…in its second year, King has curated a program that shows more aspects of their water-inspired aesthetic: unforgiving in strength, ever-churning with dangerous possibility and unpredictable in its quality and behavior.
Some days, the hardest place to look is in the mirror. There are days where we don’t feel our best – where the image reflected isn’t quite what we hoped we would see. We can brush aside a bad hair day or forgive the bags under our sleepless eyes, but those are merely things on the surface. There are moments of reflection that require no mirror, and these are often the most difficult to face. These are moments of self-reflection, where we take the time to look inwardly, take stock of the lives we have built and learn if the people we are becoming align with the people we hope to be.
If you chose a career as a professional dance artist or choreographer, that inward mirror is part of every artistic pursuit. Choreographers often draw inspiration from personal experience, and many (whether purposefully or by chance) use the creative process as a form of healing or therapy. In rehearsal and on stage, dancers are asked to find the pieces of themselves that connect most deeply to their work, and the resulting experience not only connects more deeply to the audience, but also brings that dancer closer to themselves. The dancers and dance makers in Moonwater Dance Project’s upcoming performances of MOONWATER II have spent the year delving into this mirrorless reflection to deliver an evening of dance that has been illuminating and transformative for all artists involved.
Moonwater Dance Project was founded in 2018, and Founder and Artistic Director Mackenzie King worked closely with the company to present its debut concert that same year. The company focused on movement that was smooth and fluid, but filled with quiet power – like the moon pushing and pulling the tide. It was a strong debut for the budding company, but in its second year, King has curated a program that shows more aspects of their water-inspired aesthetic: unforgiving in strength, ever-churning with dangerous possibility and unpredictable in its quality and behavior.
DancerMusic Dance Editor caught up with Moonwater Dance Project’s Founder and Artistic Director Mackenzie King to learn more about what the company has been doing in its second year, as well as more about what is on the program for MOONWATER II. Here’s what she told us:
I wanted to challenge myself and the company by working with different female choreographers whose movement and means of expression are incredibly different
Kristi Licera: Moonwater’s first full-length production, MOONWATER I, debuted in Chicago last year. Since then, the company has been busy sharing their work out of state and creating programs and shows to share with elementary and high school students across Chicago. Can you tell us how the company has grown over the last year? How did you curate this year’s show, MOONWATER II, to show that growth, as well as your vision for the company’s future?
Mackenzie King: This year has been a whirlwind. After we closed MOONWATER I, we took some time off to let it all settle in and come up with a plan for Moonwater’s next stages. Over the fall, we started working with a new photographer (Matthew Gregory Hollis), grew our repertory and developed master classes specifically focused on partnering. On top of that, we have been able to continue working on collaborative projects with cinematographer, Collin Rogers, and we have some really awesome things in store!
We then had the amazing opportunity to go to Monterey, California to set work on a high school, teach four master classes and perform multiple times for the community. Not only was it a great learning experience for me, but it was also exactly what the company needed. We all got to know each other on a more personal level and really develop our trust with each other, which is reflected in the work that we are doing now.
After our tour, we were asked to develop some school shows to start to take to local elementary, middle and high schools. We have developed two shows and are in the editing/revising process for those. To continue our educational streak, we put together two summer intensives for kids who live outside Chicago and want to have the opportunity. Our Glenview Intensive is from July 15th-19th at Dance & Music Academy and our Bradley Intensive is August 5th-9th at Dance In The Light.
After MOONWATER II, we have some more collaborations and performances planned, but you will just have to stay tuned for those! This year has truly been challenging, taking on all these aspects of the company, but I could not be happier with the support of the dancers, as well as the community. This multifaceted company is my dream, so the fact that we are doing all of this in year 2 is beyond exciting.
It is a broad idea, but the whole show is incredibly self-reflective – an exploration of how we are trying to learn and grow as humans.
Kristi: This year’s program features choreography by you, company member Ariel Dorsey, Kaitlin Webster and Katie Carey. Although the pieces were not originally conceived to share a common theme, it seems they did end up doing so. Can you tell us more about what has become the over-arching theme, as well as more about each of the pieces in the program?
Mackenzie: When I first started thinking about this show, I wanted to challenge myself and the company by working with different female choreographers whose movement and means of expression are incredibly different. I thought it would be interesting to start the show with my piece, Here I Am, which was the closing piece in MOONWATER I. This year has been a huge year of growth and transformation, which is what that piece is about, so it really sets the tone for who we are.
The second piece in the show is by Moonwater Company Dancer, Ariel M. Dorsey. I asked Ariel to set a piece over the fall; while we were discussing what she would do, I remembered her senior project from college, and asked if she would be interested in resetting and redeveloping it a bit. It is a light-hearted, quirky piece about the different ways in which we deal with love.
The next piece is by Kaitlin Webster, who is someone I have been wanting to work with since I moved to Chicago – it was great to finally get her in the studio! For the past couple years, she has been delving deep into the exploration of family (specifically hers), regarding what a family is, how it holds together and how it cracks.
I choreographed the fourth piece in the show with a lot of help and input from the dancers. As some people know, I have been dealing with a very serious injury which has been hard to deal with on a daily basis. As I was being diagnosed and given the prognosis, the only way I could function was to plaster a smile on my face so I didn’t break down. This really spurred me into a process of exploring why I felt like I wasn’t allowed to break down and why I was expected to remain happy and positive through all of this. My thoughts resulted in a piece that is very new and different for me, but I’m excited for it to be presented to an audience which can hopefully relate.
We close the show with a piece by Katie Carey, which is dark, emotional, humorous at times and intense. It is an exploration of a relationship with another person and trying to find your sense of self when your relationship isn’t what you expected it would be. It is the perfect piece to tie all these moments of feeling strong as an individual, to wondering what love is, to exploring how our nuclear family affects you, to feeling the pressure from society to smile, to dealing with loss and love. It is a broad idea, but the whole show is incredibly self-reflective – an exploration of how we are trying to learn and grow as humans.
Moonwater Dance Project presents MOONWATER II at the Fasseas Whitebox at the Menomonee Club Drucker Center (1535 N. Dayton St, Chicago). Performances take place Friday, June 28 and Saturday, June 29 at 8pm and Sunday, June 30 at 4pm. Tickets are available at www.moonwaterdanceproject.com/tickets/moonwater-ii.
Preview Katie Carey’s piece for Moonwater Dance Project: