Only fifteen years? Chicago Dance Crash has only been tearing up stages, expectations, and entrenched ideas of what a dance company can be for fifteen years? Seems like longer, or at least it seems like more. More than what you could have expected anybody else to do in fifteen short years, but then again, this is Chicago Dance Crash. On Saturday November 18th, they’ll be tearing it up some more, Crash style, on the stage of Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre. They’re calling the concert Crash Year 15, and although some of it’s meant to be a surprise, we asked Artistic Director Jessica Deahr to tell us whatever she could about it. Like for example, how are they going to fit fifteen years of being Chicago Dance Crash into one show? Here’s what she says —
Johnny Nevin: You performed in many of Chicago Dance Crash’s most impactful shows as a Company member before becoming Crash’s Artistic Director a few years ago. As you look back on your part of Crash’s fifteen year history, how do you think your experience as a dancer with them influences your vision for the Company as its Artistic Director?
The biggest through line to me no matter what Crash year you look at has been finding new, inventive, athletic ways to blur the line between art and entertainment.
Jessica Dear: I was offered a role as a guest artist in 2007 by then Crash Artistic Director Kyle Terry. Kyle and I had worked together in Jim Morrow’s fusion based company called Instruments of Movement, so working with Crash seemed like a natural fit. I knew Crash had a solid reputation as a sort of rough and tumble groundbreaking company that employed both technical and street dancers, so I was excited to find another company that would fill my desire for fusion dance. I got to go from guest artist to company dancer while competing in KTF battles, gigging at events, and being a part of rep, conceptual, and story based shows. So it was nice that once I got the opportunity to choreograph a short piece followed by choreographing an evening length story show production, I already knew how these processes worked from my inside experience. It was a cool way to ensure that my work carried on the company aesthetic and still had room for my voice to take it in the direction I wanted when I eventually signed on as Artistic Director. The biggest through line to me no matter what Crash year you look at has been finding new, inventive, athletic ways to blur the line between art and entertainment. As canned as that line can seem, it’s a question I genuinely always ask myself when we are starting something new or when I’m in the middle of a process taking a step back. Does this up the bar on the quality of our art and would John Smith enjoy his time watching it?
Johnny: Crash Year 15 sounds like a wild ride, even by the standards of a dance company that has made wild rides a choreographic art form. Can you tell us a little about what we’ll see at the Athenaeum on November 18th?
There are several legit classics like McCray’s piece, including work by Kyle Terry and Nicholas Leichter. We’ve also got some shorter, more light hearted pieces that give the audience an idea of our journey in a different light.
Jessica: Here’s a funny full circle moment: The only actual piece I had seen when I first started guesting with Crash was “Everything’s Not Water” a jean clad male quartet choreographed by a previous AD, Chris McCray. It uses capoeira and fight choreo contrasted with pedestrian and a touch of modern movement. I remember how much that piece stood out to me as an audience member at Dance Chicago all those years ago, before I was even a part of the company. So it was kind of cool for me now as current AD to get to pick that piece as one of the throwbacks for this Anniversary show. There are several legit classics like McCray’s piece, including work by Kyle Terry and Nicholas Leichter. We’ve also got some shorter, more light hearted pieces that give the audience an idea of our journey in a different light. We’ve got a loopy, hoedown-ish quartet from the first Crash show ever that was somehow choreographed by former Joffrey principal Davis Robertson to “Dueling Banjos”. I just finished up a brand new piece that expands on a trio Chris Courtney and I did last year and I’m really excited about how it turns into a group piece. The show is of course peppered with our host Mattrick Swayze, an audience favorite from our KTF battles who will lead the audience and the dancers through the show with fast moving games and trivia. On top of that, I brought back a bunch of guest artists who will pop up in freestyles and rep pieces throughout the night. As we often like to say, should be a little something for everyone!
Photos (from top): • Richard Ashworth (Photo by Ashley Deran) • Chicago Dance Crash’s Porscha Spells and KC Bevis (Photo by Ashely Deran) • Chicago Dance Crahs’s Daniel Gibson and Brian Humpherys (Photo by Ashley Deran) • Chicago Dance Crahs’s Zak McMahon (Photo by Ashley Deran)
Chicago Dance Crash will present Crash Year 15 at Chicago’s Athenaeum Theatre on Saturday, November 18 at 8pm. Tickets are available at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago 60657, by phone at 773 935-6875, or online from the Athenaeum. But what are you going to do until then? Here’s some bonus reading, because we’ve been covering Crash for a while now —