart trying to imagine how the intrinsic value of community, so powerful in concert dance, could be better realized. She began by approaching many of the great choreographers who were already her friends and collaborators, and together they tried to imagine ways in which independent choreographers could work together with the same impact as a full-time company. Even beyond that, Stewart began to consider how the dance community itself could support other important communities, which led her to the idea of a concert in support of The Make a Wish Foundation. We asked Jackie about how all of this happened, and about what we’ll see at Dancing to Dream. Here’s what she told us:
Dance has so much to do with the illumination of imagination …
Johnny Nevin: Dancing to Dream is a program of original concert dance that is both dedicated to and inspired by the Make a Wish Fondation. It would be very interesting to get a better idea of how that inspiration was built into the process for Dancing a Dream — how it inpired not only the idea of the concert and your determination to make it happen, but also how it inspired the works of each of the choreographers. Can you tell us more about that?
Jacqueline Stewart: I became interested in creating a dance platform that mirrored the ever-evolving dance scene in its present state. To me, this means collaboration — through independent work with outside supporting or parallel institutions. As a working independent choreographer, I have experienced the isolation and obstacles of creating and producing new work alone. There are so many working artists in the city that are all producing high end dance, many of whom are my longtime friends and colleagues. I thought it would be fun and rewarding if we all came together to celebrate our work as independent choreographers.
I was also interested in the idea of combining our creative efforts for a greater purpose outside of the dance community. I wanted an element that would expand dance to a larger audience while exemplifying its importance beyond the art form. When Make-A-Wish Foundation serendipitously became the outside element, I was energized about the idea of using mine and others’ artistic skills to support kids in a way that would be the very essence of what the organization stands for. Dance has so much to do with the illumination of imagination, as does Make-A-Wish. I wanted the new dance works to be a product of the sponsored cause that tied the evening of diverse artists and patrons together. Each choreographer was given the direction to choose creative material from kids and their stories at the foundation and build new choreography. My hope for this creative direction was to generate a thesis of inspired works that was relevant and relatable to all.
Reaching others on a collective level through a creative force can be powerful beyond what we can assume.
Johnny: When you see the courage and resiliency of the young people who the Make a Wish Foundation works with, it brings into focus the very idea of inspiration, of what inspiration itself is. What do you think is the role of inspiration, and especially, what do you think that role is in dance and dance creation?
Jackie: By definition, inspiration is…
the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
As an artist, I am constantly searching for ways to relay, re-invent or re-arrange ideas through my craft effectively. I find value in the ability to “affect” others, to stimulate inspiration and action within them, and in the end, I believe the artistic message or expression is always greater than the art itself or the artist who brought it to fruition. Reaching others on a collective level through a creative force can be powerful beyond what we can assume.
As dancers we are tapped in to the childhood realm consistently, always refining techniques that require qualities like:
Practicing free abandonment in self and physicality.
Maintaining a sense of care free physical resiliency.
Commiting to characters and emdodying qualities through intense imagination.
Envisioning potential outcomes that may seem impossible.
Having courage and willingness to try new things through improvisation.
Diminishing judgement of self and of others while at play.
So I believe the role in dance, in this case, is to personify through movement and choreography the essence of childhood. I hope through this artistic personification, it will bring out, or rather encourage, the preservation of the inner child in everyone while elevating the present childhood of others.
Dancing to Dream will be presented on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 6pm at Chop Shop (2033 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647), and will feature works by Shannon Alvis, Rebecca Lemme, Anna Long, Lizzie MacKenzie, Jacqueline Stewart, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, and Chicago Repertory Ballet. Tickets are available online from Ticketbud. This Performance is presented as part of The University of Chicago Performance Lab. Sponsored by Free Mvmt Shop (1962 N. Bissel, Chicago, IL)