… when you find out more about it, about the many dance artists who get the chance to present their own imaginative visions, about the audiences who get to share in them, it starts sounding like even more of an accomplishment.
It’s great to be bold and imaginative, but it’s never easy to keep being bold and imaginative, at least not for long. Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival — the bold and imaginative two-weekend festival that Nicole Gifford and Melissa Mallinson produce — has managed to be imaginative, bold and successful every year for eight full years. On September 21, 2018 when HCCDF 2018 opens at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago, that will make it nine.
It sounds like quite an accomplishment, and it certainly is, and when you find out more about it, about the many dance artists who get the chance to present their own imaginative visions, about the audiences who get to share in them, it starts sounding like even more of an accomplishment. Naturally, we wanted to find out more about it, so we reached out to Nicole Gifford. Here’s what she told us:
We try to include a variety of pieces that showcase solos, duets, groups, different kinds of music, different style and feel; works that are cool, meaningful, relevant, moving, and of excellent quality.
Johnny Nevin: Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival is now in its ninth year, and it’s become so well recognized that we understand you had to choose the sixteen performers for the 2018 festival from almost a hundred and fifteen submissions. It sounds like there will be a lot to enjoy at both weekends of the festival, but can you start us off by telling us about the program that you and Melissa have put together for the festival’s Opening Weekend on September 21st and 22nd?
Nicole Gifford: We are thrilled with both lineups. As always, we’ve been blessed to have an abundance of talent to curate with. This year on our opening weekend, we have several returning Chicago artists like Giordano II, RE Dance Group, Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Michel Rodriguez Cintra. Returning Chicagoan Corinne Imberski who has performed solos in the past, will be presenting her new duet, “Into Second Self”. Weslie Ching is a returning artist from Santa Barbara, CA, and making her HCCDF debut, is soloist Theresa Bautista from Louisville, KY.
Another first time applicant who we were both really struck by, and a piece I’m eager to see in person, is Eric Mullis from Charlotte, NC. Here’s how he described it: “Sherman’s Neckties is an improvised dance and music composition. The musician and I developed rigorous improvisation scores based on a strategy used by Union soldiers in the Civil War to disrupt Southern logistics. This entailed heating railroad ties until pliable and bending them into knots so that trains could not pass. The neckties became sculptural pieces that signified the growing inability of the South to move food, ammunitions, and soldiers. While the musician performs with a baritone saxophone (e.g. bent metal) and at times imitates the sound of bending metal, I work with a score that, among other things, involves physical bending and folding. We have designed the scores so that we have the freedom to make choices in performance and to interact with each other.”
We have had so many amazing artists over the past eight years, and built so many beautiful relationships. I wish we could have them all back every year!
In the past we have had or tried to have ten pieces each night, compared to the eight in each performance this year. Part of that reasoning was just in case anyone dropped out. We have not had that happen in several years, but the last time it did happen, there was a fire in the control tower at O’Hare, and four companies from out of town were unable to make it in to perform! The other part was to include as many artists as we could, while trying to produce a great show that audiences will love, and artists would love to be a part of. As we were curating this year, we selected eight each night, that we thought would make two really great and well rounded shows. There were some other pieces too, that we really liked and wanted to include, but including them, didn’t necessarily make for a better show, it just added more good pieces.
We try to include a variety of pieces that showcase solos, duets, groups, different kinds of music, different style and feel; works that are cool, meaningful, relevant, moving, and of excellent quality. Sometimes we get an abundance of submissions with similar music. All of them might be amazing, but it wouldn’t make for a great evening for our audience. We like to have a variety of local, out of town, returning and new artists. We have had so many amazing artists over the past eight years, and built so many beautiful relationships. I wish we could have them all back every year!
Producing dance is a very intimate thing, because creating dance is a very intimate thing.
Johnny: The closing weekend of the Festival, on September 28th and 29th, is a completely different program, with performances by eight more companies and artists. What will the HCCDF audiences get to see in these programs?
Nicole: Again, we have some returning artists and some new to us artists that we are excited about. First time with us is Chicagoan Kate Corby. She is re-staging a beautiful duet, Passing. Some more new-to-us artists this year are VADCO/Valerie Alpert Dance, South Chicago Dance Theatre, and Taylor Mitchell’s company, MitchellMovement & Dancers. HCCDF alum, Aerial Dance Chicago will be performing an excerpt from their recent production Blackbird. Aaron McGloin (NY) performed in 2016 with PROJECT 44/Gierre Godley. He then applied last year with his own work, and we are happy to see him returning again this year with his all male trio, Trade. We have returning performers, Jacksonville Dance Theatre (Jacksonville, FL) and james morrow/THE MOVEMENT originally from Chicago and now via Norfolk, Virginia.
Producing dance is a very intimate thing, because creating dance is a very intimate thing. We respect all of these artists and want to produce their work that they’ve bled for, in a way that showcases them with integrity, and fulfills their vision of their own work, in a festival setting. We are honored that so many artists have shared their work with us, and trust us to do so.
We respect all of these artists and want to produce their work that they’ve bled for, in a way that showcases them with integrity, and fulfills their vision of their own work, in a festival setting.
Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival presents two weekends of performances at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts on Friday, September 21, Saturday, September 22, Friday, September 28 and Saturday, September 29. All performances are at 8pm. Tickets are available online from brownpapertickets.
The first weekend’s program, September 21 – 22 at 8pm, includes performances by Giordano II, Michel Rodriguez Cintra, Jessica Miller Tomlinson Choreography, RE|dance group, Theresa Bautista, Eric Mullis, Weslie Ching, and Corinne Imberski.
The second weekend of HCCDF includes, September 28 – 29 at 8pm, includes performances by South Chicago Dance Theatre (featuring DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera in a solo choreographed by Kia Smith), Kate Corby & Dancers, Aaron McGloin Dance, james morrow/THE MOVEMENT, MitchellMovement & Dancers, VADCO/Valerie Alpert, Aerial Dance Chicago, Jacksonville Dance Theatre