They’ve opened the landscape of what stories could be told through dance and how they could be shared, inviting new perspectives in dance making and viewership.
Chicago Repertory Ballet has taken the familiar and hit the refresh button on it. Since its founding by Artistic Director Wade Schaaf in 2011, CRB has been reviving the spirit of storytelling that classical ballet itself was founded upon and simultaneously bringing innovative contemporary ballet choreography to the stage by welcoming the artistry of up-and-coming choreographers. They’ve opened the landscape of what stories could be told through dance and how they could be shared, thereby inviting new perspectives in dancemaking and viewership.
On November 3rd and 4th we will get to see brand new perspectives shine from within CRB through the brilliant voices of the company dancers themselves. CRB will present The Choreography Project, an intimate in-house event at Dovetail Studios. This is a new platform for sharing from CRB; straying away from the lavish proscenium theatre where ballet is most often seen, to a stripped down and immersive black box theatre where the audience can feel closer and almost a part of the performance they will see.
The Choreography Project features brand new works-in-progress by five of CRB’s company dancers, each with their own unique stories to share and unique creative processes. The choreographers sharing at this event are John Cartwright, Carley Klebba, Miriam-Rose LeDuc, Luis Vasquez, and Jacqueline Stewart. Jacqueline Stewart is an original company member of CRB. She has become a seasoned choreographer through the work she has set on CRB in past seasons as well as through her independent choreographic work. DancerMusic’s Crystal Gurrola caught up with Jacqueline Stewart to find out more about The Choreography Project. Here’s what she told us:
The opportunity to play the roles of both dancer and choreographer, amongst all of us, I think has been a valuable tool to create camaraderie and mutual respect for one another within a nurturing, creative environment.
Crystal Gurrola: As both a dancer and choreographer in “The Choreography Project”, what is it like to work with an ensemble you are also a part of? What commonalities or differences have you noticed amongst the works you are involved in?
Jacqueline Stewart: This project has been an intimate process, with five choreographers also dancing in one another’s work. It has been rewarding to be a part of the subconscious creative connection developing between us all as choreographers and dancers in the company. This connection has possibly influenced a common through-line into the project as a whole; although, I do believe that each work has a strong individuality in form and message.
The opportunity to play the roles of both dancer and choreographer, amongst all of us, I think has been a valuable tool to create camaraderie and mutual respect for one another within a nurturing, creative environment. We are able to give feedback to each other regarding the performative and choreographic elements simultaneously. The one-month long creative process has almost felt like a choreographic camping trip.
The beginning inspirations of this work were based on a personal childhood memory, surrealist painting, and sensations of flying. There are also references to the perception of reality, fantasy, and defying boundaries.
Crystal: What do you find exciting about sharing new work at an event like “The Choreography Project”? What inspired your new work “Birds on glass chairs” and how did you tailor it for this event?
Jacqueline: The Choreography Project has offered a setting to freely create new work, with very few parameters, in a short period of time. I feel like the pieces will be recognized as works-in-progress. The audience will be immersed as part of the process and performance as the third or “outside eye”. Everyone is experiencing the work first hand essentially, which is always exciting and unpredictable. The black box studio setting of the showing offers the intimacy of a small space with minimal production. It has been a while since I have been able to showcase choreography in a setting like this. I am curious to see the outcome of sharing my work its raw state.
The beginning inspirations of this work were based on a personal childhood memory, surrealist painting, and sensations of flying. There are also references to the perception of reality, fantasy, and defying boundaries. Bird imagery plays a big role in the work, tying into the themes listed above. To me, birds are dually symbolic of an invincible nature and fantastical fragility. They remind me of the qualities of a child’s storylike imagination.